The District Court of Appeal for the Third District in Florida recently
decided a precedent-setting product liability case. The main issue that
the court was faced with deciding was what constitutes an improvement
to real property and what is simply an addition.
The issue of what constitutes an addition or improvement is important in
Florida because of how the statutes of limitations are construed. Each
state has statutes of limitations that limit the timeframe in which a
lawsuit can be brought in certain types of cases. For example, Florida
has statutes of limitation for breach of contract claims, personal injury
claims, product liability claims, and more.
What Happened in This Case
This case involved a family whose pool filter malfunctioned in late 2012.
The father of the family was severely injured by the filter when it exploded
and caused him serious head injuries. The family, understandably, sued
several people in response to the injury. They sued the manufacturer and
distributor of the pool filter and the installer who oversaw the installation
of the pool filter in late 1999.
The main problem with the lawsuit, however, was that the filter was installed
in the home in 1999. Florida has a statute of repose of twelve years that
limits any claim for product liability for a product with an expected
useful life of ten years or less.
Florida Statutes 95.031(2)(b). The defendants in this case argued that this should bar any recovery
for the accident.
Florida law does allow a suit if the faulty product constitutes an improvement
to real property under
Florida Statutes 95.031(2)(b)1. The family in this case argued to the court of appeals that the pool
filter should be regarded as an addition to real property, and that their
suit should be allowed to move forward.
Ruling of the Court
The court in this case did not agree with the family. In its
ruling, the appeals court relied on prior opinions that held that an improvement
to real property must include permanent things like a roof, windows, or
other fixtures that become part of the property. In the court’s
view, something like a pool filter was not permanent enough to be deemed
an improvement to the actual property.
While disappointing for this family, the ruling does provide guidance for
future product liability cases in Florida. The purpose of product liability
law is to ensure that as consumers we are getting the safest product available.
If the product is not safe, then under the law consumers are allowed to
sue to recover for the damages a product causes.
Panama City Area Product Liability Attorney
The Pittman Firm, product liability law is one of the areas we practice on behalf of our
clients. We take the fight to the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer
to ensure that injured victims of faulty products get the justice they
deserve. If you have been injured due to a faulty product,
contact us. We look forward to going over your case and providing you with your legal options.
See related blog posts:
3rd District Court of Appeal Affirms Multi-Million Dollar Judgement;
Florida Supreme Court Rules: A New Approach to Products Liability Cases.