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CT Sets Limit on Construction Suits

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

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HARTFORD, CT—Contractors and designers who work on public construction projects will no longer face an unlimited risk of litigation, under a new law in Connecticut.

Lawmakers there passed Public Act No. 15-28, a measure that imposes a 10-year statute of limitations for certain actions and claims arising out of construction-related public work.

official headshot
Official Photo

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed the bill imposing a statute of limitations on public construction defect litigation into law Friday (May 29).

The new rule repeals the common-law doctrine of nullum tempus occurrit regi, or “no time runs against the king,” which the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld in 2012.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed the bill into law Friday (May 29).

Statute Deadlines

Under the mew law, for  any project completed on or after Oct. 1, 2017, the state or municipality will have 10 years from substantial completi to bring an action or claim to recover damages for either deficiency arising out of construction-related work or personal property injur4

For projects completed before Oct. 1, 2017, the deadline is Oct. 1, 2027.

“Construction-related work” means the design, construction, construction management, planning, construction administration, surveying, supervision, inspection, or observation of construction of improvements in real property, according to the law.  

infrastructure
Connecticut Construction Industries Association

Under the common law doctrine, states and municipalities could indefinitely bring actions for construction defects against construction companies and others involved in public-works projects.

A project is considered “substantially complete” when  the state, its political subdivisions, or a tenant first uses it or it is first available for use after having been completed in accordance with the contract or agreement covering the improvement, including the agreed changes to the contract or agreement, whichever is earlier.

The Exceptions

The statute of limitations established by the new law does not apply to an action or claim:

  • On a written warranty, guarantee or other agreement, including a tolling agreement that expressly provides for longer effective period;
  • Based on willful misconduct in connection with the performance or furnishing of construction-related work;
  • Under an environmental remediation law or pursuant to any contract entered into by the state or its political subdivision in carrying out its responsibilities under any environmental remediation law; or
  • Under any contract for enclosure, removal or encapsulation of asbestos.

Targeting Unlimited Exposure

Under the common law doctrine, the state or municipalities had the ability to indefinitely bring actions for construction defects against construction companies and others involved in public projects.

UCONN law library
Daderot / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The legislation arose following the 2012 Connecticut Supreme Court ruling that the state could proceed with the action for damages against the contractors involved more than 10 years after the UConn Law School Library was completed.

However, those actions may have been based on problems resulting from building maintenance or other factors not caused by the original design and construction.

The infinite risk presented a problem for contractors and designers seeking to do business within the state, according to testimony provided by John Butts, the Executive Director of the Associated General Contractors of Connecticut.

"With unlimited exposure, contractors doing business with the state are taking on risk that they cannot identify, manage or buy insurance for," Butts testified.

In Response to Library Case

The legislation arose after the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the common-law doctrine in State of Connecticut v. Lombardo Brothers Mason Contractors Inc. in 2012.

The Court ruled that the state could proceed with an action for damages against contractors of the University of Connecticut Law School library, notwithstanding the statute of limitations that other would have applied.

The Court also held that the public works commissioner could not waive the state’s rights by contract, as he had for that project.

The library had been built in 1996 and was plagued with pervasive leaking and water damage, according to a release from the office of the Attorney General.

The case was brought in 2008 and settled for about $12 million in 2014, according to the Connecticut Law Tribune.

Prior to the Lombardo decision, construction professionals had operated under the assumption that there was a limited time by which the state could bring action against them for alleged defects, according to Butts.

Supporters of the new law say the time limit is reasonable as typical problems with a building or project would manifest within the 10-year statute of limitation.

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Government; Government contracts; Laws and litigation; Public Buildings; Public Transit

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