Conway v. Hi-Tech Engineering, Inc.Annotate this Case
Appellant Carol Conway’s son Dennis Howard, was crushed to death in 2004 by an automated log-stacking machine while working at a Weyerhaeuser sawmill facility in North Carolina. Appellant filed suit against Appellee Hi-Tech Engineering, Inc. (HTE) alleging that the company had negligently and defectively designed, manufactured and marketed the log-stacking machine that killed her son. The trial court found that North Carolina law applied to the case, and the outcome would be determined by an analysis of North Carolina’s “statute of repose.” The parties cited different statutes of repose that they found in North Carolina law. Characterizing Appellant’s case as a ‘products liability action,’ the court found that the applicable statute gives the defendant a ‘vested right not to be sued’ if the plaintiff fails to file a product liability action within a six-year period. Appellant relied heavily on the date and terms of the sales contract HTE held with the sawmill to determine when the six-year period started to trigger the statute. The court found that the date that HTE first sold the log-stacker was the controlling date. Appellant alleged the date the stacker was first accepted and used was the controlling date. The court entered summary judgment against Appellant because her claim was outside of the six-year period, and she appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. The Court agreed with the trial court’s analysis of Appellant’s claim, and affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment to HTE.