Florida Statute Section 95.031(2)(b) provides a twelve-year statute of repose for products liability claims based upon injuries or death caused by a product with an expected useful life of ten years of less. Improvements to real property constitute an exception to the twelve-year statute of repose under Section 95.031(2)(b)1. In Dominguez v. Hayward Indus., 40 Fla. L. Weekly D 2159 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 3d Dist. Sept. 16, 2015) the Third District Court of Appeal addressed whether a pool filter was an improvement to real property within meaning of Section 95.031(2)(b)1.
In 2012, the homeowner suffered a severe head injury when the filter of his swimming pool exploded. The homeowner sued several parties including the manufacturer and distributor of the pool filter. It was undisputed that the delivery and installation of the pool and filter was completed on December 20, 1999. The defendants argued that the homeowner’s claim was barred by the twelve-year statue of repose for products liability claims under Section 95.031(2)(b). The homeowner argued that the pool filter was an improvement to real property and therefore fell within the exception to the statue of repose under Section 95.031(2)(b)1.
The homeowner appealed the trial court’s final summary judgment ruling in favor of defendants. On appeal, the Third District Court of Appeal noted that the term “improvements to real property” is undefined in Section 95.031(2)(b)1. However, the Florida Supreme Court has previously defined “improvement” as a valuable addition made to property, amounting to more than mere repairs or replacement of waste, costing labor or capital and intended to enhance its value. The Third District Court of Appeal added that Florida law supports the proposition that a product maintains its fundamental characteristics when it is connected to real property. Based on these findings, the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling and held that a pool filter is a component part of the swimming pool an does not constitute an improvement to real property under Section 95.031.