Absence of Other Incidents

A defendant in a product liability case cannot introduce proof of the absence of other claims unless strict guidelines are met, according to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

The plaintiff’s lawyer “argued that there was no foundation for such testimony because [defendant’s] engineer had admitted in his deposition that [it] kept no records relating to either safety complaints by [its] customers or past accidents involving [the product involved in the incident].”

Judge Smith said “Most courts admitting evidence of the absence of prior accidents in product liability cases have done so only where the testifying witness, usually an employee of the product manufacturer, has testified that (a) a significant number of substantially identical products have been used in similar circumstances over a period of time; (b) the witness would likely be aware of prior accidents involving these products; and (c) to the witness’s knowledge, no such prior accidents have occurred.” Judgment in favor of the defendant was reversed.

The opinion is Forrest v. Beloit Corp.. Click here to read a news report of the opinion. Read the opinion itself here.

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