Barbara Vigil, Chief Justice, New Mexico Supreme Court Ken Badilla bought a pair of Brahma brand work


Barbara Vigil, Chief Justice, New Mexico Supreme Court Ken Badilla bought a pair of Brahma brand work boots from Wal-Mart on October 19, 2003. The boots’ packaging had these express descriptions: “iron tough,” “men’s work boots,” and “meet or exceed ASTM F2413-05 standards” [as per Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards]. He wore these boots 8 to 12 hours per day, six days per week. Less than a year after purchasing the boots, on July 28, 2004, Badilla was cutting down tree limbs and removing logs when the sole of the boots became unglued, causing him to fall backwards with a log falling on him. He suffered two ruptured discs, painful surgeries, and months of physical therapy.
Badilla filed his complaint against Wal-Mart on September 20, 2007, three years and two months after the accident. Wal-Mart moved to dismiss based on the statute of limitations. The UCC statute of limitations is four years; the tort statute of limitations is three years. The trial court granted Wal-Mart’s motion to dismiss based on the three-year tort statute of limitations. Ken Badilla appealed. The court stated succinctly, “The central issue is whether the four-year statute of limitations period applies to claims under the UCC seeking damages for personal injury sustained from a breach of warranty, or whether the three-year statute of limitation period for claims based in tort applies.”
The court reiterated “[t]he purposes of the UCC are: (1) to simplify, clarify and modernize the law governing commercial transactions; (2) to permit the continued expansion of commercial practices through custom, usage and agreement of the parties; and, (3) to make uniform the law among the various jurisdictions. The legislature indicated that the UCC must be liberally construed and applied to promote [these] underlying purposes and policies. Further, remedies provided by by the UCC must be liberally administered to the end that the aggrieved party may be put in as good a position as if the other party had fully performed.”
While lacking a definitive legal precedent in New Mexico, the court does acknowledge that the majority of jurisdictions holds that the UCC limitations period applies to all actions for breach of warranties, regardless of whether the plaintiff seeks personal injury damages or economic and contractual damages. The approach essentially looks to the nature of the right asserted; if the right is based in contract, it is subject to the UCC. The minority approach is based on the type of damages sought. Hence, if damages are based on personal injury, the tort limitations apply.
The court reversed and held that the UCC four-year statute of limitations applied and Ken Badilla could proceed with his lawsuit.
Look closely at the court’s rationale regarding the “purpose” of the UCC. Does it coincide with the general nature of the UCC? How does it differ from common law contract? Is the court’s rationale logical?
Think about the distinction the court makes regarding the majority- and minority-jurisdictions perspectives on the application of the two competing statutes of limitations. Is it really ethical to have such a distinction? Should Ken Badilla’s claim for these serious injuries be dependent on a “technicality” such as the statute of limitations? Is it really a “technicality”?

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Dynamic Business Law

ISBN: 9781260733976

6th Edition

Authors: Nancy Kubasek, M. Neil Browne, Daniel Herron, Lucien Dhooge, Linda Barkacs

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