New Decision Expands Scope of Negligence Claims Subject to Ohio Product Liability Act

One Ohio Court of Appeals recently took a very broad view of what common law negligence claims are superseded by the Ohio Product Liability Act (OPLA), finding that a negligence claim based on allegedly negligent conduct of a supplier seemingly unrelated to product performance was abrogated by the OPLA.

In Parker v. ACE Hardware Corp., 2018-Ohio-320 (2d App. Dist., Jan. 26, 2018), the plaintiff sought to purchase kerosene from the defendant hardware store, but the store clerk handed him a different type of fuel, which ignited and caused serious burn injuries. The plaintiff asserted a common law negligence claim against the hardware store, but dismissed his product liability claim against the store and the fuel manufacturer. The Second District Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendant store on the negligence claim, finding that the claim was abrogated by the OPLA. In doing so, the Court took an extremely broad view of what types of negligence claims against a supplier are considered to be “product liability” claims. The alleged negligence of the store – providing a different product than was requested – was based on the clerk’s conduct, not on its supply of a product that was purportedly defective. Nevertheless, the Court broadly interpreted the OPLA as abrogating all claims based on a supplier’s negligence in connection with a product.

One judge authored a strong dissenting opinion, arguing that “the determination of whether a claim is a product liability cause of action is not based upon the name given the cause of action by the plaintiff, but by the plaintiff’s factual allegations.” He advocated that not all common law negligence claims are abrogated by the OPLA, only those based on the supply of a defective product. 

Absent Supreme Court of Ohio review of this decision to tighten up the scope of the OPLA, product suppliers have been given a good basis to subject negligence claims to the OPLA and its damage limitations. The full text of this decision can be found here.

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