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Davis v. Toshiba Machine Company

March 18, 1999

SANDRA DAVIS, APPELLEE, V. TOSHIBA MACHINE COMPANY, AMERICA, APPELLANT.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Miller

Agenda 9-January 1999.

Plaintiff, Sandra Davis, filed suit in the circuit court of Cook County to recover on a strict liability theory for an injury she sustained while operating a printing press designed, manufactured, and sold by defendant, Toshiba Machine Company, America. The trial court dismissed the action, holding that the statute of repose had expired. The plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court reversed. 297 Ill. App. 3d 440. We granted the defendant's petition for leave to appeal (166 Ill. 2d R. 315) and now affirm the appellate court.

I. BACKGROUND

Defendant Toshiba entered into a contract in August 1985 with R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Inc., to design, manufacture, and sell a printing press to Donnelley. Toshiba delivered the printing press to Donnelley in July 1986 at the port of Los Angeles. On March 11, 1996, plaintiff, Sandra Davis, suffered severe and permanent injuries when her right hand was caught in the rollers of the printing press at Donnelley's Dwight, Illinois, facility, where she worked as an assistant press operator. Plaintiff filed suit against defendant on February 24, 1997, 11 months after the accident, alleging strict liability. She contended that the press was defective and unreasonably dangerous because the machine did not include shields, guards, or other protective devices between the press rollers and its ink levelers.

Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that section 13-213(b) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/13-213(b) (West 1996)) barred the action because more than 10 years had elapsed between the sale of the press to its initial user and the February 24, 1997, filing of the complaint. In response, plaintiff argued that section 13-213(d) (735 ILCS 5/13-213(d) (West 1996)) provided her with two years in which to bring suit, even though the repose period had expired in the meantime.

The trial court granted defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint. Plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court reversed and remanded. 297 Ill. App. 3d 440. The appellate panel held the plaintiff's action was timely because section 13-213(d) created an exception to the repose period, allowing plaintiff to bring suit within two years from the date she knew or should have known of her injury, as long as the injury itself occurred within the repose period. We granted defendant's petition for leave to appeal. 166 Ill. 2d R. 315. We now affirm the appellate court.

II. ANALYSIS

The issue in this case, involving the interpretation of sections 13-213(b) and (d), is one of statutory construction. The standard of review is de novo.

Section 13-213(b) states in part:

"Subject to the provisions of subsections (c) and (d) no product liability action based on any theory or doctrine 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." 735 ILCS 5/13-213(b) (West 1996).

Section 13-213(d) states in part:

"Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (b) and paragraph (2) of subsection (c) if the injury complained of occurs within any of the periods provided by subsection (b) and paragraph (2) of subsection (c), the plaintiff may bring an action within 2 years after the date on which the claimant knew, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have known, of the existence of the personal injury, death or property damage, but in no event shall such action be brought more than 8 years after the date on which such personal injury, death or property damage occurred." 735 ILCS 5/13-213(d) (West 1996).

Plaintiff argues that section 13-213(d) permits her to bring suit within two years of the date of her injury, even if the repose period has expired in the meantime. Defendant contends that because plaintiff was injured within the repose period and knew of her injury four months before that period expired, she was required to bring suit within the repose period. Defendant asserts that section 13-213(d) applies only to latent injuries, or injuries that are not immediately discoverable, and does not save plaintiff's cause of action.

The primary rule of statutory construction is to give effect to legislative intent by first looking at the plain meaning of the language. "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.' " Garza v. Navistar International Transportation Corp., 172 Ill. 2d 373, 378 (1996), quoting Solich v. George & Anna Portes Cancer Prevention Center of Chicago, Inc., 158 Ill. 2d 76, 83 (1994). Courts will first look to the words of the statute, for the language used by the legislature is the best indication of legislative intent. Nottage v. Jeka, 172 Ill. ...


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