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Negligent Servicing Claim in Texas

In Iacono v. Stanley Black & Decker, a Texas product liability plaintiff appealed from a summary judgment motion brought by the defendant manufacturer. The case arose from injuries sustained in connection with the defendants’ automatic sliding glass doors at a hotel. The doors operate by using a controller. Three sensors located above and on each side of the door detect motion in order for the doors to open. A threshold sensor is located in the frame above the door. The latest date of installation of the doors in this case was early 1995. The hotel’s safety assurance manager testified that the hotel performed the service for the doors once they were installed, and they had been serviced twice since 1995, with replacement of certain parts.

The plaintiff went to a wedding at the hotel in 2013. As she came out with her walker, the automatic door closed on her. She fell and was injured. She sued the manufacturer on the grounds of negligence, product liability, breach of warranty, and gross negligence. The manufacturer claimed that the plaintiff’s suit was barred by the statute of limitations and the statute of repose, and it moved for partial summary judgment.

The plaintiff filed an amended complaint and summary judgment response. She argued that her negligence claims were based on the manufacturer’s acts and omissions in service call years, so they weren’t barred by the statute of repose. She also claimed her negligence cause of action wasn’t barred by the statute of limitations. However, the trial court granted the partial summary judgment motion. The manufacturer then filed a final summary judgment motion, arguing that all that was left were product liability claims based on the motion sensors, which were manufactured by a separate company, and that since it was a non-manufacturing seller, it could not be liable. This motion also was granted.

The plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that her negligent servicing claim was not barred by the statute of limitations or the statute of repose. The plaintiff argued that her claim wasn’t that the manufacturer had negligently designed or manufactured the door, but instead that it had provided negligent service in connection with the door.

The appellate court explained that a product liability lawsuit against a manufacturer or seller must be commenced before the end of 15 years after the date of the product’s sale under Section 16.012(b) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. The court reasoned that it was not disputed that the manufacturer had sold the door to the hotel in 1994 or 1995.

The plaintiff claimed that the manufacturer was the last to work on the doors before her injury and that it owed a duty to use reasonable care and to repair the motion sensors. The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s claim of failure to inspect and repair was actually an allegation that the door was defective.

The appellate court agreed with the plaintiff that she had properly stated a claim of failure to properly service the door after its sale, and this claim did not constitute a product liability claim. The plaintiff further reasoned that her negligent servicing claim accrued on the date of her injury, not on the date the door was serviced. The appellate court agreed that a cause of action accrues on the date a wrong produces an injury and that in this case, the plaintiff had filed well within the two-year limitations period after her injury. The summary judgment as to the negligent servicing claim was reversed.

If you are hurt due to a defective product or someone else’s negligent repair of a product, the San Antonio product liability attorneys at Carabin Shaw may be able to represent you and develop a sound strategy for handling your case. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.

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