A statute of limitation is an enactment in a common law legal system that sets forth the maximum time after an event that legal proceedings based on that event may be initiated. Most people are familiar with the concept.
Far less familiar to the general public, and even to some lawyers, is the legal concept known as statute of repose. Like a statute of limitation, a statute of repose (sometimes called a nonclaim statute) limits the time period in which a civil action may be instituted.
A products liability case is a legal action for injuries founded on the defective design, manufacture, distribution, or sale of personal property. Examples of products found to be defective are tires, motor vehicles, drugs, and surgical hardware. In Florida, defective products cases are subject to a statute of limitation and a statute of repose.
The statute of limitation in Florida with regard to injuries caused by defective products is four years. (Florida Statute 95.11(3)(e)). (Caveat: When death results from a defective product, Florida's Wrongful Death Act imposes a two year statute of limitations.) This means that a lawsuit founded on a defective product must be filed within four years or two years of when it is known or should have reasonably known what caused the accident.
Sometimes, however, the statute of repose effectively limits the time allowed under the statute of limitation and, in some instances, bars altogether a claim from being brought.
An actual case example will help illustrate this point:
Our law firm was recently hired by a gentleman who was severely injured by a defective forklift. Through discovery conducted in his workers' compensation case, we learned that the manufacturer originally sold the forklift in 1996, more than fourteen years before the accident.
Even though we were prepared to file a products liability complaint well within the two year statute of limitation period, we were prevented from doing so by the statute of repose.
Florida's statute of repose provides that
"under no circumstances may a claimant commence an action for products liability, including a wrongful death action or any other claim arising from personal injury or property damage caused by a product, to recover for harm allegedly caused by a product with an expected useful life of 10 years or less, if the harm was caused by exposure to or use of the product more than 12 years after delivery of the product to its first purchaser or lessee who was not engaged in the business of selling or leasing the product or of using the product as a component in the manufacture of another product."
Accordingly, even though the statute of limitation gave our client until 2014 to sue, by the time the accident happened in 2010, 14 years from when the forklift had been sold by the manufacturer, the statute of repose deadline had run by two years. In other words, our injured client was barred from suing the manufacturer of a defective product even before he was harmed by it.
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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals - the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.