Personal Injury Claims May Arise from Breach of Warranty with Extended Statute of Limitations

The New Mexico Courts have found that personal injury claims can be based upon a breach of warranty giving rise to an a longer statute of limitations.

In Badilla v. Walmart, a the New Mexico Supreme Court recently addressed the statute of limitations governing a claim for personal injuries resulting from a breach of warranty claim under the Uniform Commercial Code. The case is important because the statute of limitations is 3 years in personal injury claims based in products liability, but 4 in breach of warranty/contract cases under New Mexico Law.

Court of Appeals Overruled on Applicable Statute of Limitations

We had written -previously written about the New Mexico Court of Appeals decision in Badilla v. Walmart where it was held that the 3 year statute of limitations (SOL) on personal injury claims applied and that the plaintiff could not escape the SOL by couching the claims in terms of breach of warranty.  The Supreme Court disagreed reversing the Court of Appeals on whether a claim for personal injuries could be brought as a breach of warranty claims and the relevant statute of limitations that would apply.

This is not the end of it since the district court had dismissed the claim on 2 grounds: 1) plaintiff missed the 3 year statute of limitations on personal injury claims, and 2) the plaintiff had failed to show that he could prove the breach of warranty. The Supreme Court disagreed sending the case back to the Court of Appeals to address the second basis of the district court’s dismissal of the case.

The case will go back to the Court of Appeals to address the case in light of the Supreme Court’s findings. The facts of the case behind the alleged breach of warranty can be found at our original post.

Basis of Ruling that 4 Year Statute of Limitations on UCC Claims Applies

In its ruling the Court acknowledged the differing state views on on which of the 2 possible  statute of limitations applied. The Court went with the majority view that the UCC statute of limitations applies.

The majority view holds that the UCC deadline applies to all actions for breach of warranty claims regardless of whether the claims are for economic, contractual or personal injury damages.  The Court rejected the argument that the remedy (damages for personal injury) would dictate the nature of the cause of action.

The Court noted that the plaintiff had not alleged negligence but breach of warranty stating: “We hold that the nature of the right Plaintiff asserts is based in contract, and therefore the UCC’s four-year statute of limitation, which governs actions for breach of warranty seeking personal injury damages, applies.”

At the same time, the Court did state that a personal injury claim and breach of warranty claim were not mutually exclusive so the plaintiff presumably could have filed on both the personal injury tort claims as well as the personal injury claims under the UCC had the case been filed within the 3 year statute on personal injury tort claims.

In this case, it was immaterial to the outcome in light of the fact that the plaintiff had missed the 3 year statute of limitations.

Statute of Limitations Deadlines are Strict

It is important to note that a statute of limitations is always very serious and missing one will almost always bar a claim. This holds true here as well in that the plaintiff missed the 3 year SOL barring his claims for personal injury under products liability theory. He was saved because of the longer 4 year statute on UCC warranty claims.

It is very important to understand and meet any deadlines on personal injury claims. An experienced personal injury attorney can help. Collins & Collins, P.C. can be reached at (505) 242-5958.

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