Express Warranties Covering NC Products May Be Limited to 6 Years

The N.C. Court of Appeals recently struck down claim for damages brought pursuant to a 20-year express product warranty, reasoning that the 6-year statute of repose for improvements to real property trumped the bargained-for duration terms on an express warranty.

The opinion, issued last year in Christie v. Hartley Construction, Inc., involved North Carolina’s 6-year statute of repose for claims arising from improvements to real property. The statute of limitations for such suits is three years from the date the injury arises and the plaintiff reasonably knows of the injury. However, the 6-year statute of repose dictates that even if a claim is brought within three years of the date the injury arises, no claim may be brought more than six years after the completion of the work.

Like many cases involving an improvement to real property, Christie also involved an allegedly defective product,a waterproof cladding system manufactured by GrailCoat WorldWide. GrailCoat provided a 20-year express warranty on the product that provided for replacement of the product if it failed. However, despite the express 20-year term, the Court of Appeals found that the plaintiffs could not state a claim for monetary damages under the express warranty because they brought the suit more than six years after substantial completion.

In arriving at its decision, the court reasoned that the warranty terms required the manufacturer to replace the defective product and that the plaintiff had alleged that mere specific performance of these terms would be inadequate. Had the plaintiff sought only specific performance, it appears that the plaintiff’s claim would have survived. However, because the plaintiff sought monetary damages arising from the warranty, the 6-year statute of repose took precedence over the 20-year warranty.

In light of the decision in Christie, it is important for consumers to understand that claims arising from product warranties might only last for six years, regardless of the terms of a particular warranty. Additionally, warranties are often limited to replacement or repair of the defective product, and this remedy is often insufficient to remedy consumers’ damages. Therefore, consumers should consider the opinion in Christie when bargaining and selecting construction or other products for long-term installation.

For more information on this topic or any other construction law issue, please contact Caroline Trautman and the attorneys at Anderson Jones, PLLC at (919) 277-2541 or by email.