Texas Court Analyzes the Timeliness of Product Liability Claims in Car Accident Cases

While most Texas motor vehicle collisions arise out of negligent driving, some are caused by defective vehicles. People harmed in crashes caused by unsafe cars have the right to pursue product liability claims against the vehicle manufacturer, but, pursuant to Texas’s statute of repose pertaining to product liability claims, they must do so within 15 years of the date of the sale of the vehicle. If a defendant cannot establish the date of sale, they most likely cannot challenge a product liability claim as untimely, as demonstrated in Jennifer Parks et al. v. Ford Motor Company (No. 05-21-00632-CV), an opinion recently delivered by a Texas court. If you suffered harm in an accident caused by an unsafe vehicle, you might be able to recover damages from the company that manufactured the vehicle, and it is in your best interest to confer with a Texas car accident attorney.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the decedent was involved in a collision in May 2014 while driving a vehicle manufactured by the defendant. Subsequently, in May 2016, the plaintiff, as guardian of the decedent’s estate, and several other plaintiffs filed a product liability lawsuit against the defendant. In part, they alleged that the design of the subject vehicle, which was a 2001 model, rendered it unsafe because it was prone to rollovers and the strength of the roof was insufficient to withstand crashes.

Reportedly, the defendant set forth numerous affirmative defenses, including the assertion that the plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the statute of repose for product liability claims. Following discovery, the defendant moved for summary judgment pursuant to the statute of repose, which demands that product liability claims must be pursued within 15 years of the defendant’s sale of the product. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.

Timeliness of Product Liability Claims in Car Accident Cases

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. The salient issue on appeal was when the defendant sold the decedent’s vehicle. The court explained that the pertinent sale for the statute of repose was the defendant’s sale and not the sale of the independent dealer. In other words, the statute of repose began to run on the date the defendant sold the vehicle.

The defendant asserted that the date it released the vehicle to the dealer and received payment for the vehicle constituted the date of sale. The defendant could not reconcile the fact that its witnesses offered conflicting testimony regarding when vehicles are paid for as opposed to when they are released. Further, the defendant lacked evidence regarding the actual date the dealership paid for the subject vehicle. As such, the court found that it failed to establish the date of sale and, therefore, could not prove the plaintiff’s claims were time-barred.

Talk to a Trusted Texas Attorney About your Potential Claims

Companies that manufacture and distribute unsafe vehicles can be held accountable for the losses caused by their defective products, but product liability claims must be pursued in a timely manner; otherwise, they will be dismissed. If you were hurt in a collision, it is advisable to talk to an attorney regarding what claims you may be able to pursue. Earl Drott is a trusted Texas attorney who can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact Mr. Drott via the online form or at 903-531-9300 to set up a free conference.

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