Subject: Statue of Repose

Washington Appellate Court Holds Statute of Repose Constitutional and Applicable in All Cases Applying Its Product Liability Act

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Statutes of repose serve as substantive outer limits on product liability claims after a certain time period following the product’s sale or use, potentially providing a complete defense in some jurisdictions and a rebuttable presumption of non-defectiveness in others.  But for a statute of repose to provide a viable defense, it must apply to the case at hand and survive constitutional scrutiny.  A recent appellate decision from Washington State provides good news on both fronts for defendants facing claims brought under the Washington Product Liability Act (WPLA).

In Erickson v. Pharmacia LLC, – P.3d –, 2024 WL 1905209 (Wash. Ct. App. May 1, 2024), three former teachers alleged injury from chemical exposure in middle school buildings built in the 1960s.  In 2018, the teachers filed product liability claims under the WPLA alleging that the chemicals at issue were not reasonably safe as designed and led to various adverse medical effects.  Because the plaintiffs had filed under the WPLA and the defendants did not contest that selection, the WPLA provided the substantive law governing the claims.  When the defendants moved for summary judgment on grounds that the claims were time-barred under the statute of repose contained in the WPLA, the plaintiffs argued that Missouri law (which has no statute of repose for product liability claims) should apply. The plaintiffs pointed to the fact that the chemicals were manufactured in Missouri and the manufacturer also had its principal place of business in Missouri.  The trial court agreed, and the case proceeded to a nine-figure jury verdict in the plaintiffs’ favor.

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