Cassels Brock's Product Liability group was recently
successful in having a $1 million claim against Chrysler Group LLC
("Chrysler Group") entirely dismissed based on the
application of a limitation period under the law of the state of
The action, Gavin v. Chrysler Group LLC, arose from a
motor vehicle accident which occurred in Whitesburg, Georgia in May
of 2011. The plaintiff, an Ontario resident, was a passenger in a
Jeep owned by the driver, a Georgia citizen. After resolving an
action commenced in Georgia against the driver, the plaintiff
commenced an Ontario action against Chrysler Group, alleging that
the accident was caused by a defect in the vehicle.
Upon being served with the Statement of Claim, Chrysler Group
immediately advised the plaintiff's counsel that the action was
barred by Georgia law, namely The Official Code of Georgia, Title
51 Torts, Chapter 1, General Provisions, O.C.G.A.§ 51-1-11
(2012) (the "Georgia Statute of Repose"). Pursuant to the
Georgia Statute of Repose, any action for negligent design and/or
manufacture of products, including motor vehicles, which is
commenced more than 10 years from the date of the first sale for
use or consumption of the product at issue, is statute-barred. The
only exceptions to the Georgia Statue of Repose are (a) actions
arising from products which cause a disease or birth defect, and
(b) actions arising from conduct which manifests a wilful, reckless
or wanton disregard for life or property. The "wilful,
reckless or wanton disregard" standard only applies where
there is evidence of actual intent to cause harm or injury or
conduct so reckless as to be equivalent to actual intent.
Conflict of Law Principles
Canadian courts have long followed the principle that the
substantive law of the jurisdiction where the tort occurred shall
apply. This principle has been routinely applied to dismiss product
liability claims arising from motor vehicle accidents commenced
after the expiration of the applicable limitation period in the
jurisdiction where the accident occurred.
As the vehicle in question was purchased more than 10 years
before the Ontario action was commenced, the Georgia Statute of
Repose clearly operated to bar the plaintiff's claim. Despite
numerous requests by Chrysler Group, the plaintiff failed to
acknowledge or respond to this issue. As such, Chrysler Group
brought a motion for summary judgment seeking to have the action
dismissed. Chrysler Group's summary judgment record included
evidence from a Georgia lawyer as well as the original Certificate
of Title for the vehicle obtained from the Georgia Department of
Revenue, which showed that the vehicle was purchased more than 10
years before the Ontario action was commenced. Prior to the return
date for the summary judgment motion, the plaintiff consented to
judgment, which was issued May 1, 2014, dismissing his claim and
awarding Chrysler Group $12,000 for its costs of the action.
This case provides an important lesson on the benefits of
determining the applicable law early in a products case and
assessing whether your client is entitled to rely on a favourable
limitations statute in a foreign jurisdiction. Although the action
may reside in Canada, your client may still benefit from a little
Chrysler Group was represented by Glenn Zakaib and Chris Horkins of Cassels Brock's Product
Liability group, with the assistance of Alicia Timm of the Atlanta
office of Swift Currie McGhee and Hiers LLP.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
The recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in BMW Financial Services Canada, a Division of BMW Canada Inc. v. McLean provides some useful insight into the relationship between automobile dealers and the financing arms of the manufacturers for whom those dealers are franchisees.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).