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Jul 162013

At a recent industry event, someone asked me about the statute of limitation in Florida for a construction defect claim. My answer was “I’m not a lawyer but I’m pretty sure it’s four years.” The question prompted me to look it up and make sure I was right.

Construction Defect Moisture Intrusion

According to the International Risk Management Institute, Inc. (IRMI) a construction defect is defined as:

“A deficiency in the design or construction of a building or structure resulting from a failure to design or construct in a reasonably workmanlike manner, and/or in accordance with a buyer’s reasonable expectation.” The most dangerous defects have the capacity to fail, resulting in physical injury or damage to people or property.

Some examples of a potentially dangerous construction defect include things that can cause physical injury or damage to the property, things like:

  • Structural issues related to hold downs (the brackets that tie the concrete to the framing)
  • Improper design details of roof, curtain wall, or window assemblies
  • Foundational cracks in concrete
  • Moisture or water intrusion resulting in mold and mildew

According to IRMI, many defects aren’t dangerous but can cause harm in the form of deprecation in the value of the property and extra expenses. For example:

  • Sloping floor substrates
  • Cracks in walls or even mechanical or plumbing systems caused by overloading the structure

Turns out, it is four years. The statute of limitations for construction defect disputes in Florida is defined in Florida Statute §95.11(3)(c). Under the law an owner has four years to initiate a lawsuit, with the clock starting on the latest of the following four dates:

  1. The date the owner took possession of the property
  2. The date the certificate of occupancy was issued by the building department
  3. If the project was not completed, the date the project was abandoned by the contractor, or
  4. The date the contractor’s contract was terminated by the owner.

However, if the construction defect is latent (not readily visible or obvious), the statute of limitations commences on the date the latent defect was discovered. But, according to the statute, under no circumstances can an owner initiate a lawsuit more than ten years after the dates/factors identified above. This 10-year cap is referred to as the Statute of Repose.

If you are considering filing a construct defect claim or if you are a contractor, subcontractor or supplier facing a defect claim, give us a call. Florida Consultants’ thorough and expert knowledge of handling a construction defect claim in Florida can help you along the way.

Apr 262013

Gov Scott Approves Design Professional Limitation of Liability Act

Governor Scott signed into law the “Design Professional Limitation of Liability Act.” This new law gives design professionals immunity from tort damages as long as the services are being rendered as part of a professional services contract that has specific waiver language written into the contract. The design professionals affected are licensed engineers, interior designers, surveyors, architects, landscape architects, and geologists. The act takes effect on July 1, 2013.

Required Waiver in Florida Professional Services Contracts

Needless to say, any licensed design professionals who practice in the state of Florida should familiarize themselves with the act and its specific requirements. For example, in order to be able to enforce the protections of the new act, your professional services contract must “include a prominent statement, in uppercase font that is at least 5 point sizes larger than the rest of the text, that, pursuant to this section, an individual employee or agent may not be held individually liable for negligence.” It’s unlikely that the new law will be applied to professional service contracts entered into before the law takes affect because they do not contain this required waiver.

Bill Summary – SB 286

Design Professional Limitation of Liability Act

The following is the Bill Summary from the Florida Senate web site:

The bill permits a design professional employed by a business entity, or an agent of the entity, to be immune from tort liability for damages occurring within the course and scope of the performance of a professional services contract if:

The contract is made between the business entity and a claimant or another entity for the provision of services to the claimant;
The contract does not name an individual employee or agent as a party to the contract;
The contract prominently states that an individual employee or agent may not be held individually liable for negligence;
The business entity maintains any professional liability insurance required under the contract; and
Any damages are solely economic in nature and do not extend to persons or property not subject to the contract.