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Did Oregon Go Far Enough in Defective Products Statute Update?

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Salem, ORThe personal injury suffered by four Lake Oswego teachers in 2004 has served to prompt state lawmakers to beef up a defective products personal injury statute in Oregon, further shielding Oregon citizens from defective products and providing a few more tools to the defective products attorney.

According to a June 13th accounting of the story in the Salem Statesman Journal, the four teachers suffered damage to their eyes from ultraviolet radiation leaking from a broken protective cover on an R-type metal halide light bulb in the gymnasium of the elementary school for which they worked.

Halide LightsAccording to the Statesman Journal, the radiation leeching through the broken protective cover exposed the four individuals to a level of radiation greater than that achieved from regular sunlight.

Phillips manufactured the allegedly defective bulb in 1988 at its plant in New Jersey. As a result of the case State lawmakers moved to have all R-type lights removed from schools in Oregon in 2007.

For anyone seeking redress after a defective product personal injury has been suffered, Oregon is one of the more restrictive states in the Union, as compared with the majority of states that maintain no restrictions at all where it comes to statutes of limitations.

In Oregon the 1977 statute of ultimate repose required that liability suits against manufacturers be filed within eight years after the date a product is purchased. North Carolina has the most restrictive statute at six years. At eight years, Oregon falls at second place on the most restrictive list.

The new bill would extend the term to ten years, from eight. Senate Bill 284 passed a vote in the Oregon House June 12th and is now headed to Governor Ted Kulongoski for approval and the ultimate signing of the bill into law.

It should be noted that the original 1977 statute was modified in 2003 at allow suits for personal injury or property damage if filed within two years of discovery, or within 10 years of purchase—whichever is earlier.

With regard to wrongful dearth, filing deadlines are within three years of discovery or 10 years of purchase, whichever is earlier.

When lawmakers in the state of Oregon banned the bulbs from schools in 2007, they did not address the liability side of the equation. "This bill, in one portion, takes care of that," said Rep. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, the bill's floor manager, in comments appearing in the Statesman Journal. The bill, he said, "allows them to pursue the case they have against the maker of those bulbs so they can get the relief that I think everyone agrees they deserve."

It should be noted, however that the bill—which appears to have the support of business and commerce—also has its detractors. The Oregon Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) sought an extension to 25 years. However, taking the opposite view was the Oregon Liability Reform Coalition, a powerful lobby comprised of some of Oregon's largest manufacturers.

In the end it's a win for Oregon citizens suffering defective product personal injury. A small win, but a win nonetheless. Unfortunately defective products are a fact of life in this country, regardless of whether they come from with the US borders or from points beyond. A defective products attorney provides a valuable service to a litigant harmed in any way by a defective product. That said, the legal eagles can only proceed within the confines of the law.


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