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Bebee v. Motorola Solutions, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

March 29, 2017

SABINA BEBEE, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
MOTOROLA SOLUTIONS, INC., et al, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          MELINDA HARMON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant Scott Technologies, Inc.'s (“Scott's”) Motion to Dismiss (Document Nos. 14, 15). Plaintiffs have filed a Response (Document No. 19), and Scott filed a Reply. (Document No. 21). Having reviewed these filings, the facts, and the relevant law, the Court determines that Scott's Motion to Dismiss (Document No. 14) will be granted.

         Background

         Plaintiffs' claims in this suit arise from a motel fire on May 31, 2013, which severely injured or killed several responding firefighters. (Document No. 1-3 at 4). During the fire, Plaintiffs Robert Bebee, Robert Garner, Anne Sullivan and Matthew Renaud died, and Robert Yarbrough was severely injured. Id. Therefore Plaintiffs Sabina Bebee, Nicole Garner, Mary Sullivan, and David Renaud have brought suit individually and as representatives of the decedent's estates. Id. at 1. The wife of Robert Yarbrough, Amy Yarbrough, and the parents of Matthew Renaud, Xavier Renaud and Barbara Perez, have also brought suit. Id. at 1-2. Plaintiffs originally filed this suit in state court, on February 8, 2016, and amended their petition on March 10, 2016. Plaintiffs generally allege that Motorola and “Scott Safety system radios and components” used by the firefighters were defective, and caused or contributed to their deaths and injuries. Id. at 4-5. Therefore, Plaintiffs have brought claims against Scott regarding “(a) design, marketing and product defects with respect to the radios designed, marketed, and/or instructed in their use by the defendants in this case, (b) negligence, (c) gross negligence, (d) breach of express and implied warranties, and (e) deceptive trade practices under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (the ‘DTPA').” (Document No. 19 at 2; Document No. 1-3 at 9-12). In response to Plaintiffs' claims, Scott has filed a Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). (Document No. 14).

         Standard of Review

         “A statute of limitations may support dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) when it is evident from a plaintiff's pleadings that the action is time-barred and the pleadings fail to set forth or raise some basis for tolling the statute.” Peacock v. AARP, Inc., 181 F.Supp.3d 430, 434 (S.D. Tex. 2016) (citing Jones v. Alcoa, Inc., 339 F.3d 359, 366 (5th Cir. 2003)). The statute of limitations is a strict deadline, and the Court will dismiss suits “filed even a few days after the limitations date.” Id. (citations omitted).

         Discussion

         Personal injury and wrongful death claims

         Defendant Scott argues that Plaintiffs' personal injury and wrongful death claims are barred by the statute of limitations. (Document No. 15 at 2). Texas has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death claims:

(a) Except as provided by Sections 16.010, 16.0031, and 16.0045, a person must bring suit for trespass for injury to the estate or to the property of another, conversion of personal property, taking or detaining the personal property of another, personal injury, forcible entry and detainer, and forcible detainer not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues.
(b) A person must bring suit not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues in an action for injury resulting in death. The cause of action accrues on the death of the injured person.

Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.003. The statute of limitations begins to run when the action accrues, which occurs “when the legal wrong is completed and the plaintiff is entitled to commence suit, even if the party is unaware of the wrong.” Porterfield v. Ethicon, Inc., 183 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). Because Plaintiffs' personal injury and wrongful death claims accrued on the date of the fire, May 31, 2013, Scott argues that the claims are barred by the two-year statute of limitations.

         Plaintiffs do not contest the application of this statute of limitations to the Yarbrough Plaintiffs. (Document No. 19 at 5). However, Plaintiffs argue that the claims of the other Plaintiffs were tolled for one year after the fire, due to their deaths. Id. Texas law provides:

(a) The death of a person against whom or in whose favor there may be a cause of action suspends the running of an applicable statute of limitations ...

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