What is a Statute of Repose?

When it comes to various types of lawsuits that can be filed, there are often statutes of limitations and statutes of repose. These both act as countdowns for a time limit a plaintiff has to file a civil lawsuit. It is absolutely vital that you understand what a statute of repose is, how it affects your case, and how it is different from a statute of limitations. If you have been injured due to the negligence of another person, speak with a qualified personal injury attorney in Nashville as soon as possible to ensure your case is still valid.

Understanding a statute of repose

A statute of repose is a time limit that cuts off a plaintiff’s ability to recover damages in a civil lawsuit. The statutes of repose are typically put into place for product liability cases, construction defects or designs, and medical negligence claims.

  • For product liability cases, a statute of repose is typically set in place that bars the ability to file a lawsuit for injuries caused by the product after a certain amount of time, regardless of whether or not the statute of limitations has not expired. In Tennessee, the statute of repose for product liability cases is ten years from the date the product was first sold to consumers.
  • For medical malpractice cases, the statute of repose in Tennessee is three years from the date of the injury, regardless of the discovery date of the injury, the age of the patient, or the mental incapacity of the patient.
  • For construction design defects, the statute of repose in Tennessee is four years from the date of substantial completion of the structure in question.

An example of how the statute of repose works with the statutes of limitations

For a moment, let’s say that a person buys a toy for their child. This toy has been in the market for 12 years, but it is defective and causes an injury to that person’s child six months after it is purchased.

For personal injury cases in Tennessee, the statute of limitations is two years from the date the injury occurred. The parents of this child could file a lawsuit based purely on the statute of limitations, though they must do so within two years from the time their child was injured.

However, in Tennessee, there is a ten-year statute of repose that bars most product liability claims ten years after the product was sold to the first consumer. The civil lawsuit that the parents of this injured child filed would not be allowed to proceed because they bought the toy two years after the statute of repose ran out.

Why do states have statutes of repose?

The main reasons for statutes of repose include:

  • Fairness: After a great deal of time, lawsuits can become hard to defend due to fading memories of the incident, unavailable witnesses, the loss of evidence, and more.
  • Judicial Efficiency: The statutes of limitations and repose reduce the number of cases filed in civil court and free up help dispose of claims without the need for complicated hearings or trials.
  • Finality: If there were no cut off dates for certain types of claims, it would be difficult for a court to approve final settlements and distributions for an estate’s assets, and the estate’s heirs would be at risk of losing their inheritances.
  • Lobbying: In many cases, lobbyists of the industries with statutes of repose work very hard to convince legislators to pass such statutes. This helps protect them from liability.