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IOWA SUPREME COURT SETS PRECEDENT IN PRODUCT LIABILITY CLAIMS BY MINORS IN AUTO CASE
Clarifies Statute of Repose Applies to Age of Product, Not Age of Person
Albrecht v. General Motors #LACV307458
FORT DODGE, IA - The Iowa Supreme Court and Judge Kurt L. Wilke, Webster County Circuit Court, Fort Dodge, Iowa entered a precedent-setting opinion July 17, 2002. This opinion clarifies the applicability of Iowa’s general Statute of Limitations tolling provisions to Iowa’s Product Liability Statute of Repose. This opinion is significant because before Albrecht v. General Motors, there was no clear Iowa law addressing whether the Iowa product liability statute of repose would apply to claims made by minors. Today there is -- it's Albrecht.
The Iowa statute of repose, 614.1(2A), bars all product liability claims commenced more than 15 years after the product is first purchased. However, plaintiff’s attorneys, James L. Kramer and Neven J. Mulholland, argued the tolling provisions in Iowa’s Statute of Limitations, allowing minors extra time to file a lawsuit, should apply in Albrecht v. GM because the injured driver is a minor.
The Court agreed with the General Motors interpretation of the intent and effect of Iowa’s Product Liability Statute of Repose, and affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of General Motors. The Court rejected plaintiff's argument that the Iowa general Statute of Limitations tolling provision would apply to claims by minors, in order to trump the Iowa product liability statute of repose.
"Ultimately, the ruling supported the inability to make any claim at all because the product, a 1980 Olds Omega, was certainly older than 15 years," said lead defense attorney, Tom Branigan of Bowman and Brooke.
The Albrecht case involved an alleged claim that a seat belt buckle in a 1980 Olds Omega unlatched during a two-car collision. On December 15, 1999, an icy and slick day, Sara Albrecht’s Omega crossed the center line of Highway 7, 2 ½ miles west of Barnum, IA, and collided nearly head on with a 1995 Ford Aerostar. In this unfortunate accident, plaintiff claims that 17-year-old Sara struck her head on the dash and sustained a very profound, incapacitating brain injury. Plaintiff requested compensatory and punitive damages.
A copy of the Iowa Supreme Court opinion is available upon request.
Tom Branigan and Andrea L. Moody, Bowman and Brooke LLP, Detroit, MI
William Habhab, attorney at law, Fort Dodge, IA
James L. Kramer, Johnson Erb Bice Kramer Good & Mulholland, Fort Dodge, IA
Robert Waltman, Waltman & Grisham, College Station, TX