The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that an individual allegedly injured by a 14-year-old muzzle loading rifle filed his claims too late under Indiana’s 10-year statute of repose for product-liability actions. Hartman v. EBSCO Indus., Inc., No. 13-3398 (7th Cir., decided July 10, 2014). At issue was whether the plaintiff could satisfy the statute’s two exceptions—“where a manufacturer refurbishes the product to extend its useful life,” or “where a defective new component is incorporated into the old product.”
Here, the plaintiff installed a pellet conversion kit on his muzzleloader, which had been purchased as a gift for him in 1994. In 2008, the day after he installed the kit, the plaintiff attempted to sight it in and loaded two pellets with a patched round ball, in a manner not recommended by the pellet manufacturer due to the increased risk of unexpected discharge. The gun unexpectedly discharged, causing the ramrod and round ball to pass through the plaintiff’s hands and forearm. He filed suit against several defendants in 2010, and the district court dismissed the claims, finding them barred by the statue of repose.
As to the first exception, the court determined that the plaintiff could not show that the conversion kit extended the useful life of the gun. While the kit could make the gun more powerful, it had no effect on “either the barrel or bore and therefore has no effect on how long the gun will be usable,” the court said. The court also determined that it was unlikely the statute of repose “could ever be reset by a user-installed component like the conversion kit.” As to the second exception, the court’s review turned on the lower court’s decision to exclude parts of the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony. According to the court of appeals, the lower court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the testimony and thus properly dismissed the claims.