Products liability law deals with personal injuries and property damages caused by defective products. Statutes of limitations and statutes of repose set time limits for filing lawsuits. A lawsuit filed after the time period set out in the statute of limitations or the statute of repose is barred and will be dismissed by the court. It is important to check with an attorney to determine the time limit for filing a lawsuit if you have been injured or a defective product has damaged your property.
Generally, lawsuits to recover damages for personal injuries caused by defective products must be filed within two years. Lawsuits for property damages caused by defective products usually have to be filed within three years. The time period set out in a statute of limitations usually starts on the date of the injury. However under the delayed discovery rule, the statute of limitations does not start to run on the date of the injury. Instead, the time period starts on the date the plaintiff knows or should have discovered the cause of the injury. For example, in a case involving silicone breast implants, the court held that the plaintiff’s lawsuit was timely under the delayed discovery rule. Although the statute of limitations for personal injuries resulting from defective products was one year in that case, the plaintiff had no reason to suspect that her ruptured breast implants were the cause of her autoimmune disease until more than eight years after the diagnosis of her disease.
The statute of limitations can be tolled or legally suspended in certain circumstances. For example, if the injured person is a minor, the time period for filing suit would not begin to run until the person becomes an adult. Also the filing of a class action tolls the statute of limitations until the issue of class certification is decided.
Statutes of repose set a time period after which the manufacturer of a product cannot be held liable for the product. The purpose of a statute of repose is to protect against stale or old claims. Statutes of repose can prevent a plaintiff from bringing a products liability suit against a manufacturer. For example, a federal law prevents a lawsuit against the manufacturer of an airplane if the airplane part that supposedly caused the airplane crash was more than 18. Statutes of repose also apply to certain types of services, like those provided by design professionals such as architects and engineers, construction contractors and developers. For example, a California statute of repose provides that designers, contractors and developers may not be sued for latent or hidden construction defects more than 10 years after a project is finished.