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October 6, 1981

Raymond HAFER and Sheryl Hafer

The opinion of the court was delivered by: BECKER


Before us, on a motion for summary judgment, is the question whether this products liability action is barred by the application of Pennsylvania's "borrowing statute." The action was occasioned by the sudden blowout of a Firestone radial tire in Quebec, Canada, resulting in injury to the plaintiff, Raymond Hafer, who was driving the car on which the tire was mounted. The accident occurred on July 30, 1977. Suit was filed on July 2, 1979, within all potentially applicable Pennsylvania statutes of limitations for such a claim, but beyond the Quebec statute of limitations.

 Under the borrowing statute, Pennsylvania courts are instructed to look to the statute of limitations of the state where the cause of action "arose," if that foreign state's statute of limitations would bar the claim. *fn1" The questions of where the cause of action arose and whether the foreign state's statute of limitations bars the claim are both at issue in this case. As will be seen, if the cause of action arose in Quebec, plaintiffs' claims are time barred and summary judgment must be granted for the defendant.

 The operative facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff Raymond Hafer, who then lived in Pennsylvania, purchased the motor vehicle involved in the accident from a new car dealer in Pennsylvania. *fn2" The car was equipped with tires manufactured in Quebec by defendant Firestone Canada, Inc. The accident occurred when Hafer and his wife, on vacation, were traveling through Quebec; a tire blew out and Hafer's car swerved and left the road, causing him personal injuries.

 The complaint contains four counts: Hafer's claims against Firestone in negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty, and the claim of his wife, Sheryl Hafer, for loss of consortium. The suit was originally filed on July 2, 1979, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County against Firestone Rubber Company, the parent company of the present defendant. The case was subsequently removed to this court on diversity of citizenship grounds. In March of 1980 plaintiffs amended their complaint to substitute Firestone Canada, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the original defendant.

 In June 1980, invoking the Pennsylvania borrowing statute, Firestone Canada moved for summary judgment, asserting that the cause of action arose in Quebec and that plaintiff's suit was barred under Quebec's one-year personal injury statute of limitations. Plaintiffs respond that the borrowing statute is inapplicable, and support this response with three basic arguments. First, they contend that the choice of law rules enunciated in Griffith v. United Air Lines, Inc., 416 Pa. 1, 203 A.2d 796 (1964), and its progeny must be used to determine where the cause of action arose. Asserting that Pennsylvania was the situs of the most significant contacts, plaintiffs submit that Pennsylvania, and not Quebec, law must apply. Secondly (and alternatively), plaintiffs submit that, under any view of the facts, the cause of action arose not in Quebec, where the accident occurred, but in Pennsylvania where the tire, which was original equipment on the new car purchased by Hafer, was sold, and hence where the implied warranty of fitness of the tire was breached. Third, plaintiffs argue that the Quebec statute of limitations does not "fully bar" plaintiffs' claims so as to render operative the plaintiffs' interpretation of the version of the borrowing statute that they contend is applicable. See note 1 supra.

 Neither the first nor third arguments have even colorable merit and they will not detain us. Suffice it to say that the contention that the borrowing statute must be construed in terms of the Griffith analysis was expressly rejected by the Third Circuit in the leading case in this area, Mack Trucks, Inc. v. Bendix-Westinghouse Automotive Air Brake Co., 372 F.2d 18 (3rd Cir. 1966), cert. denied, 387 U.S. 930, 87 S. Ct. 2053, 18 L. Ed. 2d 992 (1967). *fn3" Moreover, plaintiffs' interpretation of the Quebec statute of limitations as not fully barring plaintiffs' claims *fn4" but only qualifying a given right is untenable. *fn5" Therefore, we will devote the remainder of this opinion to a discussion of the issues raised by plaintiffs' second contention.

 The notion of where the cause of action arose, while appearing simple at first blush, is complicated by the checkered case law. We begin with Judge Hastie's observation in Mack Trucks that:

The Pennsylvania borrowing statute utilizes this concept of the arising of a cause of action in relation to place rather than time in order to specify the circumstances in which a Pennsylvania court shall apply another state's statute of limitations and to identify the appropriate state. We think the concept of when a cause arises and the concept of where a cause arises, both used to aid in the application of statutes of limitations, are in pari materia. In other words, the cause arises where as well as when the final significant event that is essential to a suable claim occurs.

 372 F.2d at 20 (emphasis added). One approach to the case a common sense approach would posit that the cause of action arose in Quebec, because that is where the final significant event essential to a suable claim occurred, i. e., the blowout of the tire and the consequent injury to Mr. Hafer. Certainly plaintiffs' tort-based (negligence and products liability) theories would compel this result, for, in tort, a cause of action arises where the negligence or defective product proximately causes an injury. In this case, that was indubitably in Quebec. We believe that the same result attains with respect to a breach of warranty claim.

 We reach this conclusion notwithstanding the provisions of Section 2-725 of the Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C.), "that a breach of warranty occurs when a tender or delivery is made." *fn6" That is because we perceive a difference between the occurrence of a breach and the arising of a cause of action. The Mack Trucks formulation that the cause arises when the final significant event essential to a suable claim occurs is consistent with this view, for a causal nexus between product defect and injury (supplied by the facts of the accident) is a predicate for a suable claim.

 While we might rest on this analysis, in view of the vigor with which plaintiffs advance their contentions, we prefer to give more detailed consideration to the question whether plaintiffs' cause of action for breach of implied warranty arose at the place and the time of the accident (in Quebec) or at the time of the delivery to Mr. Hafer of the putatively defective tire mounted on the new car (in Pennsylvania). We conclude however, that even if we apply the Pennsylvania law advanced by plaintiffs on the point, the cause of action must be deemed to have arisen in Quebec. *fn7" That is because, in the wake of the decision in Salvador v. Atlantic Steel Boiler Co., 256 Pa.Super. 330, 389 A.2d 1148 (1978) (Salvador II), we believe that Pennsylvania would construe Hafer's action for personal injuries based upon a warranty theory as nonetheless sounding in tort.

 The current Pennsylvania trend in products liability cases of abolishing the distinction between breach of warranty and tort began with the elimination of the vertical privity requirement for a breach of warranty claim, see Kassab v. Central Soya, 432 Pa. 217, 246 A.2d 848 (1968). It continued with the abolition of the horizontal privity requirement. See Salvador v. I. H. English of Philadelphia, Inc., 224 Pa.Super. 377, 307 A.2d 398 (1973), aff'd sub nom., Salvador v. Atlantic Steel Boiler Co., 457 Pa. 24, 319 A.2d 903 (1974) (Salvador I). Basing its decision on the logic of these earlier cases, the Salvador II court advanced the trend still further by holding: (1) that the four-year statute of limitations for breach of warranty actions under the Pennsylvania U.C.C., now codified at 13 Pa.C.S. ยง 2725, should not be applied to a third-party personal injury arising from a defective product, but rather that the two-year tort statute of limitations should apply; and (2) that the statute should ordinarily begin to run from the date of injury (the rule for a tort claim) and not from the date of the sale of the goods (the rule with respect to a warranty claim). The rationale for the court's decision was what it described as the "inexorable trend toward legal symmetry in this area." 389 A.2d at 1153.

 While it may be that in the case of a suit by a direct purchaser against the seller (or even against the manufacturer behind him in the vertical chain) the Pennsylvania courts, because of the literal terms of the statute, might still apply the four-year U.C.C. statute of limitations measured from the sale of the goods, *fn8" given the language of Salvador II quoted above and the direction the Pennsylvania cases have taken, we conclude that Pennsylvania would apply a tort-based standard *fn9" , hence we construe its borrowing statute ...

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