Most persons in the construction industry in southern California have a general understanding of statutes of limitation, but very few understand the difference between a statute of limitation and a statute of repose. The distinction is an important feature of California construction law, because, while all civil lawsuits are subject to a statutorily prescribed deadline for bringing the action, the state's statute of repose applies only to lawsuits arising out of defects in construction projects.
Statutes of limitation and repose are intended to provide predictability and fairness in the judicial system by setting time limits for the commencement of various kinds of lawsuits. If the time limit expires before a lawsuit is commenced, the lawsuit is forever barred. For example, a lawsuit to recover damages for personal injury sustained in an auto accident must be commenced within two years of the date of the injury; a claim for fraud must be made within three years.
California's statute of repose applies to "actions for latent deficiency in construction or survey of real property or injury arising out of such deficiency." Any such action must be commenced within ten years of "substantial completion" of the project but in no event more than ten years after the earliest to occur of the following:
- Date of final inspection by the proper public agency
- Date of recording of a valid notice of completion]
- Date of use or occupation of the improvement
- One year after cessation or termination of work on the improvement
The statute applies to claims against architects, designers, contractors, subcontractors, surveyors and others who provide services for construction or improvements to real property.
The law of repose is simple to state, but its application can be complex. Anyone facing a claim or considering filing a claim arising out of an improvement to property will find it helpful to seek the advice of a lawyer who specializes in construction law. Such a consultation can provide a helpful overview of the case and an evaluation of the effect of the statute of repose.
Source: California Code of Civil Procedure §337.15, accessed on Jan. 4, 2015