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Olson v. Warm Products Inc.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

July 22, 2013

Mark Olson, as trustee for the next-of-kin of Samuel Olson for the estate of Samuel Olson, Appellant,
v.
Warm Products, Inc., d/b/a Window Quilt Insulated Shade Company, et al., Respondents, Laura Mattson, Respondent, Mark Gilbertson, et al., Respondents.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

St. Louis County District Court File No. 69DU-CV-10-1732

Max H. Hacker, James S. Ballentine, Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and James G. Onder (pro hac vice), Onder, Shelton, O'Leary & Peterson, LLC, St. Louis, Missouri (for appellant)

Daniel A. Haws, Stacy E. Ertz, Murnane Brandt, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondents Warm Products, Inc.)

Frank Yetka, Rudy, Gassert, Yetka & Pritchett, P.A., Cloquet, Minnesota (for respondent Laura Mattson)

William L. Davidson, Timothy J. O'Connor, Lind, Jensen, Sullivan & Peterson, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondents Mark Gilbertson, et al.)

Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Stauber, Judge.

Natalie E. Hudson, Judge

Appellant challenges the district court's summary-judgment dismissal of his wrongful-death claims against respondents, arguing that the court erroneously concluded that his claims are barred by the ten-year statute of repose in Minn. Stat. § 541.051, subd. 1(a) (2012).[1] Because we conclude that the statute of repose applies to appellant's product-liability claims, we affirm dismissal of those claims against respondent-company and respondent-former-landowner. But, because we conclude that the statute of repose does not bar appellant's premises-liability negligence claim against respondent-subsequent-landowners, we reverse the dismissal of that claim and remand for trial.

FACTS

Respondent Warm Products Inc., d/b/a Window Quilt Insulated Shade Company and The Warm Company (Warm) is a wholesaler of components necessary to construct its "Warm Window system, " including its roman shade, for which it manufactures fabric and purchases for redistribution all other components, including pull cords. Because its consumers are "primarily do-it-yourself home sewers" who buy "most of the product" from retailers, Warm provides instruction manuals on its shade construction.

From August 1986 to September 1998, Laura Mattson (Mattson) and her husband owned a resort. In 1994, Mattson purchased components to construct the Warm roman shade after seeing a "Warm Window display unit." Beginning in January 1995, following Warm's instruction manual, Mattson and her husband installed at least 13 Warm roman shades in their resort cabins. The installation involved wrapping the top of the shade around a wooden board and drilling at least three screws through the board into the wall above a window. In 1998, respondents Mark and Kimberly Gilbertson (Gilbertsons) d/b/a North Shore Cottages (the resort) purchased the resort from Mattson and her husband. Gilbertsons were aware of the roman shades and their cords and occasionally repaired parts of them related to the functioning of the cords.

In July 2009, Jenny Olson, her son Samuel Olson (Sam), and her friend stayed at the resort in a cabin in which a Warm roman shade was installed in the bedroom where Sam slept in a portable crib. Jenny Olson placed the pull cord of the roman shade over the top of the shade to prevent Sam from reaching it. During Sam's morning nap on July 16, Jenny Olson discovered Sam with the roman-shade cord around his neck. He was limp, had poor color, was rushed to a hospital, and died on July 17.

In March–April 2010, Sam's father, appellant Mark Olson, as trustee for the next-of-kin of Sam and for the estate of Sam, sued respondents Warm, Mattson, and Gilbertsons, alleging that the death of 16-month-old Sam on July 17, 2009, following his strangulation on July 16, was caused by a defective roman shade that Warm "designed, manufactured and prepared for assembly" and Mattson assembled and installed at the resort owned and operated by Gilbertsons. Olson asserted claims of strict products liability against Warm and Mattson and premises-liability negligence against Gilbertsons. Warm, Mattson, and Gilbertsons cross-claimed for indemnification and contribution. Olson moved to amend his complaint to allege breach of post-sale duty to warn against Warm and requested leave to assert a claim for punitive damages. Warm, Mattson, and Gilbertsons moved for summary judgment. Olson opposed the motion.

After considering the parties' arguments and evidence in the form of affidavits, exhibits, and deposition testimony, the district court granted summary judgment to respondents, dismissing Olson's claims based on the ten-year statute of repose in Minn. Stat. § 541.051, subd. 1(a). The court declined to address additional summary-judgment grounds raised by Warm and Gilbertsons, and it did not rule on Olson's motion to amend his complaint.

This appeal follows.[2]

DECISION

An appellate court "review[s] de novo the district court's grant of summary judgment to determine whether genuine issues of material fact exist and whether the district court erred in applying the law." Ruiz v. 1st Fid. Loan Servicing, LLC, 829 N.W.2d 53, 56 (Minn. 2013). An appellate court "view[s] the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom ...


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