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Florida Court Finds Plaintiff’s Claim Against Homebuilder Was Time-Barred

Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida personal injury case involving the state’s statute of repose for claims related to the “design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property.” Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s claim fit within the statute’s reach, and was no longer viable under the applicable statute of repose.

Statutes of repose are similar to statutes of limitations in that they limit the time a plaintiff has to file a claim. However, unlike a statute of limitations, a statute of repose is not subject to tolling or extensions. Thus, a statute of repose can bar a plaintiff’s claim even if the plaintiff does not know of the alleged defect until after the statute has expired.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff purchased a home from the defendant home builder on May 7, 2004. On June 6, 2012, the plaintiff was climbing into the attic to repair a leak when the attic stairs collapsed. The plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against the home builder, claiming that it was negligent for “failing to ensure that the attic ladder was installed in a secure manner” and “failing to verify that the ladder was secure before selling the home.”

In its defense, the home builder cited Florida Statutes section 95.11(3)(c), which provides a four-year statute of limitations for any “action founded on the design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property.” That statute provides several mechanisms for determining when the four-year period begins; however, the statute also provides that “in any event, the action must be commenced within 10 years after the date of actual possession by the owner.”

The plaintiff argued that his case was unaffected by the statute of repose because fastening a pre-assembled ladder did not involve the “design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property”. The plaintiff also argued that the ladder did not add significant value to the home.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments and dismissed his claim as time-barred under the statute of repose. The court explained that the attic ladder added utility because it prevents the needs to keep a ladder around for accessing the attic. The court also noted that there was no requirement that the defendant show the ladder added significant value to the home. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff could not pursue his claim because it was filed after the statute of repose had expired.

Have You Been Hurt by a Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one recently suffered a severe injury due to a dangerous or defective product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida product liability lawsuit. At our South Florida personal injury law firm, Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims in a wide range of personal injury claims, including Florida slip and fall cases, car accidents, and wrongful death claims. To learn more about the services we provide, call 877-448-8585 to schedule your free, no-risk consultation today. Calling is free, and because we work on a contingency fee basis, we will not bill you for our services unless we can help you obtain compensation for your injuries.

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