Appellate Court Finds Florida Couple’s Products Liability Case is Time Barred

In Dominguez v. Hayward Industries, Inc., a Florida man was apparently seriously injured when a swimming pool filter unexpectedly exploded in 2012. Following the incident, the man and his wife filed a products liability lawsuit against the filter manufacturer, the distributor of the product, and the company that installed it 13 years earlier. According to the couple’s complaint, the defendants committed negligence and other torts against the man when they manufactured, sold, and installed the allegedly defective swimming pool filter. Because of this, the couple sought damages for the man’s resulting head injury.

In response to the couple’s lawsuit, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming the 12-year statute of repose enumerated in Section 95.031 of the Florida Statutes barred the couple’s products liability case. Much like a statute of limitations, Florida’s statute of repose limits the time frame during which specific causes of action may be filed. If a lawsuit is not brought before the statute of repose expires, a plaintiff’s claim is typically barred forever. The trial court agreed with the defendants and entered judgment in their favor. The couple then filed an appeal with Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal.

On appeal, the couple argued the statute of repose did not apply because the pool filter installation constituted an improvement to their real property. The Florida appellate court first stated a statute must be construed using its plain meaning when the language is unambiguous. Additionally, the court said no portion of the law’s language should be rendered meaningless. Next, the court stated a products liability action is generally subject to a four-year statute of limitations and a 12-year statute of repose in Florida. The court added that the statute of repose is triggered when an allegedly defective product is delivered or purchased.

Although improvements to real property provide an undefined exception to the statute of repose, the court declined to rule that the installation of a pool filter constituted such an improvement. After examining the definition of an “improvement to real property” in a legal dictionary, the court said a component part such as a pool filter is not sufficiently connected to render it an improvement under Section 95.03. Instead, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants because the couple’s products liability case was time barred by the 12-year statute of repose.

If you were injured by a defective product in South Florida, you should contact a caring lawyer who can help you safeguard your rights. To schedule a free consultation with a hardworking and committed Miami personal injury attorney, contact Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. through our website or give us a call today at (305) 448-8585.

Additional Resources:

Dominguez v. Hayward Industries, Inc., Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 3rd Dist. 2015

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Florida Appeals Court Holds Settlement Offer Was Not Vague or Ambiguous in Fatal Car Accident Lawsuit, September 18, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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