Products Liability: Safety measures taken by owner
admissible under Rule 407, 3d Circuit Ct. rules

by Craig Giangiulio

(3/18/2004) -- A plaintiff in a products liability case can introduce evidence of remedial safety measures taken by the product’s owner that demonstrate that the product is defective, a three-judge panel of the 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. In Diehl v. Blaw-Knox, decided March 12, the Court ordered a new trial in a suit brought by a construction worker who was severely injured when his legs became trapped under the wheels of a road widening machine manufactured by the defendant, Blaw-Knox.

The plaintiff sought to introduce the evidence at his trial in District Court that the machine’s owner, who was not a party in the suit, had taken steps to steps to make the product safer shortly after the accident. The District Court excluded the evidence under Rule 407. On appeal, the 3d Circuit Court determined that Rule 407 “does not bar evidence of remedial measures taken by a non-party, and that the evidence offered in this case was relevant and would not tend to confuse or mislead the jury.

“Because we conclude that the exclusion of this evidence was not harmless error, we will reverse the judgment of the District Court and remand for a new trial,” wrote Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith.

A copy of the 10-page opinion is available from the Court’s web site.