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May-26-2009 20:36printcomments

Senate Extends Period of Product Liability for Oregon Consumers

SB 284 increases the statute of ultimate repose, or SOUR, to 10 years.

Oregon capitol by air by Tim King

(SALEM, Ore.) - This Senate passed legislation this morning that keeps courtroom doors open for consumers harmed by dangerously defective products that are greater than 8 years old.

SB 284 increases the statute of ultimate repose – age of a defective product – for product liability actions from its current limit of 8 years to 10 years.

The bill also includes a “look away” provision to the state of manufacture, giving the injured party the length of time allowed in the state where the product was originated.

“A defective product can cause serious, life-altering injuries,” said Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“This is about fairness to consumers. It’s an incremental step, but two years and the inclusion of a look away provision can make a significant difference if you’ve been hurt by a faulty product.”

A statute of ultimate repose (SOUR) limits the length of time after a consumer is harmed that a manufacturer can legally be held responsible for the defective product.

Currently, Oregonians have the 49th weakest level of protection with the majority of states having no limitation at all. SB 284 also affords four Lake Oswego teachers who have suffered alleged harm from R type metal halide and mercury vapor light bulbs, the opportunity to pursue their case against the New Jersey based manufacturer of the bulbs.

“Some of the stories we heard in committee were heartbreaking,” said Senator Suzanne Bonamici (D-Washington Co./Portland), a member of the Judiciary Committee. “There are people in this state who have lost limbs because of malfunctioning washing machines and farm equipment and they have little recourse because of Oregon’s short statute of ultimate repose. This is a step toward justice for those who may suffer from an injury in the future.”

Under current Oregon law, an individual may bring legal action regarding product liability not later than 8 years from the date the product was first purchased for use or consumption. Over the years multiple exemptions have been added to Oregon’s statute of ultimate repose as a result of harm by faulty products. These exemptions include asbestos exposure, sidesaddle gas tanks, IUDs, and silicone breast implants.

“Senate Democrats believe in fairness for consumers,” said Senate Majority Leader Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin). “We consider lengthening the state’s SOUR a significant achievement, an achievement that is just and reasonable to both Oregonians and the state’s manufacturers.”

The bill will now go to the House for consideration.

Source: Oregon Legislature

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