This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




Willard Davidson, et al.,



Howard Kron, d/b/a

Howard's Aircraft & Flying Service,


Filed December 24, 1996


Harten, Judge

Wabasha County District Court

File No. C5-94-45

Peter D. Ekstrand, Ekstrand Law Office, 100 Main Street W., P.O. Box 190, Wabasha, MN 55981 (for Respondents)

Stephen L. Stennes, Prindle, Maland, Sellner, Stennes & Knutsen, Chartered, 102 Parkway Dr., P.O. Box 591, Montevideo, MN 56265 (for Appellant)

Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Harten, Judge.



Appellant challenges the district court's judgment. We affirm.


The parties submitted a stipulated record for this appeal. On December 31, 1993, respondents Willard Davidson, Steven Schmidt, Glen Bunkowske, and Charles Schmidt commenced suit against appellant Howard Kron, a certified aircraft mechanic, for negligently reassembling an aircraft engine in 1986. The aircraft operated satisfactorily until 1993 when its engine malfunctioned due to appellant's negligent reassembly. Appellant moved for summary judgment claiming that the action was commenced after the statute of limitations expired. The district court denied appellant's motion finding that the cause of action did not accrue until 1993 when the engine malfunctioned. The case was set for trial. On the eve of trial, the parties settled, but preserved appellant's right to appeal the statute of limitations issue.


Where a case is decided on stipulated facts, the only issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in its application of the law. Fingerhut Corp. v. Suburban Nat'l Bank, 460 N.W.2d 63, 65 (Minn. App. 1990). A reviewing court need not defer to a district court's determination of a purely legal question. Frost-Benco Elec. Ass'n v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm'n, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984). "[T]he construction of a statute * * * is clearly a question of law" and thus fully reviewable by an appellate court. Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985).

Appellant contends that respondents' claims are barred as a matter of law by Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1(4) (1996), which provides a six year statute of limitations for negligence actions involving personal property. This statute of limitations commences "after the cause of action accrues." Minn. Stat. § 541.01 (1996). The parties dispute when respondents' cause of action accrued.

A negligence cause of action accrues when "it could be brought in a court of law without dismissal for failure to state a claim." Dalton v. Dow Chem. Co., 280 Minn. 147, 153, 158 N.W.2d 580, 584 (1968). The statute of limitations commences from the date that plaintiff first suffers damage rather than from the date when the last known negligent act occurs. Offerdahl v. University of Minn. Hosps. & Clinics, 426 N.W.2d 425, 429 (Minn. 1988) (cause of action for negligence accrues when negligence is coupled with resulting damage) (citing Dalton, 280 Minn. at 153, 158 N.W.2d at 584). Respondents' claims are based on negligent repairs to an aircraft engine. The parties stipulated that the engine failure resulted from appellant's improper installation of certain engine parts during reassembly. Appellant contends that respondents' cause of action accrued in 1986 because the negligent reassembly itself constituted the damage that commenced the statute of limitations. But the aircraft had operated satisfactorily without any indication of negligent repair until its engine failed in 1993.

Appellant's claim is similar to claims for personal injuries caused by defective products--a cause of action accrues when there is a cognizable physical manifestation of injury present and evidence of a causal relationship between the injury and the product. Cf. Klempka v. G.D. Searle & Co., 963 F.2d 168, 170 (8th Cir. 1992) (cause of action for injuries resulting from defective product accrues when a physical manifestation of the injury is coupled with evidence of a causal relationship between the injury and the product). Had the aircraft continued to operate satisfactorily (as it did for seven years following the repair), respondents would not have acquired a cause of action against appellant because no damages would have resulted from appellant's negligence. See Hudson v. Snyder Body, Inc., 326 N.W.2d 149, 157 (Minn.1982) (cause of action for negligence requires proof of damages); Johnson v. Rouchleau-Ray Iron Land Co., 140 Minn. 289, 291, 168 N.W. 1, 2 (1918) (damage must occur to recover for negligence).

Appellant also argues that discovery of damage is not required to activate the statute of limitations under Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1(4) because the statute does not require notice and other statutes specifically require discovery of the damage. See Minn. Stat. § 541.073, subd. 2(a) (1996) (statute of limitations for damages due to sexual abuse commences at time plaintiff knew or had reason to know injury was caused by sexual abuse); Minn. Stat. § 541.051, subd. 1 (1996) (statute of limitations for damages based on services to real property cause of action commences upon discovery of the injury). Citing Dalton, appellant also argues that respondents' unawareness of their damages does not toll the statute of limitations. We agree with appellant that Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1(4) does not require discovery of damage in order to activate the statute of limitations. In this case, however, respondents were not merely unaware of the damage to the engine--no damage had occurred. Some damage is required to allow plaintiff to become aware of the negligence. See Dalton, 280 Minn. at 154, 158 N.W.2d at 585 (quoting Brush Beryllium Co. v. Meckley, 284 F.2d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 1960)) (cause of action accrues when plaintiff experienced some damage). Here, until the engine malfunctioned, no damage had resulted from appellant's negligence that would allow respondents to become aware of that negligence.

We agree with the district court that because no damage occurred until 1993, the negligence cause of action accrued in 1993. The statute of limitations commenced upon the accrual in 1993, not when the repair was performed in 1986.