Alaska

Rhode Island

 

 

 

Statutes of Limitations (RHODE ISLAND)

 

Personal Injury - 3 yrs. [R.I. Gen.Laws § 9-1-14]

Wrongful Death - 3 yrs. [R.I. Gen. Laws § 10-7-2]

Product Liability - 3 yrs. (applies to all suits in which nature of claim arises out of personal injury, regardless of whether relief is sought under theory of strict liability, implied warranty, or negligence [Pirri v. Toledo Scale Corp., 619 A.2d 429 (R.I. 1993]

Property Damage - 10 yrs. [R.I.Gen.Laws § 9-1-13]

Contracts (Written and Oral) - 10 yrs. [R.I.Gen.Laws § 9-1-13]

Contracts of Sale (goods) and Breach of Warranty - 4 yrs (from tender of delivery) [R.I.Gen.Laws § 6A-2-725] (the statute also contains a specific statute of repose)

 

Negligence cause of action for personal injury generally accrues at time of injury [Marrapese v. State of R.I., 749 F.2d 934 (1st Cir. 1984)].

 

 

Statute of Repose (Products) (RHODE ISLAND)

None (declared unconstitutional).

Admissibility of Expert Testimony (RHODE ISLAND)

 

Rhode Island has recognized the applicability of Daubert to situations in which scientific testimony is proposed [Raimbeault v. Takeuchi Mfg. (U.S.), 772 A.2d 1056 (R.I. 2001)]. 

 

 

 

 

Causes of Action (RHODE ISLAND)

 

Strict Liability – Rhode Island has adopted Rest. (2nd) of Torts, 402A.  One who sells a product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user (or to his property) is subject to liability for physical harm caused to the ultimate user (or to his property) if: (1) the seller is engaged in the business of selling such a product; and (2) the product is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold [Ritter v. Narragansett Elec. Co., 283 A.2d 255 (R.I. 1971)].

 

Negligence – The elements of a strict product liability claim and a negligence claim based on a product defect overlap significantly, with the negligence claim having the additional requirement that the defendant “knew or had reason to know that the product was defective in any manner” [Guilbeault v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 84 F. Supp. 2d 263 (D.R.I. 2000)].

 

Breach of Warranty – Rhode Island has adopted the standard UCC express warranty [R.I. Gen. Laws § 6A-2-313]; implied warranty of merchantability [R.I. Gen. Laws § 6A-2-314]; implied warranty of fitness for particular purpose [R.I. Gen. Laws § 6A-2-315].  A warranty (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 [R.I. Gen. Laws § 6A-2-318].  An implied-warranty action often cannot be distinguished from a strict-liability action; these two theories of liability express a single basic public policy [Castrignano v. E.R. Squibb & Sons, 546 A.2d 775 (R.I. 1988)].

 

 

Definition of “Defect” (RHODE ISLAND)

 

The concept of strict liability contemplates that there must be a defect in the design or manufacture that makes the product unsafe for its intended use.  Strict liability also covers cases in which the manufacturer failed to warn of its product’s dangerous propensity.  If one of these three types of defects appears in the product and that defect renders the product unreasonably dangerous in spite of all reasonable care exercised by the manufacturer, then the manufacturer is liable for that defect [Castrignano v. E.R. Squibb & Sons, 546 A.2d 775 (R.I. 1988)].  “Unreasonably dangerous” means that a strong likelihood existed of injury to a user who was unaware of the danger of utilizing the product in a normal manner [Sheehan v. N. Am. Mktg. Corp., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26882 (D.R.I. 2008)].

 

A product is defective when the foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or avoided by the adoption of a reasonable alternative design and the omission of the alternative design renders the product not reasonably safe [Buonanno v. Colmar Belting Co., 733 A.2d 712 (R.I. 1999)].

 

Liability of Sellers (RHODE ISLAND)

 

Sellers and lessors are strict liable [Brimbau v. Ausdale Equip. Rental Corp., 440 A.2d 1292 (R.I. 1982)].  For liability to apply, said persons must be engaged in the business of selling/leasing such products.

 

Defenses (RHODE ISLAND)     

 

Comparative Negligence – Rhode Island follows pure comparative negligence (Plaintiff can recover even if 99% at fault)[R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-20-4].  Applies to product liability cases based on strict liability, negligence, breach of warranty [Sheehan v. N. Am. Mktg. Corp., 610 F.3d 144 (1st Cir. R.I.  2010)].

 

Assumption of Risk – Complete defense in product liability actions.  The defense survives the comparative negligence system [Sheehan v. N. Am. Mktg. Corp., 610 F.3d 144 (1st Cir. R.I. 2010)].  One who sees, knows, understands and appreciates what he is doing is “worlds apart from one who unwittingly and unsuspectingly falls prey to another’s negligence” [Fiske v. MacGregor, 464 A.2d 719 (R.I. 1983)].

 

Product Alteration/Modification – Complete defense.  “Subsequent alteration or modification” means an alteration or modification of a product made subsequent to the manufacture or sale by the manufacturer or seller which altered, modified, or changed the purpose, use, function, design, or manner of use of the product from that originally designed, tested, or intended by the manufacturer, or the purpose, use, function, design, or manner of use or intended use for which the product was originally designed, tested, or manufactured [R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-32].

 

Product Misuse – Complete defense if raises to the level of “assumption of risk”; or included in the comparative negligence analysis (if no “assumption of risk” found).

 

 

 

 

Economic Loss Doctrine (ELD) (Product Destroys Only Itself) (RHODE ISLAND)

 

ELD appears to be limited to commercial transactions.

 

Plaintiff is precluded from recovering purely economic losses in a negligence cause of action; ELD applies to entities acting in a business capacity [Franklin Grove Corp. v. Drexel, 936 A.2d 1272 (R.I. 2007)].  It is appropriate for sophisticated commercial entities to utilize contract law to protect themselves from economic damages [Boston Inv. Property #1 State v. E.W. Burman, Inc., 658 A.2d 515 (R.I. 1995)].

 

 

Malfunction Theory (Using Circumstantial Evidence to Prove Defect) (RHODE ISLAND)

 

Circumstantial evidence can be used to establish a defect [Scittarelli v. Providence Gas Co., 415 A.2d 1040 (R.I. 1980)].

 

Design Defects (RHODE ISLAND)                                                                                                

 

Plaintiff must show the existence of each of the following five elements to hold a manufacturer liable for a defectively designed product: (1) a defect in the design or construction of the product; (2) the defect existed at the time the product left the hands of the defendant; (3) the defect rendered the product unreasonably dangerous, meaning that a strong likelihood existed of injury to a user who was unaware of the danger of utilizing the product in a normal manner; (4) the plaintiff used the product in a way in which the manufacturer intended at the time of the accident; and (5) the defect proximately caused the accident and the plaintiff's injuries.  To determine whether the product would be deemed “defective” the court embraces the consumer-expectation test. This approach seeks to protect the user who was unaware of the danger involved in using a product in a way that it was intended to be used [Castrignano v. E.R. Squibb & Sons, 546 A.2d 775 (R.I. 1988)].

 

A product is defective when the foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or avoided by the adoption of a reasonable alternative design and the omission of the alternative design renders the product not reasonably safe [Buonanno v. Colmar Belting Co., 733 A.2d 712 (R.I. 1999)].

 

 

Failure to Warn (RHODE ISLAND)

 

The statutory definition of “Product liability damages” includes damages sustained by reason of a failure to warn or protect against a danger or hazard in the use or misuse of the product, or a failure to instruct properly in the use of a product [R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-32].

There is a duty to warn of product’s dangers (unless the danger is open and obvious) [Kuras v. International Harvester Co., 820 F.2d 15 (1st Cir. R.I. 1987)].

 

The predicate for the failure to warn claim is the general duty to inform users and purchasers of potentially dangerous items of the risks involved in their use. Under failure-to-warn analysis, a product is defective if the seller does not warn of the product’s danger, but only if such dangers are reasonably foreseeable and knowable at the time of marketing [Crawford v. Cooper/T. Smith Stevedoring Co., 14 F. Supp. 2d 202 (D.R.I. 1998)].

 

In negligence, Defendant only has a duty to warn if he had reason to know about the product’s dangerous propensities which caused Plaintiff’s injuries. Under strict liability, Defendant need only warn of those dangers that are reasonably foreseeable. If he does not provide such a warning, then the product is rendered defective [Thomas v. Amway Corp., 488 A.2d 716 (R.I. 1985].

 

Independent Cause of Action for Evidence Spoliation (RHODE ISLAND)

 

Neither the Rhode Island legislature nor Rhode Island Supreme Court has yet established or recognized the existence of an independent tort for the spoliation of evidence [Malinowski v. Documented Vehicle/drivers Systems, Inc., 2003 WL 21243907 (1st Cir. 2003)].