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ORCA C. AZZARELLO v. BLACK BROTHERS COMPANY (10/05/78)

decided: October 5, 1978.

ORCA C. AZZARELLO
v.
BLACK BROTHERS COMPANY, INC., A CORPORATION, APPELLANT, PARTS PROCESSING, INC., A CORPORATION, ADDITIONAL DEFENDANT



No. 105 March Term, 1977 Order of the Superior Court at No. 401 April Term, 1976, affirming the order of the court en banc, affirming the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division, at 924 April Term, 1972.

COUNSEL

George M. Weis, Weis & Weis, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

John E. Evans, Jr., Evans, Ivory & Evans, Pittsburgh, for Orca C. Azzarello.

William A. Pietragallo, Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, for Parts Processing, Inc.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Packel, JJ.

Author: Nix

[ 480 Pa. Page 549]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This appeal raises the question of the appropriate form of jury instruction in products liability cases in this Commonwealth. In the instant case, Azzarello's right hand was pinched between two hard rubber rolls in a coating machine manufactured and sold by the defendant, Black Brothers, Inc. Azzarello brought this suit against Black Brothers Company, Inc., the manufacturer-appellant relying solely on

[ 480 Pa. Page 550]

    the theory of strict liability under Section 402A of the Restatement Second of Torts.*fn1 The manufacturer, by joining appellee's employer, Parts Processing, as an additional defendant, injected into appellee's strict liability case the issue of whether the negligence of the employer was the sole or contributing cause of her injuries. Accordingly, the trial court below was faced with the difficult problem of devising instructions for the jury which required a clear exposition of the law of strict liability upon which appellee exclusively relied, and also explaining with clarity the interrelationship of the more traditional and familiar jury instructions sounding in fault and negligence, necessitated by manufacturer-appellant's theory of the case. In so doing, the trial court repeatedly instructed the jury using the phrase "unreasonably dangerous" taken verbatim from the formulation provided by Restatement Second of Torts.*fn2

[ 480 Pa. Page 551]

The trial resulted in a verdict in favor of the manufacturer and against the additional defendant, appellee's employer, in the sum of One Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars ($125,000.00). The appellee thereupon moved for a new trial asserting inter alia that the trial judge incorrectly instructed the jury that the appellee's burden of proof under Section 402A strict liability required a showing that the machine was "unreasonably dangerous."

The motion for a new trial was granted by the court en banc. That court held that the opinion announcing the judgment of the Court in the case of Berkebile v. Brantley Helicopter Corp., 462 Pa. 83, 337 A.2d 893 (1975) should be followed, and that the use of the phrase ...


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