Creating reasonable time limits for Missouri lawsuits
Did you know that in Missouri your company can be held liable for a product it sold 50 years ago — even if you didn’t manufacture it?
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is working to put a reasonable time limit on these lawsuits.
On Feb. 5, the Missouri Chamber testified in favor of Senate Bill 100. Among its provisions, the bill would place a 15-year limit on product liability lawsuits.
“Objects in our everyday lives cannot be expected to last forever,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jeanie Riddle, a Republican from Holts Summit. “And thus, we must not put an undue burden on our manufacturers that they could be on the hook for something made half a century ago. A reasonable statute of repose is something that must be added to our laws if we expect Missouri to be a place that encourages manufacturers to come and locate here.”
Current state law on this issue also creates a major burden for retailers, who may be forced to indefinitely defend products that they did manufacture in the event that the company that made the product has gone out of business.
“I believe Missouri businesses should not have perpetual liability exposure for products they sell past an appropriate period of time, which I believe is captured in this bill — and certainly not exposure that extends 20, 30, 40 or 50 years beyond the time that a product enters the stream of commerce.” said Jeffrey Groves, senior vice president and general counsel at O’Reilly Auto Parts. “Requiring innocent retailers to defend someone else’s product in these circumstances is not fair … After the passage of decades manufacturers go out of business for a variety of reasons. Their employees are either dead or spread to the wind. And it becomes very, very difficult to defend someone else’s product in that situation and yet that’s what we ask retailers to do in Missouri.”
This concern was echoed by Janea Danuser, vice president of Danuser Machine.
“As a stable long-term company, Danuser has outlasted suppliers,” she said. “Yes, we are a manufacturer, but we do require suppliers to supply us some small parts and components. Once those suppliers have gone out of business, we are left to defend their products.”
Matt Panik, vice president of government relations at the Missouri Chamber, told state Senators that the 15-year time limit proposed in Senate Bill 100 is similar to statutes passed in other states.
“We do feel that the 15-year time limit proposed on this bill is a reasonable amount of time for our manufacturers and sellers to contemplate litigation for products that they put into commerce,” Panik said. “It’s something we definitely support.”