Elliot v. Navistar, Inc., et al., [Ms. 1090152, Dec. 3, 2010] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2010), a school bus was
struck by a vehicle while traveling on an elevated portion of I-565. The
school bus ran over a concrete barrier and fell 30 feet, killing four
students and injuring the others. The plaintiffs initially brought suit
against the company operating the bus, the bus driver, and the driver
of the other vehicle. Those claims were settled. Following the settlement
of the initial claims, plaintiffs amended their complaint to allege claims
against the companies that designed and manufactured the bus (the "Navistar
defendants"). The Navistar defendants moved for summary judgment,
arguing that plaintiffs claims were barred by the statute of limitations,
waiver, and laches. The circuit court granted defendants' motion.
Plaintiffs timely appealed. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed. The
Court found that the injured parties were all minors at the time of the
crash and that pursuant to Ala. Code ¤ 6-2-8 the statute of limitations
did not run during the pendency of the plaintiffs' minority. The Court
specifically rejected the bus companies' argument that Ala. Code ¤
6-2-8 does not apply where injured minors are represented by guardians
or next friends. Defendants next argued that because the bus companies'
role in designing and manufacturing was always known, the plaintiffs waived
their claims by not naming the bus companies while pursuing and eventually
settling their other claims. The Court also rejected this argument, finding
insufficient evidence to demonstrate an intent to waive such claims. Lastly,
the defendants argued that the doctrine of laches barred plaintiffs claims.
The Court agreed with the plaintiffs that the doctrine of laches should
not be applied to bar their claims because the statute of limitations
had not yet run.