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Ryan Dominguez, et al. v. Hayward Industries, Inc., et al., Case No. 3D14-491 (3rd DCA)

In Dominguez, the plaintiffs appealed a final judgment entered in favor of the defendants in a products liability action. On November 17, 2012, Ryan Dominguez sustained a severe head injury when the filter of his swimming pool exploded. Dominguez and his wife later filed suit against several defendants, including the manufacturer and distributor of the pool filter. The trial court later entered final judgment in the defendants’ favor finding that the plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the applicable statute of repose because the pool and filter were delivered and installed on December 20, 1999.

On appeal, the Third District considered whether the component parts of a system, in this case a pool filter, constituted improvements to real property, which would fall within an exception to the twelve year statute of repose in products liability cases under Fla. Stat. 95.031. The Third District ruled that they are not.

Product liability cases in Florida are subject to a four year statute of limitations under Fla. Stat. 95.11. Fla. Stat. 95.031(2)(b) provides a twelve year statute of repose to products liability claims based upon injuries or death caused by a product with an expected useful life of ten years or less, except for certain aircraft, vessels and certain types of railroad equipment, and improvements to real property. Improvements to real property therefore constitute an exception to the twelve year statute of repose in Fla. Stat. 95.031(2)(b). The Third District noted that the term improvements to real property is undefined by the statute. The Florida Supreme Court however has defined the term improvement as a “valuable addition made to property (usually real estate) or an amelioration in its condition, amounting to more than mere repairs or replacement of waste, costing labor or capital, and intended to enhance its value, beauty or utility or to adapt it for new or further purposes.” The Third District found that “Florida law supports the proposition that a product maintains its fundamental characteristics when it is connected to real property.” The court further noted that other jurisdictions have held that component parts do not constitute improvements to real property. Accordingly, the Third District ruled that a pool filter, a component part of the swimming pool, does not constitute an improvement to real property within the context of Fla. Stat. 95.031, and thus, the case was subject to a twelve year statute of repose, which had expired.

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