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What is the statute of repose?

In legal cases, there is often a statute of limitations. This limits the amount of time someone can start a case after the event occurs. In some areas, such as medical malpractice, there are often limits set based on when the person discovered the injury (or should have done so), so that statute of limitation is not always immediately obvious. 

The same basic idea is used in construction defect cases. In California, you have the following statutes of limitations:

  • Contracts: 4 years
  • Personal injury: 2 years
  • Property damage: 3 years

However, there is another limit, known as the “statute of repose.” After this, no matter when a person discovers an issue, they cannot start a lawsuit. This puts a hard cap on it so that design professionals don’t have to worry about getting sued for a home they built 20 years ago. California law notes that the statute of repose after substantial completion is four years, while the statute for latent defects is 10 years. 

In home and building design, the idea of a statute of repose makes a lot of sense because these are things that wear down over time. Say that a client notices that their roof is leaking. If that happens a month after the home was completed, they may have a case that it was due to a defect. If it happens 10 years later, though, perhaps the roof just wore down over time or after significant storms. It becomes harder to tell what happened and makes no sense to allow litigation forever. 

Those who get accused need to know these timeframes and also their legal options