Shorter Time Limits To Sue Apply To Some Construction Law Cases
Let’s say that you work on a construction project. You know that for a period of time after the project is complete, that you could be held liable (or at least sued) for defects on the property, or problems that arise from your construction of the property. But how long are you liable? Is it fair that someone who takes property you built 10, 12, or 15 years ago can come back and sue you that long after the project is completed?
Time Limits for Defective Construction Projects
The answer is “it depends.” There is certainly a time limitation on how long someone can sue for a construction related defect, or for a breach of a contract. Generally, the time limit to sue someone is called a Statute of Limitations.
The Statute of Limitations for a standard written contract is 5 years. But the construction industry gets a little extra protection, with a shortened, 4-year Statute of Limitations.
But in construction law there is also what’s known as delayed discovery, or a latent defect.
These are defects that are not knowable, and could not have been discovered by the other party, even in the exercise of due diligence. When these hidden problems manifest themselves, the owner of the property has an extended period of time to sue the builder for defects or problems in the construction project.
The Statute of Repose
The good news for builders is that there is an absolute time limitation on lawsuits, called the Statute of Repose. The Statute of Repose is ten years. If you are the person for whom the project was built, it means that after the expiration of the Statute of Repose, you won’t be able to sue the builder, even if you had no way of discovering the construction effect earlier than you did.
The time limit to sue (the statute of repose or statute of limitations) starts ticking when the problem could have been discovered in the exercise of due diligence—not when you actually discover the problem. For builders, that can be a defense to lawsuits commenced years after the project is finished. But again, even with delayed discovery or latent defects, the ultimate time limitation is the 10-year Statute of Repose.
Limitations on Shortened Time frames
There is one limitation to the Statute of Repose and the shortened Statute of Limitations—as of now, the shorter times seem to only apply to architects, engineers or contractors. Vendors or specialists may not receive the benefit of the Statute of Repose.
Additionally, the limitations apply to “design, planning, construction or improvement” to real property. While this definition is quite broad, it is conceivable that other projects or construction work that does not fall into one of these categories, may not get the protection of the Statute of Repose.
Protect yourself, your construction business, and your construction projects. Call our Fort Lauderdale construction attorneys at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954 440-3993 if you have a construction legal problem.