As I stepped out of the shower this morning, something stuck to the bottom of my foot. It was Florida. Actually, it was the puzzle piece of Florida from my daughter's USA puzzle map. I chuckled because yesterday afternoon I found this map on various statutes of limitations and repose for the entire country (pdf).
What is a statute of repose? A statute of repose provides a date upon which the legal action no longer exists . . . and here is the kicker . . . whether it has accrued by that date or not. In other words, for a construction defect case, there may be an applicable statute of limitations that says the property damage claim is barred if not brought within three years of discovery of the injury. If the defect is not discovered in the new building until seven years after completion, then the claim would not be barred by the statute of limitations. However, the statute of repose for a particular jurisdiction may be five years and the the claim could not be brought after five years from completion of the project.
What is the law statute of repose in Tennessee? In Tennessee, claims regarding improvements to real property must be brought within four years of substantial completion of the project, regardless of the date of discovery. There is an exception if the claim is discovered during the fourth year after completion. In this case, the claim must be brought within one year after discovery, or within five years after substantial completion of a project.
Statutes of repose are puzzling because the rules vary markedly from state to state. As shown on the Construction Defects Statutes of Limitation and Repose map, each jurisdiction varies on the applicable limitations periods. Some states like New Mexico have a ten-year statute of repose, while others have shorter periods. Additionally, some allow for a discovery extension, while others do not.
Here's a tip! One of the most important things you can do when you find out you have a potential construction dispute is to review your contracts and applicable limitations periods to determine the timeliness of your claim.