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STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS IN PRODUCT LIABILITY CLAIMS INVOLVING MINORS - ELLIOT V. NAVISTAR, INC., ET AL.

In 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.

Related Documents: 12310_elliot_v_navistar

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