Almost everyone in California’s construction industry is familiar with the idea that they can be held liable for defects in their work. This can be true for architects and designers, as well as contractors and subcontractors, surveyors and others involved in the construction. Unfortunately, it’s less clear how long this liability can last. The statute of limitations for construction defects is complicated.
A legal deadline
A statute of limitations presents a kind of legal deadline. For instance, in a personal injury lawsuit arising from a car accident, the statute of limitations in California generally gives the injured party two years to make a claim. This means the injured party will likely be barred from filing suit against the other party unless they do so within two years of the accident.
Most types of civil claims have a statute that imposes a time limit, but some provide more time than others. For some claims, the clock starts ticking on the day a problem begins, such as the day of a car accident. For other claims, the clock starts ticking the day the injured party learns about the problem.
Patent and latent defects
Under California’s construction defect laws, the statute of limitations can vary widely depending on the circumstances. For instance, the law gives different deadlines for what it calls patent and latent defects. A patent defect is one that was apparent or easily detected. The injured party has a four-year statute of limitations to make a claim on a patent defect. A latent defect is hidden. The statute of limitations for claims based on latent defects is 10 years.
Other factors complicate matters further. For instance, if a person is physically injured due to a patent defect in the fourth year, the statute of limitations is extended another year. In other words, even if a person is injured due to a patent defect 4 years and 10 months after the property owner took possession of the property, when the deadline has passed, the injured party can still file a claim.
There are many other exceptions and limitations. Those involved in the construction industry can speak to a lawyer with experience in construction law to understand their liability issues.