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05/23/96 RAFAEL GARZA v. NAVISTAR INTERNATIONAL

May 23, 1996

RAFAEL GARZA, SR., APPELLEE,
v.
NAVISTAR INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORTATION CORPORATION ET AL. (NAVISTAR INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORTATION CORPORATION, APPELLANT).



The Honorable Justice Harrison delivered the opinion of the court: Chief Justice Bilandic took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harrison

JUSTICE HARRISON delivered the opinion of the court:

In this appeal, we are asked to decide whether the statute of repose governing product liability actions (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 110, par. 13-213) barred plaintiff's strict liability claim against defendant Navistar International Transportation Corporation, the manufacturer of the product. Plaintiff, Rafael Garza, Sr. (Garza), filed a multicount lawsuit against several defendants to recover damages for personal injuries he received in a construction accident. Defendants, Navistar International Transportation Corporation (Navistar) and Howell Tractor & Equipment Company (Howell), moved to dismiss the strict liability claims against them. The trial court granted Navistar and Howell's motions to dismiss the strict liability claims, finding that the statute of repose (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 110, par. 13-213) barred the claims. The appellate court affirmedthe dismissal of the strict liability claim against Howell, but reversed the dismissal of the strict liability claim against Navistar. 271 Ill. App. 3d 1082, 208 Ill. Dec. 388, 649 N.E.2d 444. We allowed Navistar's petition for leave to appeal. 155 Ill. 2d R. 315. For the reasons which follow, we reverse the appellate court's judgment and affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

The facts of this case reveal that Garza was seriously injured while working as a laborer for the third-party defendant, Lorig Construction Company, on May 9, 1989. A Dresser Payloader, which was being operated by a co-worker, struck Garza, pinning him against a wall. The "Dresser Payloader, No. 530" was manufactured by International Harvester Company, now known as Navistar. It is undisputed that Navistar first sold the "Dresser Payloader, No. 530" to Howell, the distributor-lessor, on November 22, 1977. Howell first leased the machine to its initial user, Lorig Construction Company, plaintiff's employer, on September 21, 1978.

Garza filed this action against defendant Navistar on May 17, 1989. On January 4, 1990, plaintiff amended the complaint and added Howell as a defendant. Garza's complaint contained claims based upon negligence, the Structural Work Act, and strict product liability. With regard to the strict liability claims, Garza alleged that the Dresser Payloader was unreasonably dangerous and defective when it left the possession and control of Navistar, the manufacturer, and Howell, the distributor-lessor. As stated, defendants Navistar and Howell filed motions to dismiss the strict liability claims brought against them. The trial court granted the motions to dismiss finding that Garza's strict liability claims were barred by the repose statute. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 110, par. 13-213. The trial court held that the claims against both defendants were barred by the 10-year repose provision because the product liability action was commenced more than 10 years after the Dresser Payloader was first leased to its initial user, Lorig ConstructionCompany, and that this 10-year repose period "expired earlier" than the 12-year repose period. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 110, par. 13-213(b). The trial court further denied Garza's motion for reconsideration.

The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of Garza's strict liability claim against Howell, but reversed the dismissal of the claim against Navistar. 271 Ill. App. 3d 1082, 208 Ill. Dec. 388, 649 N.E.2d 444. The appellate court held, sua sponte, that section 13-213(b) mandates that the 12-year repose provision applies exclusively to manufacturers, while the 10-year repose provision applies to lessors and distributors. 271 Ill. App. 3d at 1086. According to the appellate court, Garza timely filed his suit against Navistar on May 17, 1989, within 12 years from the November 22, 1977, date on which Navistar first sold the Dresser Payloader to Howell. 271 Ill. App. 3d at 1086.

Navistar contends that the appellate court improperly made the length of the repose period dependent upon whether a defendant is a manufacturer or a distributor-lessor. Navistar further notes that in establishing the repose period, section 13-213(b) never makes a distinction between the various categories of sellers against whom a product liability action may be brought. Navistar also claims that the 10-year repose period clearly "expired earlier," and if it were properly applied, plaintiff's claims against both Navistar and Howell would be barred.

We agree with defendant Navistar. There is no language in section 13-213(b) which mandates that the 12-year repose provision applies to manufacturers and that the 10-year provision applies to retailers and lessors, as the appellate court suggests. The appellate court's reasoning may be correct under the version of section 13-213(b) which it cites in its opinion. However, in the version of section 13-213(b) included in the appellate opinion, the court misquoted the statute, omittingall reference to the 10-year provision and referring only to the 12-year provision. 271 Ill. App. 3d at 1085. The complete text of section 13-213(b) mandates a different conclusion than that reached by the appellate court. Section 13-213(b) outlines both the 10-year and 12-year repose periods and provides that:

"(b) Subject to the provisions of subsections (c) and (d) no product liability action based on the doctrine of strict liability in tort shall be commenced except within the applicable limitations period and, in any event, within 12 years from the date of first sale, lease or delivery of possession by a seller or 10 years from the date of first sale, lease or delivery of possession to its initial user, consumer, or other non-seller, whichever period expires earlier, of any product unit that is claimed to have injured or damaged the plaintiff, unless the defendant expressly has warranted or promised the product for a longer period and the action is brought within that period." (Emphasis added.) Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 110, par. 13-213(b).

The appellate court left out the language from section 13-213(b) which states "by a seller or 10 years from the date of first sale, lease or delivery of possession." 271 Ill. App. 3d at 1085. Without this portion of the text, the "whichever period expires earlier" language is rendered meaningless. Instead of comparing the two time periods to determine which one served to extinguish the claim, the appellate court omitted all reference to the 10-year period, and concluded sua sponte that only the 12-year period could apply to manufacturers. We will examine the full text of section 13-213(b) and apply it to the facts in the present case.

Where the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous, a court must give it effect as written, without "reading into it exceptions, limitations or conditions that the legislature did not express." Solich v. George & Anna Portes Cancer Prevention Center of Chicago, Inc., 158 Ill. 2d 76, 83, 196 Ill. Dec. 655, 630 N.E.2d 820 (1994). The plain language of section 13-213(b) states that a product liability action must befiled, not only within the statute of limitations, but also within 12 years of the date the product is first sold, leased, or delivered, or 10 years from the date it was first sold, leased, or delivered to the initial user or consumer, whichever period expires earlier. The product liability repose statute makes no distinction between the various manufacturers, distributors, lessors, and other categories of sellers within the distributive chain. Moreover, the various terms defined in the statute establish that the repose period outlined in section 13-213(b) applies uniformly to all defendants against whom a product liability action may be brought.

Section 13-213(a) defines various terms used in the statute. The relevant portions provide:

"(a) As used in this Section, the term:

(3) 'product liability action' means any action based on the doctrine of strict liability in tort brought against the seller of a product on account of personal injury, (including illness, disease, disability and death) or property, economic or ...


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