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Released Opinion

February 7, 2011

The Supreme Court released opinions in 13 cases this morning, one of which is civil.  A brief summary of the issues in the case and the opinion are below.

S10Q1379. Campbell et al. v. Altec Industries, Inc., et al.

This case is a certified question from the Eleventh Circuit.  The case began as a products liability case, for alleged liability regarding a defect in a bucket truck.  A Georgia statute provides for a 10-year period in which a products liability case can be brought for a defect in how the product was sold.  The case was filed ten years and 21 days after the bucket truck design in question was first assembled for testing, but less than ten years after it was finally assembled for sale.

The district court granted the motion to dismiss, but the Eleventh Circuit cited conflicting Georgia precedent on whether the 10-year period runs from the date of the installation or the date of the sale.

The Eleventh Circuit certified the following question to the Georgia Supreme Court:

  1. In a strict liability or negligence action, does the statute of repose in O.C.G.A. § 51-1-11 begin running when (1) a component part causing an injury is assembled or tested, (2) a finished product, which includes an injuring component part, is assembled, or (3) a finished product, which includes an injuring component part, is delivered to its initial purchaser?

The Appellants argue that the statute of repose is not triggered until the manufacturer delivers the final product into the hands of the initial purchasing consumer.  The Appellees counter that the proper interpretation of the statute involves the first sale for use of the product, and the purchase of the boom cylinder triggers the statute.

The case was argued on September 13, 2010.

On Monday, February 7, 2011, the Supreme Court unanimously answered the questions from the Eleventh Circuit.  Writing for the Court, Justice Hines answered that the statute of repose begins to run “when a finished product is sold as new to the intended consumer who is to receive the product.”  Applying this interpretation, the Court overruled the Court of Appeals case Johnson v. Ford Motor Company, and determined that Pafford II controls.  The Court then found that suit must have been filed against the manufacturer within 10 years of the sale to Georgia Power.

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