A statute of limitation is an enactment in a common law legal system which 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.
Less known, but equally potent as a time bar to bringing claims, is the statute of repose. It is sometimes called a non claim statute.
A products liability case is a legal action for injuries founded on the defective design, manufacture, distribution, or sale of personal property. Examples of the types of products sometimes found to be defective are tires, motor vehicles, drugs, and surgical hardware.
In Florida, defective products cases are subject to both a statute of limitation and a statute of repose.
A lawsuit for injuries caused by a defective product must be filed in Florida within four years of the event or within four years of when it is known or should have reasonably been known that the product is to blame. Florida Statute 95.11(3)(e). When death results from a defective product, Florida’s Wrongful Death Act imposes a two year time limit on bringing a claim.
While the statute of limitation considers the date of the accident, the statute of repose relies on the date the defective product was manufactured.
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.”
See Florida Statute 95.031 .
The practical consequence of the statue of repose is that it can bar a products liability claim even if the claim is instituted within the statute of limitation period.
An actual case example will help illustrate this point:
Our law firm was hired by a gentleman severely injured by a defectively designed forklift. The design of the forklift put users at high risk of injury. Later models had corrected the dangerous condition. 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. While we were prepared to institute legal proceedings well within the four year statute of limitation period, we were prevented from doing so by the statute of repose. Even though the statute of limitation gave our client until 2014 to sue, by the time the accident happened in 2010, it had been 14 years since the forklift had been sold by the manufacturer, putting us two years beyond the statute of repose.
Our severely injured client’s products liability claim was dead before the accident happened.
Contact us today toll-free at 866-785-GALE or by email to obtain a free, confidential consultation.
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.