In the movie Thank You for Smoking, lobbyists for the tobacco, alcohol, and firearm industries got together periodically at a DC watering hole to swap stories about the challenges of representing unpopular clients under increasing scrutiny by the federal government.  Hilarity ensued, along with some other stuff we do not remember very well.  Of course,

The United States Supreme Court in Buckman Co. v. Plaintiffs Legal Committee, 531 U.S. 341 (2001), determined that “off-label usage” is “accepted and necessary” by both the FDA and the medical community.  Id. at 350.  Thus, “[p]hysicians may prescribe drugs and devices for off-label uses.”  Id. at 351 n.5 (citation and quotation marks omitted). 

No good deed goes unpunished.  One of our very first cases was a pro bono case for the Red Cross following a Northern California earthquake.  The Red Cross gave a local homeowner money to repair her home.  It was a gift.  No strings attached.  Please, take our money and fix your house.  Live long and

A long time ago in a law school relatively far away, we took torts as a first year law student.  Many of the cases about which we learned (or were supposed to have learned) were from even longer ago and we had no idea how much some of those old cases would inform our practice. 

Like many of you, we spend a large portion of our professional life litigating cases consolidated in MDLs.  MDLs serve a purpose in this “mass tort” world, but they also breed laziness and complacency among plaintiff lawyers who amass “inventories” of clients they’ve never met and about whose claims they know nothing in the hope

We typically steer clear of discussing any opioid cases for client reasons. But today we have a case that did not involve our client in any way and that involves a discrete and important issue. Accordingly, we hereby render a bare-bones report.

The case, Floyd v. Feygin, et al., No. 507458/17 (Kings County, N.Y.

Back in 2013, inspired by a win of our own that we were actually allowed to blog about, we put up a post entitled “On Alternative Design.”  Taking the alternative design requirement for strict liability as a given, we concentrated in that post on the proposition that an “alternative” design must really constitute a different design for the same product, and not a disguised “stop selling” or “never start selling” claim where the only “alternative” is a different product or, worse, a completely different medical procedure not utilizing that sort of product at all.

Since then, we’ve written about alternative designs several other times, but never comprehensively.

Today, we’re doing something a little different. We’re examining whether an alternative design is also an element of a design-related claim sounding in negligence.  As the rest of this post demonstrates, the overwhelming weight of nationwide precedent established that negligent design claims require the plaintiff to establish the existence of a feasible alternative design the would have prevented the plaintiff’s injuries.

We touched upon the alternative design issue somewhat in our post excoriating the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s bizarre opinion in Lance v. Wyeth, 85 A.3d 434 (Pa. 2014). Lance put the rabbit in the hat and held, for a product allegedly:  (1) “too dangerous to be used by anyone,” and (2) that had been removed from the market by the FDA, a negligent design case could be stated even though the plaintiff didn’t even attempt to prove an alternative design. Id. at 458-60.  What Lance adopted, of course, was a pure “stop selling” claim of the sort preempted under Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett, 133 S.Ct. 2466 (2013).  “[W]e are convinced that a manufacturer or supplier has a duty to cease further distribution of a product . . . [that] is too dangerous to be used by anyone.” Lance, 85 A.3d at 460.

Generally, in Pennsylvania, negligent design cases have required proof of alternative designs, except in the limited Lance recalled product situation.  “The determination of whether a product was negligently designed turns on whether an alternative, feasible, safer design would have lessened or eliminated the injury plaintiff suffered.”  Berrier v. Simplicity Manufacturing, Inc., 563 F.3d 38, 64 (3d Cir. 2009) (emphasis original). See, e.g., Kosmack v. Jones, 807 A.2d 927, 931 (Pa. Commw. 2002) (“a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that there is an alternative design” in negligent design defect cases); Smith v. Yamaha Motor Corp., 5 A.3d 314, 322-23 (Pa. Super. 2010) (requiring proof of alternative design for all-terrain vehicle).


Continue Reading On Alternative Design, Take Two − Negligence