WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of a wrongful death lawsuit, which the tire manufacturer and dealer defendants claimed had been filed after the statute of limitations had lapsed.
Les Schwab Tire Centers of Portland Inc. and Toyo Tire Holdings of America Inc. petitioned the high court March 1, seeking a review of a case filed in Oregon in 2014. The court denied certiorari on June 10.
The case involved Scott and Jenna Wilcox, a husband and wife who were both active duty Air Force personnel.
The Wilcoxes purchased Toyo tires at a Les Schwab store in Oregon in 2004. In 2010, they were stationed in the United Kingdom, still driving the BMW equipped with those tires.
On March 27, 2010, the Wilcoxes were driving near the Scottish border when their car started vibrating. Scott Wilcox examined the tires and replaced the rear passenger-side tire with a temporary spare. They drove on with Jenna Wilcox holding the replaced tire in her lap.
Shortly thereafter, the replaced tire exploded, severely injuring Jenna Wilcox. She died of her injuries April 1 or 2, according to the complaint Scott Wilcox filed in the Multnomah County, Ore., District Court on Sept. 17, 2014. (The complaint gave both dates.)
Scott Wilcox accused Toyo and Les Schwab of knowingly selling him a defective tire. He sought economic damages of $10 million and non-economic damages of up to $500,000.
Toyo and Les Schwab moved for dismissal on the grounds that Wilcox's suit was untimely under Oregon's three-year statute of limitations. The Multnomah County court granted the motion.
Wilcox appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, he claimed, his military service tolled the end of the statute of limitations.
The appeals court ruled in Wilcox's favor in August 2018. The Oregon Supreme Court denied Toyo and Les Schwab's petition for review in January 2019.
In their petition to the federal Supreme Court, Toyo and Les Schwab argued that lower courts disagree on whether the SCRA tolls the statute of limitations on a lawsuit filed on behalf of another—in this case, Jenna Wilcox.
"The vast majority of courts have held that the SCRA does not toll claims brought by a servicemember in a purely representative capacity, because such claims are not personal to the servicemember and often could just as easily have been brought by someone else," the petition said.
"This case presents an excellent vehicle to resolve this recognized split and to head off the gamesmanship that will result from allowing tolling in these circumstances," it said.