News in Construction Defect Litigation

Cristina Pierson, Attorney, Kelley | Uustal

If you are considering filing a lawsuit arising from construction defects on your project, be aware that deadlines will be strictly applied when they relate to certain conditions, like a leaking roof, that are deemed open and obvious to a property owner.

In 2019, the Third District Court of Appeal found in its decision in Covenant Baptist Church Inc., et al. v. Vasallo Construction, 273 So. 2d 236 (2019), that Florida law called for strict enforcement of the 4-year statute of limitation for claims based on a leaking roof.  Generally, cases involving the design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property must be filed within four (4) years from the end of the project or from discovery of a latent (hidden) defect, if later.  See Fla. Stat. §95.11(3)©.  But in this case, the leaking roof was not a hidden defect, and even if the owner did not know the specific cause of the leaks, the statute of limitations began to run.  In that regard, the Court concluded that the roof leaks were apparent, obvious, and known to the owner which therefore triggered the start of clock to file suit at the time of the first roof leak.  Because the lawsuit was filed more than four years later, the church was barred from proceeding with its legal action against its contractor for damages. 

So whether it is water intrusion from a roof, window, or mechanical system, keep in mind that the legal time clock to file suit will likely start to run once the owner has knowledge of the leaks.  Although there may be repair efforts involved, the time is still ticking.  To avoid legal trouble later, do not delay in seeking assistance from an experienced construction litigator when the construction problems first surface. 

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