What Is the Statute of Repose? And How Could It Affect My Georgia Personal Injury Claim?
Georgia has a two-year statute of limitations in personal injury cases. For example, if you are injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, you typically have two years from the date of the crash to file a lawsuit. If you wait past the two-year deadline, your case will likely be thrown out of court regardless of the merits.
There is also what is known as the statute of repose, which is a separate deadline that often affects personal injury cases arising from defective products. Say your car accident was the result of a defective part in your vehicle. You can sue the manufacturer under Georgia product liability laws. But there is a 10-year statute of repose, which means you can only sue if the car was first sold less than 10 years ago. Even then, you would still have to comply with the two-year statute of limitations with respect to your specific injury.
Georgia Supreme Court Rejects Ford’s Efforts to Narrow Exception for “Reckless” Product Design
The Georgia Supreme Court recently held, however, that the 10-year statute of repose does have some critical exceptions that can protect an auto accident victim’s ability to sue a manufacturer. The case that was before the Supreme Court, Ford Motor Company v. Cosper, is actually an ongoing federal personal injury lawsuit arising from a December 2015 accident in Haralson County, Georgia. The victim was a passenger riding in a Ford Explorer that got into a rollover accident. During the rollover, the Explorer’s passenger-side roof structure collapsed into the passenger compartment. The passenger sustained a severe spinal fracture and later died from his injuries.
The victim’s daughter subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ford Motor Company, the manufacturer of the Explorer. The lawsuit alleged, among other things, that Ford was negligent in selecting a defective design for the Explorer’s roof. Ford moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that since the Explorer was first purchased more than 10 years before the accident, the statute of repose barred the daughter’s claims.
The federal judge overseeing the lawsuit asked the Georgia Supreme Court to clarify the law in this area. Specifically, the statute of repose contains an exception for product liability claims “arising out of conduct which manifests a willful, reckless, or wanton disregard for life or property.” Ford argued that these three terms, read together, could not describe a claim arising from its alleged defective design. But the Supreme Court said the terms had to be read separately, and the plaintiff could plausibly argue that Ford’s conduct was at least “reckless.”
Based on existing common law, the Supreme Court said that the 10-year statute of repose did not bar a claim based on a “reckless disregard for life or property,” which referred to a situation where the defendant acts, or fails to act, in a way that would lead a “reasonable person” to conclude the conduct at issue created an “unreasonable risk of harm to another’s life or property” and also involved “a high degree of probability that substantial harm” would result to the victim or their property.
Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today
As you can probably tell, personal injury claims arising from product liability involve a number of complex legal and factual issues. That is why it is essential to work with a skilled Alpharetta personal injury lawyer. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.