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Picture yourself racing against time, uncovering a critical piece of evidence that could finally bring you the compensation you deserve. But when you meet with an attorney to discuss filing a personal injury lawsuit, an invisible barrier appears, stopping your pursuit of compensation in its tracks.
In the complex world of law, this barrier is no myth—it's called a statute of repose. Unlike its better-known sibling, the statute of limitations, a statute of repose has the power to extinguish legal claims, regardless of when the injured party discovers the harm.
In this article, we'll delve into the world of statutes of repose, including their potential impact on your injury claim.
What is a statute of repose?
A statute of repose is a law that extinguishes a claim after some action by the defendant, regardless of whether the plaintiff has yet been injured.
Not all states have a statute of repose. What’s more, the length of a statute of repose varies based on the state and the type of case.
How does a statute of repose differ from a statute of limitations?
A statute of repose begins to run (i.e., the clock begins to tick) after some triggering event that has nothing to do with the plaintiff’s injury. On the other hand, a statute of limitations begins to run—in most cases—as soon as the incident giving rise to the injury occurs.
What’s more, while a statute of limitations may be tolled (delayed) for certain reasons, such as the injury not being discovered until well after the incident causing the injury occurs, a statute of repose generally cannot be tolled.
To put it another way, 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.
Some examples examining statutes of repose and statutes of limitation
Are you still confused about the differences between statutes of repose and statutes of limitation? Let’s take a look at a few examples to help clear things up.
Raymond purchased a lawn mower at a store in Memphis, Tennessee. Although Raymond already had a lawn mower, he thought the deal was too good to pass up. Raymond put the new lawn mower in his shed.
Almost 11 years later, Raymond’s old lawn mower finally died. Raymond retrieved his “new” lawn mower from his shed. Shortly after starting to mow his lawn, the lawn mower caught fire. The fire seriously injured Raymond.
Raymond filed a lawsuit two months after his injury.
Tennessee has a one-year statute of limitations for product liability claims. Tennessee also has a ten-year statute of repose that starts on the date a plaintiff purchases the defective product.
In the above example, Raymond filed his claim within the one-year statute of limitations. Nevertheless, his claim is barred because it was filed after the ten-year statute of repose, which began to run when he bought the lawn mower.
Lisa underwent a surgical procedure performed by Dr. Sanchez on January 1, 2020, in Washington State. Unbeknownst to Lisa, Dr. Sanchez accidentally left a surgical sponge inside Lisa’s body during the operation. Lisa began experiencing abdominal pain several months later, but she didn't discover the cause of the pain until March 1, 2028, when a CT scan showed the presence of a foreign object.
In the above example, the three-year statute of limitations in Washington begins to run the moment the cause of the injury is discovered (March 1, 2028). This means, under the statute of limitations, Lisa has until March 1, 2031, to file a personal injury lawsuit.
However, Washington’s eight-year statute of repose began to run on the date of the medical procedure. This means the claim was extinguished on January 1, 2028, even though Lisa didn’t know about the cause of action yet.
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.
The product liability lawsuit was clearly filed 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.
Statutes of repose in product liability cases in all 50 states
Although the statute of repose can apply to all types of cases, including medical malpractice cases and construction cases, it’s most commonly applied to product liability cases. For this reason, we’ve provided a survey of the statutes of repose for all 50 states.
It’s important to keep in mind that statutes of repose are subject to change. It’s always best to talk to an experienced lawyer near you about your case before making any decisions. Most initial consultations are free.
|Alaska||None||Nebraska||10 years in most cases|
|Colorado||10 years (presumption of non-defectiveness)||New Mexico||None|
|Connecticut||10 years||New York||None|
|Delaware||None||North Carolina||12 years|
|District of Columbia||None||North Dakota||None|
|Florida||12 years after delivery of product||Ohio||10 years from date of delivery|
|Georgia||10 years from date of first sale||Oklahoma||None|
|Hawaii||None||Oregon||10 years in most cases|
|Idaho||10 years in most cases||Pennsylvania||None|
|Illinois||10 years in most cases||Rhode Island||None|
|Indiana||10 years in most cases||South Carolina||None|
|Iowa||15 years from purchase date||South Dakota||None|
|Kansas||10 years (rebuttable presumption)||Tennessee||10 years from purchase in most cases|
|Kentucky||5 years after sale date or 8 years after manufacture||Texas||15 years after date of sale|
|Massachusetts||None||Washington||12 years (rebuttable presumption)|
|Minnesota||None||Wisconsin||15 years from manufacture date|