Nothing should last forever, especially lawsuits and stale claims. But a stale claim is exactly what New Jersey permits in products liability litigation.
New Jersey law requires all personal injury and products liability actions to be brought within two years of the date of accrual of the cause of action. See N.J.S.A. 2A:14-2(a). To determine the date of accrual, courts apply a “discovery rule”; thus, a person has two years from the date he or she knew or reasonably should have known that he or she might have a basis for a claim. SeeLopez v. Swyer, 62 N.J. 267, 273-74 (1973).
Although statute of limitations remains a defense, under New Jersey’s current law, plaintiffs can, and do, bring claims many years after using a product and/or suffering an injury. As our Supreme Court recognized in Lopez, such stale claims present tremendous challenges for defendants, including faded plaintiff and witness memories, potentially deceased key witnesses, and lost evidence. See 62 N.J. at 274. In addition, since the court’s decision in 1973, document and data retention policies have become the norm, leading to critical medical records and relevant corporate documents often being discarded or destroyed in the normal course of business after seven years.
There is a simple solution to bring an end to stale claims: enacting a statute of repose as an ultimate time bar.
Click to read full article: Avoiding Stale Products Liability Claims: Why New Jersey Should Enact a Statute of Repose (subscription required)