Statute of Limitations for Implied Warranty Claims

Implied warranty claims in Puerto Rico have different periods of statute of limitations. In a recent case before the US District Court (Puerto Rico), the  court discussed  which term applies to  a particular claim. See, Lazaro v. Abbott Med. Optics, Inc.,  No 16-1248 (PG) (D.P.R. Apr. 17, 2017). The statute of limitation depends on whether the claim is contractual (implied warranty) in nature or arise from a personal injury.

Claims for breach of implied warranty are governed by art. 1363 of the Puerto Rico Civil Code. With the purchase the seller warrants against hidden defects which either (1) render the product unfit for its intended use or (2) diminish its use in such manner that the purchaser would not have bought it or would have paid less for it had he known thereof at the time of purchase.   It implies a “defect that is inherent to the imperfect way in which the merchandise was manufactured, packed, handled, or stored, and which renders the thing inadequate for use for which it was destined.” Julsrud v. Peche de P.R., Inc.,115 D.P.R. 18, 23 (1983).  These claims must observe a six-month statute of limitations period (citing Torres-Mas v. Carver Boat Corp., 233 F. Supp. 2d 253, 257 (D.P.R. 2002)).

Claims that arise from a tort are analyzed pursuant to Article 1802 of the Puerto Rico Civil Code and proscribe a one-year statute of limitations.  Time begins when a claimant  first gains constructive knowledge of the damage.

An extrajudicial claim tolls the limitations period. To be enforceable, it must be an “unmistakable manifestation of one, who threatened with the loss of his right, expresses his wish not to lose it” (quoting Vargas-Ruiz v. Golden Arch Dev., Inc., 283 F.Supp.2d 450, 456 (D.P.R. 2003). Moreover, they “must require or demand the same conduct or relief ultimately sought in the subsequent lawsuit”  (quoting Kery v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 931 F. Supp. 947, 953 (D.P.R. 1995)).

“Once the statute of limitations is tolled on an action, the one year period is reset and begins to run again from the beginning.”  (quoting Ramos v. Roman, 83 F.Supp.2d 233, 241 (D.P.R. 2000)). Puerto Rico courts favor allowing tolling – “[the] prescription of the right is the exception, being its exercise or conservation the norm.” (quoting Kery, 931 F. Supp. at 952).