Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Civil, at February Term 1985, No. 3547 & 2179 March Term, 1985.
Ralph D. Samuel, Philadelphia, for appellants (at 878 and 879).
Marc A. Landry, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Cirillo, President Judge, and Montemuro and Johnson, JJ.
Appellants challenge an order of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas granting appellee's motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissing appellants' complaint. Because appellants filed their actions beyond the applicable period of limitations, 13 Pa.C.S.A. § 2725, we affirm.
The case arises from a March 17, 1981 truck accident that killed the driver of the truck, Kenneth B. Haines, and injured a passenger, appellant Robert L. Patton. At the time of the accident, both Mr. Haines and Mr. Patton were acting within the scope of their employment with Chemical Leaman Tank Lines, Inc. Mr. Patton and his wife, appellant Esther P. Patton, instituted an action by writ of summons against the manufacturer of the truck, Mack Trucks, Inc. [Mack], on February 20, 1985. Appellant Joan M. Haines, administratrix of the estate of Mr. Haines, instituted a separate action against Mack on March 12, 1985. In their consolidated complaint,*fn1 appellants alleged that a defective
steering mechanism caused the truck in which Mr. Haines and Mr. Patton were riding to spin out of control. Appellants further alleged that when Mack sold the truck to Chemical Leaman in 1977, it made express and implied warranties, which it breached by failing properly to design and manufacture the truck and its component steering mechanism.
The express warranty upon which appellants base their claim appeared on a Chemical Leaman purchase order form dated May 26, 1977. Chemical Leaman used the multipaged form to purchase the truck that injured Mr. Haines and Mr. Patton. The following warranty language was printed on the bottom of all but the first page: "Seller represents and warrants that all articles and services covered by this purchase order meet or exceed the regulations established and promulgated under the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Law, Public Law 91-596 . . . in effect or proposed as of the date of this order."*fn2 Appellants contended that the truck failed to meet applicable work-place safety standards.*fn3 In addition to this alleged breach, appellants claimed that Mack breached implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for the particular purpose, which, unless excluded, apply to all sales of goods, see 13 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 2314-2316. The trial court nonetheless agreed
with appellee that the four-year statute of limitations on breach of warranty claims, 13 Pa.C.S.A. 2725, barred appellants' causes of action. It therefore granted appellee's motion for judgment on the pleadings. This timely appeal followed.
We must decide whether appellant's causes of action for breach of warranty accrued in 1977, when Mack delivered the allegedly defective truck to Chemical Leaman, or in 1981, when the accident that injured Mr. Haines and Mr. Patton occurred. This task requires that we construe both the statute of limitations provision of the Commercial Code and the purchase agreement between Mack and Chemical Leaman. The Code provision reads as follows:
(a) General rule. -- An action for breach of any contract for sale must be commenced within four years after the cause of action has accrued. By the original agreement the parties may reduce the period of limitations to not less than one year but may not extend it.
(b) Accrual of cause of action. -- A cause of action accrues when the breach occurs, regardless of the aggrieved party's lack of knowledge of the breach. A breach of warranty occurs when tender of delivery is made, except that where a warranty explicitly extends to future performance of the goods and discovery of the breach must await the time of such performance the cause of action accrues when the breach is or should have been discovered.
13 Pa.C.S. § 2725(a) and (b) (emphasis added). In the usual case under Section 2725, a cause of action for breach of warranty accrues when the seller tenders delivery to the buyer. An aggrieved party must bring suit within four years of tender regardless of whether he or she knows that a breach has occurred. The last sentence of Subsection 2725(b), however, extends the period of limitations in those few cases that meet the stated twofold test. If (1) the warranty "explicitly extends" to future ...