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What is the product liability statute of repose?

Questions about how long you have to commence a lawsuit in Ohio based on a product liability cause of action usually center on the applicable statute of limitations, which in this state is two years from the date of injury or, if the harm was not readily discoverable at the time it occurred, two years from the date of such discovery or when a reasonable person would have discovered it.

There is, however, an additional consideration to keep in mind when calculating how long you have to initiate legal action for a product liability claim: the statute of repose.

The statute of repose places what is effectively a parallel statute of limitations on product liability lawsuits, only instead of being based on the date on which harm occurred the starting date for the statute of repose is the day on which the product found its way into the hands of a consumer ("consumer" being defined as an end-user purchaser or lessee). In Ohio, the general rule is that you have 10 years after such date within which to file a product liability lawsuit. After the expiration of this interval, even if a product injures you you can no longer use product liability as the basis of a legal claim.

The statute of repose is not absolute. It contains a number of exceptions, which can either lengthen the ten-year time period or eliminate it. For example, if the manufacturer or seller of a product fraudulently misrepresented it and that fraud contributed to the harm suffered, then the statute of repose does not apply. Also, if the manufacturer or seller made an express written safety warranty for the product of duration longer than 10 years, and which has not expired at the time the cause of action accrued, then the duration of the statute of repose is extended accordingly. 

The purpose of this post is to introduce you to the existence of the statute of repose for Ohio product liability actions. It is not a comprehensive treatment of the topic, nor should you construe it as any kind of legal advice. If you believe that you have a legal claim based on a defective product, consulting with a personal injury attorney experienced with product liability matters will help you to understand how both the statute of limitations and the statute of repose may apply to your particular case.

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