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Effect of statutes of repose on product liability suits

Many Nashville residents are familiar with the basic idea behind statutes of limitations; less well known are statutes of repose, which can also limit a plaintiff’s ability to bring a claim. Under some circumstances, statutes of repose can have a devastating effect on potential products liability plaintiffs.  

According to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, a statute of repose is a law that dismisses a claim if it has been too long since the defendant committed the action that resulted in a wrongful death or an injury. These statutes are considered to be more beneficial to defendants than statutes of limitations.   

The Tennessee Bar Association explains that statutes of repose can sometimes eliminate a product liability claim before an injury or death has even occurred. If, for example, a defect exists in a vehicle’s brakes, any claims relating to injuries or deaths caused by that defect must be brought within 10 years of the vehicle’s initial sale. Even if there is irrefutable evidence that this defect caused a serious injury or death, if the statute of repose has lapsed, any related product liability claims can be dismissed.

Statutes of repose can also be used strategically in cases involving multiple defendants. For example, Defendant A may attempt to assign fault to Defendant B if Defendant B is immune to legal action due to a lapsed statute of repose. This effectively means that any fault assigned to Defendant B must be shouldered by the plaintiff.  

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