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
At 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.