Appeals from Orders of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Philadelphia County, No. 4495 May Term, 1982.
Gerald J. Cohen, Philadelphia, for appellant.
James C. Haggerty, Philadelphia, for Yorck, appellee.
Wickersham, Wieand and Popovich, JJ.
[ 355 Pa. Super. Page 233]
May a defendant who has been sued on theories of negligence and strict liability for damages allegedly caused by a defective product join as additional defendants those persons whose acts of negligence are alleged by him to be the sole or contributing causes of the plaintiff's injuries? The trial court held that such joinder was improper and granted the additional defendants' motions for summary judgment with prejudice. We reverse.
Ignatius Svetz, while operating a motorcycle in a west-wardly direction on Route 422 in Montgomery County on June 5, 1980, lost control of his vehicle, fell, and struck his head on the pavement. The impact caused the helmet which he was wearing to split, and Svetz sustained head injuries which caused his death. His trustee ad litem, Jane Svetz, filed wrongful death and survival actions against Land Tool Company, the manufacturer of the helmet, and against Royal Auto Supply, the retailer. The complaint set forth, in separate counts, causes of action sounding in (1) negligence and (2) strict liability. Land Tool Company, the manufacturer, joined as additional defendants (1) V.J.L., Inc., t/a Orchard View Inn, where the decedent, prior to the accident, had allegedly consumed alcoholic beverages while visibly intoxicated, and (2) John Yorck, with whom the decedent allegedly had been racing at the time when the decedent lost control of his motorcycle. Because of independent acts of negligence, it was alleged in the defendant's complaint, the additional defendants were alone liable to the plaintiff, or jointly liable with Land Tool Company on the cause of action alleged by the plaintiff, or liable over to Land Tool Company on such cause of action. Subsequently, both additional defendants filed motions for summary judgment. They argued that in a case of strict liability for a defective product, a defendant manufacturer is barred from joining an additional defendant whose liability, if any, is
[ 355 Pa. Super. Page 234]
premised upon negligence. The trial court accepted this argument and, by separate orders, granted the motions for summary judgment and dismissed "all claims" against the additional defendants "with prejudice."
The right to join one or more additional defendants is granted by Pa.R.C.P. 2252(a) in the following language:
(a) In any action the defendant or any additional defendant may, as the joining party, join as an additional defendant any person whether or not a party to the action who may be alone liable or liable over to him on the cause of action declared upon by the plaintiff or jointly or severally liable thereon with him, or who may be liable to the joining party on any cause of action which he may have against the joined party arising out of the transaction or occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences upon which the plaintiff's cause of action is based. (emphasis added).
This rule permits the joinder of an additional defendant when any one of the following four bases of liability has been alleged: (1) that the additional defendant is solely liable to the plaintiff; (2) that the additional defendant is liable over to the joining party on the cause of action alleged; (3) that the additional defendant is jointly or severally liable with the joining party on the cause of action alleged by the plaintiff; or (4) that the additional defendant is liable to the joining party on any cause of action asserted by the joining party which arises out of the same transaction or occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences upon which the plaintiff's cause of action is based. The rule permitting the joinder of additional defendants is to be broadly construed to effectuate its purpose of avoiding multiple lawsuits "by settling in one action all claims arising out of the transaction or occurrence which ...