A common theme in many of my blogs is the impact individual state laws or statutes can have on the outcome of a product liability lawsuit. It is possible that the exact same set of circumstances in a product liability lawsuit would have different outcomes in different states.
Product liability laws or statutes are created by state legislators and vary from state to state. While there have been attempts to create federal preemption for medical products, all too often state laws continue to prevail over the federal preemptive defense.
One state law that can have a major impact on the outcome of a product liability lawsuit is the Statute of Repose. The Statute of Repose prevents product liability lawsuits against manufacturers, importers, designers and distributors of products based on the age of the product. However, only 19 states have Statute of Repose laws to protect businesses from product liability lawsuits. Most states that have Statute of Repose laws limit product liability lawsuits to somewhere between five to 12 years after the sale of a product. Arizona and Rhode Island have declared Statutes of Repose laws for products unconstitutional.
One industry that is very familiar with Statute of Repose laws and the impact they can have on a product liability lawsuit is the tree stand industry. For example, suppose a child were to die or become a quadriplegic during an incident involving a tree stand in a state with a 10 year Statute of Repose law. If the tree stand was purchased 11 or more years prior to the incident, the manufacture, designer and sellers of the tree stand could be protected from a product liability lawsuit because the 10-year deadline was exceeded. However, in a state that did not have a Statute of Repose law, the manufacture, designer and sellers of the tree stand could find themselves named as defendants in a product liability lawsuit and, at the very least, incur discovery and settlement costs. Worse, they could face large monetary judgments by a sympathetic jury.
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