Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc. (majority)Annotate this Case
In 2007, neighbors reported a fire that had erupted at the home of the Terrence and Judith Tincher in Downingtown. The residence was the central unit of a two-story triplex purchased by the Tinchers in 2005. The fire was eventually extinguished and no one was harmed. Investigators concluded that a lightning strike near the home caused a small puncture in the corrugated stainless steel tubing (“CSST”) transporting natural gas to a fireplace located on the first floor of the residence. The CSST installed in the Tinchers’ home was manufactured and sold by Omega Flex as part of a gas transportations system marketed as the TracPipe System. The melting of the CSST caused by the lightning strike ignited the natural gas and fueled the fire estimated to have burned for over an hour. The fire caused significant damage to the Tinchers’ home and belongings. After the fire, the Tinchers reported the incident to their insurer, United Services Automobile Association (“USAA”). USAA compensated the Tinchers for their loss up to the limit of their policy and received an assignment of liability claims. The Tinchers suffered an additional out-of-pocket loss because a portion of their claimed loss exceeded the limits of the USAA policy. In January 2008, the Tinchers filed a complaint against Omega Flex; USAA prosecuted the claims in the name of the Tinchers to obtain reimbursement of the insurance proceeds payout, but the Tinchers retained an interest in the litigation to recover the losses exceeding their insurance coverage. The Tinchers asserted claims premised upon theories of strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty, alleging that Omega Flex was liable for damages to their home caused by the placement on the market and sale of the TracPipe System. Omega Flex, Inc., appealed the Superior Court's decision to affirm the judgment on the verdict entered in favor of the Tinchers. After review, the Supreme Court reversed in part, and remanded the case with instructions: (1) "Azzarello v. Black Brothers Company," (391 A.2d 1020 (Pa. 1978)) was overruled; (2) a plaintiff pursuing a cause upon a theory of strict liability in tort must prove that the product is in a “defective condition”; (3) whether a product is in a defective condition is a question of fact ordinarily submitted for determination to the finder of fact; (4) to the extent relevant here, the Court declined to adopt the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability despite acknowledging that "certain principles contained in that Restatement has certainly informed [its] consideration of the proper approach to strict liability in Pennsylvania in the post-Azzarello paradigm."