eNotes: Liability – March 2023 – Federal
March 01, 2023
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
Federal Case Summary
Cote v. Schnell Indus.
United State District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
Decided: November 9, 2022
A Pennsylvania Federal District Court held that, unless such conduct was the sole cause of the accident, evidence of a plaintiff’s contributory negligence, recklessness, product misuse, and/or assumption of the risk, will not be admissible in a products defect strict liability action.
The plaintiff, Dayton Cote, sued Schnell Industries for injuries sustained while operating a “transloader” used to move “frac sand” from railcars to tractor-trailers. As the case approached trial, Plaintiff filed Motions in limine seeking to exclude evidence of his own negligence, recklessness, product misuse and assumption of the risk.
The Court granted the Plaintiff’s Motions in limine and ruled that evidence of the Plaintiff’s contributory negligence, recklessness, product misuse and/or assumption of the risk, was not admissible at trial. With respect to Plaintiff’s contributory negligence, the Court held that a plaintiff’s comparative negligence is not admissible in a strict liability action, except as a superseding cause where a plaintiff’s actions are the sole cause of the accident. In the case before it, the Court reasoned that evidence of Plaintiff’s conduct was inadmissible because Plaintiff had presented evidence that the transloader was defective and that the said defect contributed to the happening of the accident. Since Plaintiff’s conduct was not the sole cause of the accident, any evidence of Plaintiff’s conduct, including product misuse, recklessness and/or assumption of the risk, was barred.
Questions about this case can be directed to Kenneth T. Newman at (412) 926-1425 or email@example.com.