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Burdett v. Remington Arms Company, L.L.C.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

April 19, 2017

EDWARD BURDETT, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
REMINGTON ARMS COMPANY, L.L.C.; SPORTING GOODS PROPERTIES, INCORPORATED, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

          Before SMITH and HAYNES, Circuit Judges, and JUNELL, District Judge. [*]

          JUNELL, District Judge

         Edward Burdett was injured while hunting in Texas when his rifle suddenly discharged, firing a bullet through his foot. He sued, alleging five products liability claims and one claim under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act. The district court entered a summary judgment in favor of Remington Arms Company, LLC and Sporting Goods Properties, Inc. For the reasons explained below, we AFFIRM.

          I.

         During a hunting trip, Burdett was sitting in a friend's pickup truck when his Remington Model 700 rifle suddenly discharged, sending a bullet through his left foot. The rifle was designed, manufactured, and assembled by Remington Arms Company, LLC (Remington)[1] and Sporting Goods Properties, Inc. (SGPI)[2] in Ilion, New York, where Burdett argues the conduct causing the injury occurred. Burdett purchased the rifle in approximately 1998 from a reseller in Georgia. Burdett is a resident of both Texas and Georgia.

         Burdett filed suit on December 22, 2015, in the Dallas division of the Northern District of Texas. He alleged five products liability claims, one of which fell under a Georgia statute, and one claim under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act. Remington and SGPI filed a motion for summary judgment. Therein, they argued Burdett's claims were time-barred by the Texas statute of repose, which provides that "a claimant must commence a products liability action against a manufacturer or seller of a product before the end of 15 years after the date of the sale of the product by the defendant." Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.012(b). The statute of repose begins running when the product is first sold by the manufacturer. The parties have been unable to provide the date the rifle was first sold, but Burdett acknowledges that he purchased the rifle no later than 1998.

          Burdett countered that New York, rather than Texas, law applies and thus his claims were not time barred. Unlike Texas, New York does not have a statute of repose. See Fargas v. Cincinnati Mach., LLC, 986 F.Supp.2d 420, 423 (S.D.N.Y. 2013). Burdett took issue with § 71.031 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, arguing that it does not apply to actions filed in federal court and is not a choice of law provision. Section 71.031 provides:

(a) An action for damages for the death or personal injury of a citizen of this state, of the United States, or of a foreign country may be enforced in the courts of this state, although the wrongful act, neglect, or default causing the death or injury takes place in a foreign state or country, if:
(1) a law of the foreign state or country or of this state gives a right to maintain an action for damages for the death or injury;
(2) the action is begun in this state within the time provided by the laws of this state for beginning the action;
(3) for a resident of a foreign state or country, the action is begun in this state within the time provided by the laws of the foreign state or country in which the wrongful act, neglect, or default took place; and
(4) in the case of a citizen of a foreign country, the country has equal treaty rights with the United States on behalf of its citizens.

Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 71.031(a)(1)-(4). The district court disagreed with Burdett and held that § 71.031 is a codified choice of law provision warranting application of Texas law and Texas's 15-year statute of repose. The court computed the 15-year deadline by using the date of rifle's sale in 1998. Given that Burdett commenced the instant suit more than 15 years from the date he purchased the ...


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