Statutes of repose establish a legislature’s determination of when defendants should be free from liability. As set forth in Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 11.202, the statute of repose for construction improvements in Nevada is six years after “substantial completion.” In Somersett Owners Ass’n v. Somersett Dev. Co., 492 P.3d 534 (Nev. 2021), the Supreme Court of Nevada (Supreme Court) discussed when a construction improvement is substantially complete, as defined by the common law, for purposes of NRS 11.202. Because the plaintiff did not establish that its suit was filed within six years of when the rockery walls at issue were substantially complete, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court below. Continue reading
In Mondoux v. Vanghel, No. 2018-219, 2021 R.I. LEXIS 2, 2021 WL 264542, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island considered whether to apply the “discovery rule” to toll the ten year statute of limitations in R.I. Laws § 9-1-13(a) for the plaintiffs’ action for breach of the implied warranty of habitability. Stated another way, the court considered when the plaintiffs’ claim accrued with respect to latent defects. Guided by public policy and the need to provide a definite end for exposure to liability as reflected in Rhode Island’s construction-related ten year statute of repose, R.I. Laws § 9-1-29, the court applied a modified discovery rule. Continue reading
In Lennar Northeast Props. v. Barton Partners Architects Planners, Inc, C.A. No. 16-cv-12330-ADB, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11800, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts considered whether a property owner’s construction defect claims against a contractor were barred by the six-year statute of repose for improvements to real property. Massachusetts’ statute of repose, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2B, bars tort actions against those involved in the design, planning, construction or general administration of an improvement to real property more than six years after the earlier of the dates of (1) the opening of the improvement to use; or (2) substantial completion of the improvement and the taking of possession or occupancy by the owner. Finding that, despite the fact that the plaintiff’s actions were labeled as contract, breach of warranty and consumer protection act claims, the complaint alleged actions sounding in tort. Thus, the court applied the statute of repose to these claims. Continue reading
In D’Allesandro v. Lennar Hingham Holdings, LLC, 486 Mass 150, 2020 Mass. LEXIS 721, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts answered a certified question regarding how to apply the Massachusetts statute of repose, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2B, in regards to phased construction projects. The court held that, in this context, the completion of each individual “improvement” to its intended use, or the substantial completion of the individual building and the taking of possession for occupancy by the owner or owners, triggers the statute of repose with respect to the common areas and limited common areas of that building. Additionally, the court held that where a particular improvement is integral to, and intended to serve, multiple buildings (or the development as a whole), the statute of repose is triggered when the discrete improvement is substantially complete and open to its intended use.
In Hensel Phelps Constr. Co. v. Superior Court, 257 Cal. Rptr. 3d 746 (Cal. Ct. App. 2020), the Court of Appeals of California, Fourth Appellate District, addressed whether a party’s contractual definition of the phrase “substantial completion” controlled the trigger date for California’s construction-related statute of repose, Cal. Civ. Code § 941(a). The Fourth District held that the agreement between the condominium owner and developer for Smart Corner Condominiums and the general contractor, Hensel Phelps Construction Co. (Hensel Phelps) – which determined the date of “substantial completion” for the construction project – did not control when the statute of repose started to run. Continue reading
As discussed in a prior blog post, in Gindel v. Centex Homes, 2018 Fla.App. LEXIS 13019, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal held that when the plaintiffs provided a pre-suit notice in compliance with §558.004 of Florida’s construction defect Right-to-Cure statute, Fla. Stat. §§ 558.001 to 558.005, et. seq., they commenced a “civil action or proceeding,” i.e. an “action,” within the meaning of Florida’s construction defect Statute of Repose, Florida Statue § 95.11(3)(c). Thus, the court held that the plaintiffs commenced their action prior to the time Florida’s 10-year statute of repose period ended. In overturning the lower court’s dismissal of the action, the court found that because the Right-to-Cure statute, §558 of the Florida Statutes, sets out a series of mandatory steps that must be taken prior to bringing a judicial action, filing pre-suit notice of claim sufficiently constituted an “action” for purposes of Florida’s Statute of Repose. Continue reading
Courts often struggle with the question of when the statute of repose starts to run for construction projects that involve multiple buildings or phases. In Village Lofts at St. Anthony Falls Ass’n v. Housing Partners III-Lofts, LLC, 937 N.W.2d 430 (Minn. 2020) (Village Lofts), the Supreme Court of Minnesota addressed how Minnesota’s 10-year statute of repose, Minn. Stat. § 541.051, applies to claims arising from the construction of a condominium complex. The court held that the statute of repose begins to run at different times for: a) statutory residential warranty claims brought pursuant to Minn. Stat. §§ 327A.01 to 327A.08, et. seq.; and b) common law claims arising out of the defective and unsafe condition of the condominium buildings. Continue reading
In Penn-America Insurance Company v. Bay State Gas Company, 96 Mass. App. Ct. 757 (2019), the Appeals Court of Massachusetts considered whether the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant, arising from an alleged defect in the defendant’s natural gas line, were time-barred by the six-year statute of repose for improvements to real property. The Appeals Court held that the statute of repose did not apply to the plaintiff’s claims, which were related to the defendant’s alleged failure to maintain its property. Thus, in Massachusetts, the statute of repose does not apply if the plaintiff’s claim is rooted in the failure to maintain an improvement, rather than negligent design or construction of the improvement. Continue reading
In D’Allesandro v. Lennar Hingham Holdings, LLC, C.A. No. 17-cv-12567-IT, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 185874, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts recently discussed a case against a general contractor and its related entities, all of whom were involved in the construction of a multi-phase construction project. The court held that, in this context, completion of the “improvement” – which was the whole project, rather than each individual phase – triggered the six-year statute of repose. The court also held that the plaintiffs’ misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty and unfair business practices claims were not claims based on the design and construction of the improvement and, thus, were not subject to the statute of repose.
For subrogation practitioners dealing with an installation-based statute of repose, knowing what is an improvement to real property is the first battle in what can, but does not have to be, a long fight. Like many other states, Tennessee’s statute of repose bars claims based on improvements to real property. Tennessee’s statute of repose runs four years after substantial completion of the improvement. See Tennessee Code Ann. § 28-3-202. In the case of Maddox v. Olshan Found. Repair & Waterproofing Co. of Nashville, L.P., E A, 2019 Tenn.App. LEXIS 464, 2019 WL 4464816, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee examined whether or not the work done by the defendant, Olshan Foundation Repair & Waterproofing Co. of Nashville, L.P., E.A. (Olshan) — which addressed bowing walls, cracks in the foundation and walls and water intrusion — qualified as improvements to real property for the purposes of the statute of repose. The court held that the work by Olshan essentially amounted to repairs, and did not qualify as improvements to real property. Continue reading