United States District Court, Southern District of Illinois, Benton Division
November 3, 1987
DOUGLAS REESE AND LISA ANN REESE, PLAINTIFFS,
NATIONAL MINE SERVICE COMPANY, A CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Foreman, Chief Judge:
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment. The parties briefed the issues and oral
argument was heard in chambers on October 13, 1987.
This case involves a claim for personal injury allegedly
sustained during the operation of a shuttle car which was
produced by defendant and used to transport coal miners while
underground. Counts I and III of the complaint are premised on
strict liability, while Counts II and IV are based on
negligence. Defendant's summary judgment motion is directed at
the strict liability counts and is based on the Illinois
Statute of Repose, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 110, ¶ 13-213.
The shuttle car which is the subject of plaintiffs'
allegations was manufactured on August 13, 1971 and delivered
to Old Ben Coal Company on March 22, 1972. The alleged injury
occurred on November 1, 1985 and suit was brought on September
5, 1986. The parties are in agreement concerning these dates.
Defendant relies on Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 110, ¶ 13-213(b) as
barring the strict liability counts. That statute requires any
action in strict liability to be brought within ten years from
the date of the first sale or delivery of the product to its
On September 16, 1982, Old Ben Coal Company contracted with
defendant to recondition the subject shuttle car. Defendants
completely disassembled the shuttle car, repaired the chassis,
made some minor modifications and reassembled the car
replacing many of the old parts with new ones. The shuttle car
was shipped back to the coal company with a new warranty equal
to that which is given to a new product. Plaintiffs argue that
the reconditioning was in essence a "remanufacturing" and that
the shuttle car was essentially a new product. As a new
product plaintiffs argue that the delivery date for
determining the application of the Statute of Repose would be
in the year 1982.
Defendant responds to plaintiffs' position by citing to
subparagraph (e) of the statute.
(e) Replacement of a component part of a
product unit with a substitute part having the
same formula or design as the original part shall
not be deemed a sale, lease or delivery of
possession or an alteration, modification or
change for the purpose of permitting commencement
of a product liability action based on the
doctrine of strict liability in tort to recover
for injury or damage claimed to have resulted
from the formula or design of such product unit
or of the substitute part when such action would
otherwise be barred according to the provisions
of subsection (b) of this Section.
Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 110, ¶ 13-213(e). It is clear that the parts
which were replaced during the reconditioning of the shuttle
car did not alter or modify the products' design. It is
defendant's position that without a design modification there
is no "restarting" of the limitations period.
Having read the briefs of the parties and listened to oral
argument, the Court can say that both sides have raised valid
points in support of their respective positions. Plaintiffs'
position is a rather unique one which due to lack of case law
causes the bulk of argument to be on policy considerations.
Plaintiffs raise two basic policy arguments. The first
concerns the warranty of the reconditioned shuttle car. If a
manufacturer offers a new product warranty on a reconditioned
product, plaintiffs argue that the manufacturer's liability
for that product should be the same as if the product were
new. The Court does not find this argument persuasive.
Warranties should be encouraged. If new product liability
attaches for offering a warranty equal to that of a new
product, a manufacturer or reconditioning firm would be
discouraged from offering warranties (at least long
warranties). Furthermore, warranties are often a bargaining
tool between the manufacturer and purchaser which do not
always enure to the benefit of the ultimate user or consumer.
Strict liability is premised on other policy considerations
which take the ultimate user into account. Warranty and strict
liability do not always go hand in hand.
Plaintiffs' other policy argument concerns the encouragement
which will be given to manufacturers to reduce liability by
reconditioning older products instead of offering new products
with enhanced designs or modifications. In this particular
instance the plaintiffs' argument has some merit. A product
such as a shuttle car, where the basic chassis has a very long
usable life, could be reconditioned several times. However,
the Court feels it is highly unlikely that a manufacturer
would be so concerned with a liability limitations period that
it would risk its competitive position by refusing to offer
innovative new products or pricing them out of the realm of
The Court finds the policy argument offered by defendant and
raised throughout the legislative history of the statute to be
the most persuasive. That being that the best public policy is
one that allows, after a reasonable period of time, entities
to plan their affairs with a degree of certainty that they are
not burdened by protracted or unknown potential liability. A
repose statute should recognize that society tends to repair
more often than replace and that unless the replacement part
has an inherent flaw, there is no reason to renew liability.
The Court believes that the Illinois Statute of Repose should
be interpreted in that manner and that the instant case is an
example of replacement not remanufacture.
Accordingly, defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(Document No. 28) is hereby GRANTED. Judgment in favor of
defendant should be entered as to Counts I and III of
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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