pancreatic, gastrointestinal, and neurological disease are the result of either excessive or prolonged consumption of alcoholic beverages." Id. at 2-3.
Plaintiff contends, nonetheless, that defendant's beer was unreasonably dangerous because there was no warning of lesser-known dangers of prolonged consumption, such as pancreatitis, as opposed to commonly-recognized risks, such as alcoholism and liver cirrhosis. See Document 35 at pp. 7-8, 10-11. This argument misconstrues the purpose of product warnings. As the affidavits of plaintiff's experts demonstrate, prolonged consumption of alcohol can cause a host of maladies in the human body and can affect nearly every internal organ. It is not necessary that consumers' knowledge approach that of physicians regarding the risks of alcoholic beverages. It is not necessary that consumers be aware of each type of malady to which prolonged consumption of alcohol makes them susceptible, nor is it necessary for them to know every organ which is endangered. What is important is that, prior to drinking alcoholic beverages, they possess at least a general understanding that alcohol can be hazardous to human health. As noted above, the court has determined that such an understanding is common knowledge.
Plaintiff also maintains that the public fails to realize that moderate consumption of alcohol, as distinguished from excessive ingestion, can cause physical injury.
As plaintiff's expert indicates, a number of non-constant factors, such as nutrition, influence each person's bodily reaction to the presence of alcohol. See Marks affidavit at p. 4. "No threshold of toxicity can be established with ethanol consumption," and even "small amounts of alcohol taken for a relatively brief period of time are occasionally lethal. Id. at 4-5. The court's major concern with plaintiff's approach is that it could impose an impractical burden on manufacturers of alcoholic beverages to devise warnings suitable for the particular tolerance of each consumer. Accord Maguire v. Pabst Brewing Co., supra.
The court, however, need not address the issue of varying tolerance levels because it is able to determine as a matter of law that plaintiff's husband knew or should have known that the amount of beer which he consumed was potentially lethal.
Although his rate of consumption may have been moderate, the decedent's consumption period was not "brief" and his total intake was not "small"; rather, his consumption was both prolonged (in excess of six years) and continuous. It would serve no benefit to require manufacturers of alcoholic beverages to warn of the commonly-known dangers associated with the total amount of beer consumed by plaintiff's husband.
The court, then, will grant summary judgment in favor of defendant on plaintiff's strict products liability claims. In view of the foregoing discussion, the court further determines that defendant was under no duty to warn of risks associated with the prolonged consumption of beer and that defendant cannot be held liable to plaintiff on negligence principles. In addition, plaintiff's breach of warranty claims are unfounded. See Kassab v. Central Soya, 432 Pa. 217, 246 A.2d 848 (1968) (elements for § 402A and breach of implied warranty actions are virtually identical).
The only remaining theory of liability is plaintiff's assertion of misrepresentations under Restatement (Second) § 402B. An indispensable element for liability under § 402B is "justifiable reliance." Comment j following § 402B explains the justifiable reliance requirement as follows:
The rule here stated applies only where there is justifiable reliance upon the misrepresentation of the seller, and physical harm results because of such reliance, and because of the fact which is misrepresented. It does not apply where the misrepresentation is not known, or there is indifference to it, and it does not influence the purchase or subsequent conduct.
As previously noted in this Memorandum, there is no evidence in the record that plaintiff's husband was ever influenced by the advertisements in question which promoted defendant's beer. Summary judgment is mandated against a party who would bear the burden of proof at trial when that party, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, fails to establish the potential existence of an element essential to his case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2552-53, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). In such a situation, there can be no genuine issue as to any material fact since there is a complete failure of proof regarding an essential element of the nonmoving party's case. Id. at 2553. Therefore, summary judgment will be granted in favor of defendant on plaintiff's § 402B claim.
An appropriate Order will enter.
NOW, this 2nd day of February, 1987, in accordance with the reasoning set forth in the accompanying Memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
(1) Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is denied.
(2) Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted, and judgment on all claims is hereby entered in favor of defendant and against plaintiff.
(3) The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case.