Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of New Mexico issued a written opinion holding that the statute of limitations in a product liability case filed against a car manufacturer may be tolled if there is a showing that the manufacturer fraudulently concealed information that could give rise to the claim. In the case, Estate of Brice v. Toyota Motor Company, the court reversed a trial court’s ruling that the plaintiff’s case was filed beyond the applicable statute of limitations and allowed the case to proceed toward trial.
Back in 2006, a Toyota Corolla driven by Alice Brice inexplicably accelerated into an intersection, where it was struck by a semi-truck. The vehicle caught fire, and Brice ultimately died as a result of the injuries she sustained. Approximately three years and 11 months later, her estate filed a product liability lawsuit against Toyota, the manufacturer of her vehicle.
In a summary judgment motion, Toyota asked the court to dismiss the case against it, arguing that it was filed too late. Under New Mexico law, wrongful death actions of this sort must be filed within three years from the date of the death. The plaintiff responded that Toyota had known about the sudden-acceleration problem but had acted to conceal the safety issue, preventing the plaintiff from realizing that there was a potential claim. The plaintiff also explained that as soon as the information became available, the lawsuit was filed without delay.