Supreme Court Applies Statute of Repose to Contracts in Significant Precedent in Favor of Design Professionals
Construction Conversation Special Bulletin:
A service of Luther L. Liggett, Graff & McGovern, LPA
The Ohio Supreme Court has overturned a Court of Appeals, by enforcing Ohio’s Statute of Repose for litigation involving design professional contracts.
In 2015, a local School District filed a lawsuit against its architect arising from alleged negligent design for the construction of a K-12 school building which was completed nearly thirteen years earlier in 2002.
The School argued that the Statute of Repose does not apply to actions for breach of contract, but only for personal injury actions (“tort”).
The School further argued that the Statute of Repose does not apply to the State, and that the contracts are State contracts due to the State funding of the construction.
Noting that prior case law limiting the statute of repose to negligence, the Supreme Court found that the new statute is different and broader, such that prior court interpretations did not apply.
The Court found that the current Statute of Repose, R.C. 2305.131, limiting actions to 10 years after “substantial completion” or related to “warranty” are only conditions found in a contract, not in a duty for a negligence claim.
The Court further acknowledged the Amicus Brief of AIA Ohio and the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers, in that the opposing party admitted that all design work is performed pursuant to contract.
This is a significant precedent in favor of Architects and Engineers, who may be sued for breach of contract within a discovery period of a statute of limitations, but nevertheless need not face liability more than a decade after performance.