News & Updates

How Long is Long Enough: A National Review of Statutes of Repose, Part I June 15, 2012

In this series of articles,  we will examine the jurisdictional differences among  statutes of repose throughout the United States, their relationship to products liability litigation, and what manufacturers need to know to maximize risk avoidance

Statutes of repose provide an absolute bar to claims against manufacturers, usually after a statutorily determined period of time elapses from the point that a product is delivered or installed, regardless of when an accident occurs.  This is distinctly different from a statute of limitation, where the “clock begins ticking” to initiate a lawsuit when the product causes harm. 

While statutes of repose differ from state to state, the general purpose of such legislation is to preclude a plaintiff from bringing a products liability claim against a manufacturer for issues involving a product that has been out of the manufacturer’s possession or control for a statutorily determined period of time.  The amount of time required to trigger the statute is dependant upon the jurisdiction.  Currently, statutes of repose are on the books in one form or another in 21 states across the country.  However, despite such widespread use of this legislative safeguard to litigation, several states have yet to adopt such legislation, while others have deemed these statutes unconstitutional.

Generally speaking, statutes of repose can be categorized as follows: products out of the manufacturer’s possession and control for under 10 years, products out of the manufacturer’s control for 10 years or more, and states that do not have a statute of repose.  Moreover, within each state’s statute, subtle legislative nuisances exist that alter both the effective date and substantive impact of the statute.

Manufacturers need to be aware of the statutes of repose of any jurisdiction they avail themselves in order to maximize risk avoidance. At the outset of any product liability litigation, counsel should be retained to review the particular state’s legislation with respect to a potentially applicable statute of repose. Taking such steps can greatly reduce a manufacturer’s risk and potentially eliminate the massive expense of litigation.

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