Florida Court of Appeal Upholds Summary Judgment of Products Liability Claim

Many people are familiar with the statute of limitations and understand that it can bar a claim if the claim is not filed within a certain period of time. In a recent case, Dominguez v. Hayward Industries, Inc., the Florida Third District Court of Appeals evaluated the lesser-known companion to the statute of limitations:  the statute of repose.

The facts of the case are as follows. In 2012, the plaintiff was swimming in a pool when the pool’s filter exploded unexpectedly. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff and his wife filed a lawsuit seeking damages according to a products liability theory. The plaintiff sued the company that made the pool filter, the distributor, and the business that performed the installation of the pool filter roughly 13 years prior to the accident. The plaintiff also sought damages based on theories of negligence and various other torts.

The defendants moved for summary judgment in response to the plaintiff’s complaint, alleging that the 12-year statute of limitations contained in Florida Statutes Section 95.031 barred the plaintiff from bringing a products liability action. The provisions of this section create a statute of repose, which operates similarly to a statute of limitations. The statute of repose imposes a time limit by which a plaintiff must file his or her action. Statutes of repose typically run based on the occurrence of an event other than the specific injury giving rise to the plaintiff’s claim.

The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case. On appeal to the Florida Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the court first provided a plain-language interpretation of the statute of repose. Next, the court noted that a products liability claim is subject to a four-year statute of limitations in Florida, and a 12-year statute of repose. The event that triggers the statute of repose in a products liability case is when the product in question is purchased or delivered. Improvements to property are considered an exception to the statute of repose.

The plaintiff contended that the statute of repose did not apply because the installation of the pool filter constituted an improvement to the couple’s home. The appellate court, however, determined that a pool filter component is not sufficiently connected to the real property to satisfy the statute of repose’s “improvement to real property” exception. As a result, the court upheld the lower court’s grant of summary judgment in the defendants’ favor, finding that the plaintiff’s claim was appropriately dismissed pursuant to Florida’s statute of repose.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries as the result of a defective product or device, you may be entitled to compensation. Each day, we encounter numerous products that may pose a threat to our safety. Product manufacturers may be subject to strict liability for the damages and injuries that their defectively manufactured or defectively designed products cause.

At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, our products liability lawyers have represented many accident victims throughout Southwest Florida, including in Naples, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral. We provide our clients with compassionate guidance and personal attention at every step of the litigation and are prepared to fight for your rights. Call us now at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to set up your appointment today.

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