Statute of Limitations on Construction Lawsuits in California

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It is essential that a contractor follows and maintains certain standards when constructing a building or when performing repairs or improvements on a property. If the contractor fails to keep up with such standards or performs the job in a defective manner, then the property owner might seek compensation for the damages by filing a construction defect lawsuit. An experienced litigation lawyer can help the property owner in finding the best approach to file the construction lawsuit in such a scenario. However, it should be noted that there are some strict deadlines that the property owner must meet in order to file a claim, otherwise, the lawsuit can be barred by the court.

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations refers to the law enacted by the federal or state authorities that sets a defined time period to file a lawsuit for a specific cause of action. For instance, the statute of limitations regarding a wrongful death lawsuit is set at two years from the date of the death of the person. This law is enforced to make sure that the claim is brought forth in time so that the pieces of evidence relevant to the case can be easily collected and presented in the court. Note that if the plaintiff fails to file the lawsuit within the period set by the statute of limitations for the particular case, he/she cannot pursue any compensation for the same.

Statute of Repose

A statute of repose works just like the statute of limitations by setting a deadline to file the claim. However, the time period to file the lawsuit is determined by the statute of repose based on a particular event. For instance, the law might establish a deadline for construction lawsuits based on the completion of the project. The plaintiff needs to comply with the deadline set by the statute of repose, as the contractor would not have any potential liability related to the construction project once the permitted time period is over.

Filing a Construction Lawsuit in California

The time limit to file a lawsuit for construction defects usually depends upon the cause of action asserted by the property owner. Generally, breach of contract, breach of an implied warranty, negligence, fraud, nuisance, and strict liability are the main causes of action cited in a construction defect lawsuit. As each of the causes of action would need different elements to prove the fault of the defendant, it would affect the deadline set by the statute of limitations for the case.

The common time period to file a claim for construction damages set by the statute of limitations in case of a breach of contract is four years. However, this applies to written contracts only; for oral agreements, the statute of limitations would be two years. The deadline starts at the time the contractor commits the breach. Sometimes, the property owner might not be aware of the breach of contract or construction damages for a while. In such cases, the statute of limitations deadline might start from the date on which the property owner discovered the problem.

In the case of negligence or strict liability, the statute of limitations sets the time limit based on the type of injury sustained by the victim. For instance, if the negligence of the contractor led to the wrongful death of the victim, the statute of limitations would give a two-year time limit to file the lawsuit. The same deadline also applies to cases of a bodily injury, while property damage claims might have a three-year time limit under the statute of limitations to seek compensation for the losses.

It is important to note that there are two statutes of repose in California that apply to construction defect lawsuits. The first one is applicable to defects related to the specifications, design, planning, observation, supervising, surveying, or construction of the property. For claims regarding such construction defects, the deadline set by the statute of repose is four years which starts from the date of completion of the project. It can also apply to a patent defect, which includes a clear mistake by the contractor that could be discovered during an inspection of the property. In case the construction defect led to an injury or property damage in the fourth year after the completion of the project, then the lawsuit can be filed within one year from the date of the injury or property damage.

The second statute of repose for construction defect lawsuits in California sets the deadline based on the latent defect. Here, the plaintiff can bring forth a claim for the construction defect within ten years of completion of the project. Although this law does not limit the actions for personal injuries, it affects the insurance claims filed against the defendant. That being said, the defendant can also file a cross-complaint for an insurance claim if he/she is being sued by the property owner after the statute of repose of ten years.

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