Legal Memorandum: Statute of Limitations – Contracts and Tort-based Claims

Issue: How does statutes of limitations law apply to contract- and tort-based claims in Rhode Island?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Contract for sale; Breach of warranty
Jurisdiction: Rhode Island
Cited Cases: 426 A.2d 1313; 619 A.2d 429; 132 F.3d 1044; 336 A.2d 555; 118 R.I. 288; 52 R.I. 149; 290 A.2d 607; 116 A. 755; 158 A. 721; 729 A.2d 677; 114 R.I. 451; 110 R.I. 83; 44 R.I. 253; 106 R.I. 248; 104 R.I. 700; 373 A.2d 492; 525 A.2d 892
Cited Statutes: R.I. Gen. Laws § § 6A-2-725, 6A-2-725(1) (1999), § 6A-2-725(2), 6A-2-607, 6A-2-607(3)(a), § 6A-2175; R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-13, 9-1-13(a)
Date: 08/01/2000

Rhode Island law provides that an action for breach of any contract for sale must be commenced within four years after the cause of action accrues.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 6A-2-725(1) (1999).  The parties may reduce this period in their original agreement to no less than one year, but they may not extend it.  Id.  A cause of action under this section accrues when the breach occurs, regardless of the aggrieved party’s lack of knowledge of the breach.  Id. § 6A-2-725(2).  A breach of warranty occurs when “tender of delivery is made,” unless the warranty is explicitly extended to the future performance of the goods and “discovery of the breach must await the time of such performance,” in which case the cause of action accrues when the breach is or should have been discovered.  Id.

In Plouffe v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 118 R.I. 288, 373 A.2d 492 (1977), the court explained that the U.C.C. breach of contract for sale statute applies only to situations involving a buyer-seller relationship, and not to non-contractual warranty actions against manufacturers.  Id., 373 A.2d at 495.  In Plouffe, a husband and wife had sued tire and automobile manufacturers, as well as the selling dealer, for personal injuries and property damages they sustained when a tire on their car had a blowout, causing a collision.  Because there was no buyer-seller relationship between the plaintiffs and manufacturing defendants in that case, the (then) two-year personal injury statute of […]

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