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If You Build It:
News for Design & Construction Professionals

Should New York Adopt a Statute of Repose?

Published by ​​Jessica Rothman on July 25, 2013

Question for the day: Should New York adopt a statute of repose to define a time limitation for legal actions related to injury or death caused by defective or unsafe improvements to real property?

This question is pertinent because New York is one of very few states where there is no statute of repose for construction claims. And matters arise regularly where the absence of a time limitation makes a significant difference in the outcome of the case.

A statute of repose could change that.

A statute of repose, like a statute of limitation, cuts off certain legal rights if they are not acted on by a certain deadline. A statute of repose is triggered by the completion of an act, while a statute of limitations is triggered by an injury.

In the construction world, a statute of repose would be triggered when a construction project is "substantially completed. Beginning then, the statute would limit the time frame in which negligence claims could be made. A statute of repose is a powerful tool for defendants because it imposes an absolute baror deadlinefor lawsuits arising from claims of defective real-property improvements against architects, professional engineers and contractors, among others.

Without a statute of repose in place, negligence claims may be brought indefinitely against design professionals and contractors, leaving them exposed to third parties negligence claims forever.*

Which is a very long time.

*Note: A cause of action for negligence and one brought by a third party (not the owner of a building) against a design professional or contractor is governed by a 3 year statute of limitations, and the cause of action does not accrue until the injury occurs. There is also an additional notice requirement for claims against design professionals arising out of injuries that occur more than 10 years after the completion of construction. However, despite this expedited procedure for 10+-year claims, design professionals and contractors remain exposed to third parties negligence claims indefinitely after project completion.

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