Ohio Supreme Court Fails to Act in Product Liability Case

Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to accept a discretionary appeal in Zang v. Cones.  The OMA  filed an amicus curiae memorandum urging the Court to accept the appeal on the following two propositions of law:

1)  To survive summary judgment, R.C. 2307.75 requires a plaintiff in a products liability case to establish the availability of a technically and economically feasible alternative design.
2)  In a design defect case under R.C. 2307.75, a lay witness with no experience and with no perception or first-hand knowledge of the product cannot offer witness opinion testimony as to the product’s design or any feasible alternative design.

This case was brought by the family of a firefighter who died tragically in the line of duty.  The family asserted a products liability claim against Motorola as the manufacturer of the emergency radio used by the firefighter at the time of her death.  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Motorola, in large part because the plaintiffs’ expert witness did not offer a technically and economically feasible alternative design as required in design defect cases under Ohio law.  In addition, plaintiff’s expert had no experience with and no personal or first-hand knowledge of the emergency radio at issue.  The First District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and Motorola, as well as other defendants, appealed.

The Court missed an important opportunity to provide Ohio’s lower courts with guidance and to reinforce that Ohio’s product liability statutes should be applied as written.  Ohio’s product liability laws should be construed as written; OMA commends Motorola and its counsel for pursuing this matter which has important ramifications for product liability cases.

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