Fascinating Opinion out of Kentucky

The Kentucky Court of Appeals has ruled that a product manufacturer "should be estopped as a matter of law from relying on the statute of limitations by virtue of its fraudulent concealment of defects associated with its product." 

Plaintiffs claimed that they were injured by a defective voltage meter.  The manufacturer of the product asserted a statute of limitations defense.  Plaintiffs argued that the "statute of limitations had been tolled by Fluke’s fraudulent concealment of the [meter’s] defect. They contended that as early as 1991, Fluke knew that operating the [meter] at low-battery status could result in inaccurate voltage readings, thus posing a risk of grave danger to its user. Nonetheless, they argued that Fluke ignored its reporting obligation and failed to disclose the potentially dangerous condition of its product to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The plaintiffs contended that Fluke should not be permitted or entitled to rely on the statute of limitations defense since it had engaged in a fraudulent concealment of its product’s defect."

The Court agreed, saying "[t]he common law principle of equitable estoppel is soundly established in Kentucky law. [citation omitted.]  It is aptly applied to prevent a defendant from asserting the statute of limitations defense." … [I]t appears that the manufacturer indeed remained silent when it had an affirmative statutory obligation to report information relative to the safety of its product. We adopt the cogent reasoning of the Supreme Court of Alaska and hold that parties are entitled to assume that a product is safe if there is no adverse information reported as required to indicate that it may pose a danger."

The case is LeMaster v. Fluke Corporation,  NO. 2006-CA-002373-MR (Ky. Ct. App. June 27, 2008).  Read the opinion here.