Statutes of Limitations (ALABAMA)
Personal Injury - 2 yrs. [Ala.Code § 6-2-38]
Wrongful Death - 2 yrs. (from date of death) [Ala.Code §§ 6-5-410, 6-2-38]
Property Damage - 2 yrs. [Ala.Code § 6-2-38]
Trespass to Real and Personal Property - 6 yrs. [Ala.Code § 6-2-34]
Contracts (Written and Oral) - 6 yrs. [Ala.Code § 6-2-34]
Contracts for Sale (goods) and Breach of Warranty - 4 yrs. (from tender of delivery; but from the date of injury if case involves personal injury by consumer goods) [Ala.Code § 7-2-725]
Usually, there is no “discovery rule” for negligence actions [Utilities Bd. of City of Opp v. Shuler Bros., Inc., 138 So.3d 287 (Ala. 2013)].
Statute of Repose (Products) (ALABAMA)
Products - None (declared unconstitutional)
Admissibility of Expert Testimony (ALABAMA)
Frye Standard (scientific testimony must be generally accepted in the particular field in which it belongs) [Bagley v. Mazda Motor Corp., 864 So. 2d 301 (Ala. 2003)],
Causes of Action (ALABAMA)
Strict Liability – Alabama version of Strict Liability known as “Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine” (“AEMLD”). Plaintiff must show: (1) he suffered injury/damages: (2) by one who sells a product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous; (3) if Seller is engaged in the business of selling such a product; and (4) the product is expected to and does reach the user without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold [Casrell v. Altec Indus., 335 So. 2d 128 (Ala. 1976)].
Negligence – AEMLD claim does not subsume a common-law negligence claim [Tillman v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 871 So. 2d 28 (Ala. 2003)]. Alabama remains a common-law state and common-law tort actions continue in force [Vesta Fire Ins. Corp. v. Milam & Co. Constr., Inc., 901 So. 2d 84 (Ala. 2004)].
Breach of Warranty (Express and Implied) – A warranty, express or implied, is a contract. In actions for breach of warranty, the only questions are: (1) whether there is a contract of warranty; (2) if so, whether there has been a breach; and (3) if so, whether the amount of damages suffered by Plaintiff thereby [Geohagan v. General Motors Corp., 279 So. 2d 436 (Ala. 1973)].
Definition of “Defect” (ALABAMA)
No specific definition has been adopted. “Defective” may mean “'unreasonably dangerous,” “not reasonably safe when applied to its intended use in the usual and customary manner” [Taylor v. GMC, 707 So. 2d 198 (Ala. 1997)].
Liability of Sellers (ALABAMA)
No liability against distributors, wholesalers, dealers, retailers, or sellers unless: (1) he is also the manufacturer or assembler; or (2) he exercised substantial control over the design, testing, manufacture, packaging, or labeling; or (3) he altered or modified the product [Ala.Code § 6-5-501].
However, a product liability action may be brought against a distributor, wholesaler, dealer, retailer, or seller if Plaintiff is unable to identify the manufacturer (Plaintiff must provide an affidavit certifying he has in good faith exercised due diligence and has been unable to identify the manufacturer) [Ala.Code § 6-5-521].
Contributory Negligence – Alabama follows strict contributory negligence (Plaintiff is barred from recovery even if 1% at fault) [Brown v. Piggly-Wiggly Stores, 454 So.2d 1370 (Ala. 1984)]. Plaintiff’s contributory negligence will also preclude recovery in an AEMLD action [McMahon v. Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A., 95 So. 3d 769 (Ala. 2012)]. NOTE: contributory negligence is a complete defense only if Plaintiff was negligent in using the product, not if Plaintiff was negligent in causing the accident) [General Motors Corp. v. Saint, 646 So. 2d 564 (Ala. 1994)]
Assumption of Risk – If Plaintiff discovers the defect and is aware of the danger, and nevertheless proceeds unreasonably to make use of the product and is injured by it, he is barred from recovery [Atkins v. American Motors Corp., 335 So. 2d 134 (Ala. 1976)].
Product Misuse – Most likely, falls under the contributory negligence analysis [Atkins v. American Motors Corp., 335 So. 2d 134 (Ala. 1976)]. Misuse must not have been reasonably foreseeable by Manufacturer [Horn v. Fadal Machining Ctrs., LLC, 972 So. 2d 63 (Ala. 2007)].
Product Alteration/Modification – An essential element under AEMLD is proof that the product reached the consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it was sold. However, the mere fact that a product has been altered/modified does not necessarily relieve Manufacturer of liability (he remains liable if the alteration/modification was reasonably foreseeable to him) [Tanksley v. ProSoft Automation, Inc., 982 So. 2d 1046 (Ala. 2007)].
Economic Loss Doctrine (ELD) (Product Destroys Only Itself) (ALABAMA)
Plaintiff cannot recover for the damage to the defective product itself under ELD [Tuscumbia City Sch. Sys. v. Pharmacia Corp., 871 F. Supp. 2d 1241 (N.D. Ala. 2012)]. Manufacturer in a commercial relationship has no duty under either a negligence or strict products liability theory to prevent a product from injuring itself [Lloyd Wood Coal Co. v. Clark Equipment Co., 543 So. 2d 671 (Ala. 1989)]
Three Possible Exceptions: (1) when the economic loss damages are not a consequence of a “defect” in the product that renders it unusable, but the inherently hazardous nature of the product necessitates its removal from use [Tuscumbia City Sch. Sys. v. Pharmacia Corp., 871 F. Supp. 2d 1241 (N.D. Ala. 2012)]; (2) when the case involved “fraudulent suppression” (Plaintiff must show: Defendant’s duty to disclose the facts + concealment or nondisclosure of material facts by Defendant + inducement of Plaintiff to act + action by Plaintiff to his injury) [Ford Motor Co. v. Rice, 726 So. 2d 626 (Ala. 1998)]; (3) ELD does not apply to post-sale negligence claims (post-sale duty to warn of defects “goes not to the quality of the product that the buyer expects from the bargain, but to the type of conduct which tort law governs as a matter of social and public policy) [Miller Indus. v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., 733 F.2d 813 (11th Cir. 1984)].
Malfunction Theory (Using Circumstantial Evidence to Prove Defect) (ALABAMA)
Plaintiff may establish a prima-facie defect claim on the basis of evidence tending to exclude causes other than a manufacturing defect, and despite a lack of any direct evidence to identify a specific defect [Rudd v. GMC, 127 F. Supp. 2d 1330 (M.D. Ala. 2001)]
Design Defects (ALABAMA)
“Defective” means that the product does not meet the reasonable expectations of an ordinary consumer as to its safety [Elliott v. Brunswick Corp., 903 F.2d 1505 (11th Cir. Ala. 1990)]. Liability may attach if a product fails to meet the reasonable expectations of ordinary consumers as to its safety [Nettles v. Electrolux Motor AB, 784 F.2d 1574 (11th Cir. Ala. 1986)].
If Plaintiff wishes to show that a product is defective, he must also prove that a safer, practical, alternative design was available to Manufacturer at the time it manufactured the product [Elliott v. Brunswick Corp., 903 F.2d 1505 (11th Cir. Ala. 1990)].
Even though Alabama appears to be a “consumer expectation test” state, one court in a crashworthiness case held that the jury must determine, using a risk/utility balancing process, whether a safer, practical alternative design existed that would have eliminated or reduced Plaintiff’s injuries if it had been used [Flemister v. GMC, 723 So. 2d 25 (Ala. Oct. 30, 1998)].
Proof of “state of the art” may be offered by either party as to availability of a safer, practical, alternative design. If such an alternative design is proven, compliance with industry standards is not a complete defense to a products liability case [Frantz v. Brunswick Corp., 866 F. Supp. 527 (S.D. Ala. Feb. 18, 1994)].
Failure to Warn (ALABAMA)
Manufacturer is under a duty to warn of the dangerous propensities of a product only when such products are dangerous when put to their intended use. Manufacturer is under no duty to warn of every danger which may exist during the use of the product, especially when such danger is open and obvious [Gurley v. American Honda Motor Co., 505 So. 2d 358 (Ala. Mar. 27, 1987)].
A negligent-failure-to-warn-adequately case should not be submitted to the jury unless there is substantial evidence that an adequate warning would have been read and heeded and would have prevented the accident [Deere & Co. v. Grose, 586 So. 2d 196 (Ala. Aug. 23, 1991)].
In some cases, Manufacturers may avoid liability when a product was sold to a “sophisticated user” [Vines v. Beloit Corp., 631 So. 2d 1003 (Ala. Jan. 28, 1994)].
Independent Cause of Action for Spoliation (ALABAMA)
Alabama has refused to recognize an independent tort of spoliation against a party [Christian v. Kenneth Chandler Const. Co., Inc., 658 So.2d 408 (Ala. 1995)]. Alabama has recognized a claim for negligent spoliation against a third party [Smith v. Atkinson, 771 So.2d 429 (Ala. 2000)].