Douglas County District Court File No. C9-02-901
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge,
and Minge, Judge.
1. Minnesota, as the forum, applies this state's statute of limitations to damage claims of Minnesota residents for injuries that arise in other states both because the choice-influencing considerations approach indicates application of this state's law and because traditionally Minnesota has considered statutes of limitations as procedural.
2. Forum non conveniens does not support dismissing a claim brought by a Minnesota resident for injuries occurring in another state due to failure of a product purchased in a third state when it does not appear that any witnesses would be required from the other state with jurisdiction.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Minge, Judge
Appellant, a Minnesota resident, sued respondent retailer in Minnesota for injuries suffered in a Arizona while using a ladder purchased from a store of respondent in Texas. The district court dismissed appellant's claim on the grounds that it was time barred under the law of both of the other states and the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Because the district court should have applied Minnesota's statute of limitations, and because the doctrine of forum non conveniens does not support dismissal, we reverse.
Appellant Danielson is a Minnesota resident and operates a contracting business in this state during part of the year. He also spends approximately half the year traveling in a motor home in the southern part of the United States. In early 2000, Danielson bought a stepladder from respondent's Camping World store in Mission, Texas. On February 13, 2000, Danielson was using the ladder in Arizona when he fell and injured his foot. Danielson believed the ladder was defective and eventually returned it to Camping World in Mission, Texas. Danielson received medical treatment in Arizona and Minnesota but did not fully recover from his injuries and sought compensation. When Danielson determined that both the manufacturer and distributor of the ladder had gone out of business, he filed suit against Camping World in Minnesota.
Camping World is the trade name used by National Supply Company, a division of the Affinity Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation with its principal offices in Colorado. The Camping World division has its principal office in Kentucky, and stores in many states, including at least one store in Texas and one store in Minnesota. It has a registered agent for service of process in Minnesota. The record is silent as to whether Camping World has a store in Arizona or is otherwise amenable to jurisdiction in that state. Danielson claims he patronized the Texas Camping World store because he had visited its Minnesota store and preferred to do business with a familiar firm.
Camping World does not dispute that Danielson purchased the ladder at its Mission, Texas store. Nor does Camping World dispute that Danielson returned the ladder to that store. However, the record indicates that Camping World has not been able to identify the employees who sold the ladder to Danielson or who dealt with him when he returned the ladder.
Danielson's injury occurred on February 13, 2000, and he did not commence this action until after February 13, 2002. Because the statutes of limitation in Texas and Arizona are two years, the statutes of limitation in those states have already run. But the applicable statute of limitations in Minnesota is six years.
Camping World moved to dismiss Danielson's claim as time barred under either Texas or Arizona law and forum non conveniens. The district court ruled that Texas or Arizona law applied and that accordingly, Danielson's claim was time barred. The district court also dismissed Danielson's claim on the ground of forum non conveniens. Danielson argues that Minnesota law applies, that his claim is therefore timely, and that the claim should not have been dismissed on the ground of forum non conveniens.
1. Does Minnesota's statute of limitations apply to a product-liability claim brought in Minnesota by a Minnesota resident for injuries occurring in a second state for a product purchased in a third state?
2. Was it an abuse of discretion for the district court to dismiss this action on the ground of forum non conveniens?