Statutes of Limitations (MINNESOTA)
Personal Injury - 2 yrs. [M.S.A. § 541.07]
Wrongful Death - 3 yrs. from date of death, but no later than 6 yrs. from act/omission (no later than 4 yrs. if Med Mal involved) [M.S.A. § 573.02]
Property Damage - 6 yrs. [M.S.A. § 541.05]
Strict Product Liability - 4 yrs. [M.S.A. § 541.05]
Contracts (Written and Oral) - 6 yrs. [M.S.A.§ 541.05]
Contracts for Sale (goods) and Breach of Warranty - 4 yrs. (from tender of delivery) [M.S.A. § 336.2-725]
Statutory Warranty Claims Under M.S.A. Section 327A.02 - Loss or damage must be reported to vendor or home improvement contractor within 6 mos. after discovery of loss/damage [M.S.A. § 327A.03]
“Discovery rule” is usually not available (only “some” damage is enough to trigger the running of statute of limitations) [MacRae v. Group Health Plan, Inc., 753 N.W.2d 711 (Minn. 2008)].
Statute of Repose (Products) (MINNESOTA)
Admissibility of Expert Testimony (MINNESOTA)
Under the Frye rule, the results of mechanical or scientific testing are not admissible unless the testing has developed or improved to the point where experts in the field widely share the view that the results are scientifically reliable as accurate [State v. Mack, 292 N.W.2d 764 (Minn. 1980)]
Causes of Action (MINNESOTA)
Products liability cases grounded on strict tort liability may be joined with an action grounded on negligence, on breach of warranty, or on both [Continental Ins. Co. v. Loctite Corp., 352 N.W.2d 460 (Minn. Ct. App. 1984)]
Strict Liability – Plaintiff must establish that: (1) the product was in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous for its intended use; (2) the defect existed when the product left the defendant’s control; and (3) the defect was the proximate cause of the injury sustained. [Bilotta v. Kelley Co., 346 N.W.2d 616 (Minn. 1984)].
Negligence – Strict liability and negligence are distinct theories in manufacturing defect cases; but they merge into one theory for consideration of design-defect and warnings-defect cases. The distinction between strict liability and negligence in design-defect and failure-to-warn cases is that in strict liability, knowledge of the condition of the product and the risks involved in that condition will be imputed to the manufacturer, whereas in negligence these elements must be proven [Bilotta v. Kelley Co., 346 N.W.2d 616 (Minn. 1984)]
Breach of Warranty – Express warranty (any affirmation of fact or promise made by the seller to the buyer which relates to the goods and becomes part of the basis of the bargain creates an express warranty that the goods shall conform to the affirmation or promise) [Minn. Stat. § 336.2-313]; Implied warranty of merchantability (a warranty that the goods will be merchantable is implied in a contract for their sale if the seller is a merchant with respect to goods of that kind) [Minn. Stat. § 336.2-314]. A seller’s warranty whether express or implied extends to any person who may reasonably be expected to use, consume or be affected by the goods and who is injured by breach of the warranty [Minn. Stat. § 336.2-318]. Implied warranty of fitness is preempted by strict liability [Continental Ins. Co. v. Loctite Corp., 352 N.W.2d 460 (Minn. Ct. App. 1984)].
Definition of “Defect” (MINNESOTA)
A product is in a defective condition if, at the time it leaves the seller’s hands, it is in a condition which is unreasonably dangerous to the ordinary user. A condition is unreasonably dangerous if it is dangerous when used by an ordinary user who uses it with the knowledge common to the community as to the product’s characteristics and common usage. The defect may be in the design of the product itself or in the instructions necessary for its safe use [JIG II 118; Bilotta v. Kelley Co., 346 N.W.2d 616 (Minn. 1984)].
Also, see below for discussion re: design defects.
Liability of Sellers (MINNESOTA)
Anyone in the distribution chain is strictly liable [Tolbert v. Gerber Industries, Inc., 255 N.W.2d 362 (Minn. 1977)]. Said defendants must be engaged in the business of selling such products.
Comparative Negligence – Minnesota follows modified comparative negligence (damages are diminished in proportion to Plaintiff’s fault, but Plaintiff cannot recover if he is 51% at fault) [M.S.A. § 604.01]. “Fault” includes acts or omissions that are in any measure negligent or reckless toward the person or property of the actor or others, or that subject a person to strict tort liability. The term also includes breach of warranty, unreasonable assumption of risk not constituting an express consent or primary assumption of risk, misuse of a product and unreasonable failure to avoid an injury or to mitigate damages [Minn. Stat. § 604.01].
Product misuse and assumption of the risk must be compared with the distributor’s strict liability under the comparative negligence statute [Busch v. Busch Constr., Inc., 262 N.W.2d 377 (Minn. 1977)].
Product Alteration/Modification – A plaintiff in a strict liability case is required to show that the product is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold [Unterburger v. Snow Co., 630 F.2d 599 (8th Cir. Minn. 1980)].
Economic Loss Doctrine (ELD) (Product Destroys Only Itself) (MINNESOTA)
ELD has been codified and the economic loss recoverable in tort does not include economic loss due to damage to the goods themselves. But actions based on fraudulent or intentional misrepresentation are not barred by ELD [M.S.A. § 604.10].
Malfunction Theory (Using Circumstantial Evidence to Prove Defect) (MINNESOTA)
In a strict products liability action, a plaintiff may use circumstantial evidence to prove the existence of a defect. When a plaintiff has proved that he was injured by a product claimed to have been defective, and where the claimed defect is such that there is circumstantial evidence from which it can be inferred that it is more probable than not that the product was defective when it left defendant's hands, absent plaintiff’s own want of care or misuse of the product, there is an evidentiary basis for submitting the issue of liability to the jury on both the theory of negligence and strict liability in tort [Western Surety & Casualty Co. v. General Electric Co., 433 N.W.2d 444 (Minn. Ct. App. 1988)].
Design Defects (MINNESOTA)
A manufacturer is obligated to exercise that degree of care in his plan or design so as to avoid any unreasonable risk of harm to anyone who is likely to be exposed to the danger when the product is used in the manner for which the product was intended, as well as an unintended yet reasonably foreseeable use. What constitutes "reasonable care" varies with the surrounding circumstances and involves a balancing of the likelihood of harm, and the gravity of harm if it happens, against the burden of the precaution which is effective to avoid the harm. The reasonable care balancing test focuses on the conduct of the manufacturer in evaluating whether its choice of design struck an acceptable balance among several competing factors [Bilotta v. Kelley Co., 346 N.W.2d 616 (Minn. Mar. 16, 1984)].
Although ordinarily in a products liability tort case based upon alleged defect in design existence of an alternative feasible safer design is a factor to be considered in determining whether the product was unreasonably dangerous, it is not a separate element necessarily to be proved in each case [Kallio v. Ford Motor Co., 407 N.W.2d 92 (Minn. 1987)].
Failure to Warn (MINNESOTA)
A supplier has a duty to warn end users of a dangerous product if it is reasonably foreseeable that an injury could occur in its use. The duty to warn includes the duty to give adequate instructions for the safe use of the product. Where the manufacturer has actual or constructive knowledge of danger to users, he has a duty to give warnings of such dangers. To be legally adequate, the warning should: (1) attract the attention of those that the product could harm; (2) explain the mechanism and mode of injury; and (3) provide instructions on ways to safely use the product to avoid injury [Gray v. Badger Mining Corp., 676 N.W.2d 268 (Minn. 2004)].
Under the sophisticated user defense, a supplier has no duty to warn the ultimate user if it has reason to believe that the user will realize the dangerous condition. One with a duty to warn is not liable for failing to warn a party of facts that the party already knew. The theory of this exception is that a failure to warn a party of a danger of which it was independently aware cannot be the proximate cause of injury resulting from that danger, since presumably the party would not have acted differently even if warned [Gray v. Badger Mining Corp., 676 N.W.2d 268 (Minn. 2004)]
In a failure-to-warn case, when a warning label is affixed to the product, absent a reading of the warning, there is no causal link between the alleged defect and the injury [Yennie v. Dickey Consumer Prods., 2000 Minn. App. LEXIS 819 (Minn. Ct. App. 2000)].
Minnesota Supreme Court has avoided deciding whether a rebuttable presumption exists that a warning would have been heeded [Kallio v. Ford Motor Co., 407 N.W.2d 92 (Minn. 1987)].
Independent Cause of Action for Evidence Spoliation (MINNESOTA)
Action for negligent spoliation of evidence can be stated under existing negligence law without creating new tort [Federated Mut. Ins. Co. v. Litchfield Precision Components, Inc., 456 N.W.2d 434 (Minn. 1990)]