Federal Court in East Texas Rejects Automobile Component Manufacturer’s Attempt to Prevent Refiling of Product Liability Claim by Man Allegedly Injured by Airbag

Most people have heard the term “statute of limitations” and are aware that the plaintiff in an east Texas car accident case has only a certain amount of time in which to file a lawsuit against the responsible party.

The term “statute of repose” may be less familiar, but this law can further limit the time for filing a claim in certain situations, including a product liability action for injuries suffered in an automobile accident due to a defective or unreasonably dangerous vehicle.

A plaintiff who does not file a claim within both the statute of limitations and the statute of repose faces the dismissal of his or her case on procedural grounds.

Facts of the Case

In a recently decided federal case, the defendant was one of several companies that the plaintiff had named as potentially liable in a product liability lawsuit arising from a September 2016 automobile accident in which the Takata airbag in his 2001 Honda Accord deployed and allegedly exploded. According to the plaintiff, his neck and chest were injured by the metal shrapnel from the airbag. The plaintiff filed suit in Texas state court against the defendant and several others, but he voluntarily dismissed some of his claims with prejudice and non-suited the case as to the others. At that time, the plaintiff apparently announced his intent to refile some of his claims in the state of Georgia.

Before he could do so, however, the defendant filed a declaratory judgment action in federal court, claiming that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the Texas statute of repose. According to the defendant, the plaintiff’s product liability claims against it were barred because the accident in question happened more than 15 years after the product was first sold. The plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss the defendant’s case on the ground that it was not justiciable.

Disposition of the Issues

The magistrate judge recommended that the district court judge grant the plaintiff’s motion to dismiss and dismiss the defendant’s case for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. According to the court, the issues raised by the defendant were “the very sort of conditional and hypothetical claims a court may not decide under the Declaratory Judgment Act.” In so stating, the magistrate judge observed that it was “entirely plausible” that Georgia law – rather than Texas law – could apply to the plaintiff’s Georgia product liability lawsuit; after all, the product in question was manufactured in Georgia. Thus, the claim was not justiciable.

The magistrate judge also listed multiple factors weighing in favor of the dismissal of the defendant’s claim, including the defendant’s clear attempt to engage in “procedural fencing” in an attempt to interfere with the plaintiff’s right to choose the forum in which to pursue his product liability action.

Speak to an East Texas Car Accident Attorney

If you are suffering from injuries caused by a crash complicated by a defective product, it is imperative that you speak to an experienced east Texas product liability attorney as soon as possible. Time is of the essence, and a failure to timely file your claim can be an extremely expensive mistake. Earl Drott Law in Tyler, Smith County, Texas, is currently accepting appointments for new car accident claimants. Call 903-531-9300 today to set up your free consultation.

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