Statutes of repose are generally meant to be absolutes, providing clarity to potential defendants such as contractors. However, in limited scenarios, some states have allowed for exceptions to the defense. For instance, fraud is one potential exception that has been recognized in several jurisdictions and is often raised by parties on the basis of public policy. In Puget Sound Energy, Inc. v. Pilchuck Contractors, Inc., No. 80162-7-1, 2020 Wash. App. LEXIS 2862 (unpublished), the Court of Appeals of Washington determined whether it would allow a fraud exception to its statute of repose for construction activity. The court upheld the trial court’s holding that the statute of repose barred the appellant’s claims, declining to entertain a fraud exception. 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
In Rankin v. South Street Downtown Holdings, Inc., 2019 N.H. LEXIS 165, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire considered, pursuant to a question transferred by the trial court, whether RSA 508:4-b, the statute of repose for improvements to real property, applies to indemnity and contribution claims. The court concluded that based upon the plain reading of the statute, it applies to indemnity and contribution claims. As noted by the court, a holding to the contrary would violate the intent of a statute of repose, which is to establish a time limit for when a party is exposed to liability. Continue reading
Arizona recently amended its Purchaser Dwelling Action statute to, among other things, involve all contractors in the process, establish the parties’ burdens of proof, add an attorney fees provision, establish procedural requirements and limit a subcontractor’s indemnity exposure. The governor signed the bill—2019 Ariz. SB 1271—on April 10, 2019. The following discussion details some of the changes to the law. Continue reading