The collapse of the Champlain condominium tower in Surfside, Florida, has caused many lawyers and insurance company claims managers to consult Florida’s statutes that limit the time in which claims for damage and wrongful death can be instituted. The answer is not always simple, and many facts are missing to provide definite answers in the case of the Surfside tower collapse. Nevertheless, two statutes – the statute of limitation and the statute of repose – are certain to have application to any claims made against the building’s architects, engineers, general contractors and subcontractors.
The statute of limitation
An action based upon the design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property must be commenced within four years after the latest of the following:
- The issuance of a certificate of occupancy
- The abandonment of construction
- The date of completion or termination of the construction contract.
In the case of a latent construction defect, the limitation period begins to run when the defect is or should have been discovered.
Statute of repose
Regardless of the nature of the injury or the claimed defect, all actions for damages founded on design, planning or construction of an improvement must be brought within 12 years after discovery of the defect or after the date on which the defect, using due diligence, should have been discovered. In other words, the expiration of the statute of repose bars all claims for negligence against anyone involved in the design or construction of the building.
The question of whether a specific claim is barred by Florida’s statute of repose or statute of limitation can be very complex. Anyone who is concerned that a potential claim may be barred by either statute may wish to consult an experienced construction attorney for an opinion on whether either statute may bar the claim.