Third Circuit Confirms Use of Restatement (Third) of Torts in Federal Cases Applying Pennsylvania Product Liability Law


In recent years, Pennsylvania state and federal courts have described Pennsylvania product liability law as being in a state of “profound uncertainty,” because it provides little clarity to consumers and product manufacturers and sellers as to their rights and obligations under the laws of the Commonwealth. Much of this uncertainty stems from a divergence between state and federal courts relating to the controlling analysis — specifically, § 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, which is based on historic product liability concepts, or sections 1 and 2 of the Restatement (Third) of Torts, which incorporates negligence-based foreseeability principles into the analysis — for product liability claims governed by Pennsylvania law.

In its October 17, 2012 Order in Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corporation, Case No. 12-8081, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed its previous holdings that a Pennsylvania federal court sitting in diversity should apply sections 1 and 2 of the Third Restatement to product liability cases, absent a contrary holding from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. While the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has not yet addressed the issue in a clear fashion, Pennsylvania product liability litigants appear to be subject to differing legal standards based solely on the court (state or federal) in which the cases are pending.

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