Many Texas residents may have heard of the statute of limitations before. While many people think of it in a criminal context, as in the government having to bring a case against an alleged perpetrator for a crime within a certain time, most civil actions that can be taken are also governed by such statutes. We have discussed before in this space how defective medical equipment can lead to serious injury or death to unsuspecting patients, and the fact that it may be possible to hold manufacturers liable for such incidents. This week we will ask whether there is a time limit on filing such a lawsuit.
Texas Civil Code Chapter 16 contains most of the relevant time limits for various types of civil suits; that is, the ones that are filed between individuals or companies about various disputes between them, rather than the government and a person it says broke the law. Now when we talk about defective medical devices, we are almost always talking about some kind of personal injury or wrongful death suit, because that is normally the result when a defective device is used during some healthcare procedure, and if no injury results, there are usually no damages to be pursued. So, under section 16.003 of the Texas Civil Code, we find that, generally, the injured party must bring a suit within two years of the day the cause of action accrues.
The question then becomes: when does the cause of action accrue? Generally, it is at the time the injury occurs, and the statute specifically notes that, for wrongful death claims, it will be the date the death occurs. However, case law has interpreted the cause of action as accruing in some cases at a later point, such as when the person is on notice that the injury has occurred, if it was hidden by fraud or misrepresentation or the injury was undiscoverable.
As if this wasn't confusing enough, when discussing products liability, such as with defective medical devices, there is also a 'statute of repose' that may come into play. While we may cover that topic in a future post, suffice it to say that the time limits on a civil suit for injury due to defective medical equipment can be complicated. People looking to protect their rights may wish to consider consulting an experienced Texas injury attorney.