Design professionals in California, whether they are architects, engineers, consultants or land surveyors, are responsible for complying the specifications that were agreed upon in the project, as well as all local and state building codes.
Where there have been construction defects, either alleged by the homeowner or through a design error, it is important to know the laws that protect design professionals from being sued without having the chance to correct the error, as well as the statutes of limitations for pursuing a claim. Discussing options with legal counsel that is experienced in the defense of construction defect claims can help you to understand your options.
What is S.B. 800?
The S.B.800 statute enacted by California legislature in 2003, also known as the Right to Repair Act, allows homeowners of newly constructed homes to sue for economic damages alone if there are construction defects that are below the standards set forth in the Act, within the statute of limitations. The purpose of the law was to allow homeowners and builders to pursue a non-litigated resolution of claims.
The law stipulates that the homeowner must first file a prelitigation claim that allows the builder or design professional to correct faults within a designated timetable:
Initial inspection within 14 days of acknowledgement of the claim
Second inspection within 40 days of initial inspection
Builder notice to repair within 30 days of final inspection
Homeowner response within 30 days of the builder’s notice
Commencement of repair within 14 days after selection of a contractor
Completion of repair within 120 days
How does the recent SB800 ruling help design professionals?
The recent decision handed down by the California Supreme Court, McMillan Albany LLC v. Superior Court (2018), has handed builders and design construction professionals a win in the sense that S.B. 800 is the exclusive remedy not only for economic loss, but also for property damage that can arise from any construction defects in the original construction.
Design flaws can cause either injury or economic harm, and it is important to be aware of the statutes of limitations regarding both. For defects that diminish the economic value of a home, it is three years, and a statute of repose that prevents future lawsuits from occurring begins after ten years. For injury caused by a defect, the statute of limitations is two years.