line, the risk of injury may be spread over the purchasers of units within that product line.
The same logic applies and leads to the same conclusion if we examine the Conway interpretation of the product line exception in light of the fairness considerations which plaintiffs contend are relevant in this case. It is clear that under Conway, if Crompton & Knowles had manufactured the machine which allegedly caused the injury and subsequently sold that aspect of its business, it would retain its liability to plaintiffs as the predecessor regardless of the relative wealth of the corporations involved or of plaintiffs' ability to pursue Crompton & Knowles.
Moreover, if Crompton & Knowles were in the same position as an intermediate successor, but its predecessor in the packaging machinery business which had actually manufactured the wrapping machine remained a viable entity, there is no question that liability would remain with that entity, not Crompton & Knowles or any later successor, regardless of the relative abilities of the predecessor and various successors to pay the judgment, or whether plaintiffs were unable to pursue their claims against the predecessor because, e.g., the statute of limitations expired before they learned of the continuing viability of the predecessor entity.
Just as clearly, where the product line has been passed along to a subsequent entity or entities which continued to produce the same product, whatever remedy plaintiffs may have should be pursued against the latest successor.
Although it may be that under the product line exception, Crompton & Knowles would have been subject to liability in this action had it simply discontinued rather than sold its Redington subsidiary, or if it had continued in the packaging machinery business, even if it no longer manufactured products similar to the wrapping machine at issue, we do not consider such possibilities relevant to the present inquiry since neither of those hypothetical situations occurred. Moreover, although plaintiffs may now be without a remedy against a later successor due to the statute of limitations, an intervening bankruptcy or other problems, such lack of a remedy provides no reason to extend the principles of the product line exception far beyond its logical bounds. The lack of a remedy is not inherently unfair; plaintiffs are in no worse position than they would have been if F.B. Redington had simply discontinued its business rather than passing it on to Crompton & Knowles, which, in turn, passed it to another entity, which passed it to still another company. The general rule, after all, is that successors are not ordinarily liable for the torts of their predecessors. Extending the product line exception as plaintiffs would have us do in this case would result in a new and far broader rule of strict liability based upon the existence of any viable defendant which ever had any connection to an allegedly defective product. Consequently, in the context of a products liability action, successor liability would be the rule rather than the exception.
In summary, we find no direct support for imposing liability upon Crompton & Knowles under the circumstances of this case either in the current law of Pennsylvania relating to the product line exception or in the prediction by the Court of Appeals concerning how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will apply the product line exception. Moreover, we conclude that imposing liability upon Crompton & Knowles as a successor corporation when it had sold the manufacturing assets of its predecessor long before the occurrence of the accident for which plaintiffs now seek compensation is not supportable under either the merger or continuation successor liability exceptions and is not a fair application of the product line exception. For these reasons, therefore, we will deny plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, grant defendant's motion for summary judgment and enter judgment in favor of defendant Crompton & Knowles.
And now, this 24Th day of April, 1995, upon consideration of Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. #11), and defendant's response thereto and Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. #14), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs' motion is DENIED and defendant's motion is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that judgment is entered in favor of the defendant, Crompton & Knowles Corporation, and against the plaintiffs, Luz and Luis Morales.