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April 9, 2008

Eighth Circuit Applies Minnesota Statute of Repose To Bar Recovery for Damages Caused by Ventilation Fan

On April 7 the Eighth Circuit decided Integrity Floor Covering, Inc. v. Broan-Nu Tone LLC, No. 07-1824 (8th Cir. April 7, 2008) a case involving a claim for property damage to a building allegedly caused by a malfunctioning bathroom ventilation fan manufactured by the defendant.  The suit was brought more than ten years after the fan was installed, raising the issue of whether the Minnesota ten-year statute of repose, Minn. Stat. § 541.051 barred recovery because the claim arose "out of the defective and unsafe condition of an improvement to real property" or whether, or whether the  statutory exception in subdivision 1(d) for claims application to manufacturers or suppliers of "any equipment or machinery  installed upon real property" applied.  The statute applies to an "action by any person . . . to recover damages for any injury to property, real or personal . . . arising out of the defective and unsafe condition of an improvement to real property . . . brought against any person . . . furnishing . . . materials . . . ."  Minn. Stat. § 541.051, subd 1 (a) The court held that the statute covered Broan as a product manufacturer and that the exception for equipment or machinery installed upon real property did not exclude Broan because the fan, which was incorporated into the structure of the building, was ordinary building material.  The court acknowledged that the facts of the case presented a close issue, but that "the code-required interior bathroom ventilation fan is more analogous to the items Minnesota courts have found to be ordinary building materials."  The Eighth Circuit incorporated its opinion in Integrity Floor Covering in a companion case, Chicago Avenue Partners, Ltd. v. Broan-Nutone, LLC, No. 07-1784 (8th Cir. April 7, 2008), even though the fan in question in that case was not hard-wired into the buildling but was plugged in.  The court noted that the fan was connected to the buildling because it was nailed into a stud with a duct run to a hole in the roof or wall, and it required the services of someone familiar with wiring to complete the installation.

MKS

April 9, 2008 | Permalink

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