When products are unsafe because of improper design or errors in manufacturing, those who are injured by these defects have the option of pursing legal action against the manufacturers or distributors.
However, they do not have infinite time to do this.
The statute of limitations in Florida for personal injury action – including that arising from product liability – is four years from the time the injury occurred or from when it should have been discovered. Not all injuries that result from defective products are revealed right away. Similarly, the defect may not be revealed until many years after the product is made or after it causes injury.
Florida legislators did take these scenario into account, but the amount of time available for action is still limited. Per F.S. 95.031(2)(b), one can have up to 12 years – no more – from the time the product was delivered to its first purchaser or lesee – in which to bring the lawsuit. This is true even if the case involves serious personal injury or death. There are some exceptions to this (i.e., railroad equipment, aircraft, improvements to real property, etc.). However, it’s important to discuss all of this with your attorney before deciding whether it’s worth it to pursue action.
In the recent case of Dominguez v. Hayward Industries et al, this 12-year statute of repose was at issue.
According to court records, husband sustained severe head injuries in November 2012 when his swimming pool filter exploded. He and his wife then filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer/distributor of the pol filter, as well as the installer of pool and pool filter. Additionally, they sued the certified pool contractor. They alleged strict liability and negligence.
The pool and filter were delivered and installed in December 1999.
Defendants argued the 12-year statute of repose barred this lawsuit because there was no exception to the statute that allowed this case to proceed.
The clock starts ticking in these cases once the work is completed or the product is delivered. The law forms no basis for recovery upon which an injury caused when a product was purchased 12 or more years before the injury, per the 1992 Florida Supreme Court decision of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Acosta.
There was a question raised regarding whether the facts of this case gave rise to the “improvements to real property” exclusion. The Florida Supreme Court defined it as a valuable addition made to property or an amelioration of its condition that accounts for more than just simply a repair or replacement of waste. Courts in the state have held that component parts don’t constitute “improvements” of real property.
Plaintiffs argued in this case that pool filter was an improvement to real property,within the context of the law. However, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals ruled it is not. Therefore, the exception doesn’t apply. And because the statute of repose date started accruing in 1999 – 13 years before this injurious incident occurred – plaintiffs were not able to recover damages against the manufacturer or installer of the pool.
If you have been injured by a defective swimming pool or component, contact our offices today to learn how we can help.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Dominguez v. Hayward Industries et al, Sept. 16, 2015, Third District Court of Appeal
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