A Texas court recently ruled that the state’s 15-year statute of repose barred a family’s product liability claim against Ford Motor Company for injuries they sustained in a rollover accident, even though the lawsuit was filed within the statute of limitations.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the case, statutes of repose across the country, and how statutes of repose differ from statutes of limitation.
What is a statute of repose?
A “statute of repose” places an outer limit on when a claim can be filed before it’s forever barred.
How is a statute of repose different from a statute of limitations?
People often confuse statutes of limitation with statutes of repose. Although both limit when a claim can be filed, there’s an important distinction.
A statute of limitations limits the amount of time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit after the plaintiff is injured. A statute of repose limits the amount of time within which an action may be brought, but the limitation is entirely unrelated to the plaintiff’s injury and can, in fact, bar a lawsuit before the injury even occurs.
Statutes of repose are generally very strict, even in extraordinary circumstances beyond a plaintiff's control.
Consider the following example:
Almost 8 years later, Jeremiah’s old blender finally died. Jeremiah retrieved his “new” blender from the basement and plugged it into the outlet. As soon as he turned it on, the blender exploded. The explosion seriously injured Jeremiah.
Jeremiah filed a lawsuit 2 months after his injury.
Tennessee has a 1-year statute of limitations for product liability claims. Tennessee also has a 6-year statute of repose that starts on the date a plaintiff purchases the defective product.
In the above example, Jeremiah filed his claim within the 1-year statute of limitations. Nevertheless, his claim is barred because it was filed after the 6-year statute of repose, which began to run when he bought the blender.
Statutes of repose may seem unnecessarily cruel, but they’re intended to protect a defendant’s right to be free of liability after a specified time and to prevent defendants from having to answer claims when evidence is likely elusive or unavailable.
Jose Camacho et al. v. Ford Motor Company
Jose and Maria Camacho, along with their sons Luis and Fabian, were seriously injured when their Ford F-150 truck abruptly rolled over near Nuevo Laredo, Mexico on August 6, 2017.
The family filed a product liability lawsuit against Ford Motor Company in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas on January 10, 2019, clearly within Texas’s 2-year statute of limitations for product liability claims.
Texas, however, has a 15-year statute of repose, which states:
“A claimant must commence a product liability action against a manufacturer or seller of a product before the end of 15 years after the date of the sale of the product by the defendant.”
The court ruled that the “date of the sale” was October 5, 2003, which was the date that Ford Motor Company transferred the newly manufactured truck to the dealership.
As a result, the court concluded that the statute of repose began to run on October 6, 2003, which meant that a lawsuit filed on January 10, 2019, wasn’t filed within the 15-year statute of repose.
The Camacho family filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, but the court ruled in favor of the defendant.
Do all states have a statute of repose?
Most states do NOT have a statute of repose.
Among the states that do, the scope of the statute differs considerably. We recommend talking to your attorney as soon as possible about both the statute of repose and the statute of limitations applicable in your case to make certain you protect your rights.
|States WITH a statute of repose||States WITHOUT a statute of repose|
District of Columbia
Do you have any experience with the statute of repose in your state?
Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.