The Connecticut Legislature recently introduced a bill that would subject the State to a ten year statute of repose for claims against design professionals for defective design and/or administration of construction projects.
The proposed bill is in response to the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in the case of State of Connecticut v. Lombardo Brothers Mason Contractors, Inc., et al., 307 Conn. 106 (2012), where the Court held that claims by the state or its political subdivisions are not subject to statutes of limitation or repose under the ancient doctrine of nullum tempus occurrit regi (no time runs against the king). In Lombardo, the state brought an action against numerous parties seeking damages for the allegedly defective design and construction of the library at the University of Connecticut School of Law. The state’s action was commenced approximately 12 years after the project had been completed. In response to the defendants’ contention that the state’s claims were barred by various statutes of limitation, the court applied the nullum tempus doctrine to hold that the state’s claims were not subject to any statute of limitations. Thus, under Lombardo, there is no time limit on the state’s assertion of claims for defective design or construction.
Senate Bill No. 1032, entitled “An Act Concerning the Applicability of the Statutes of Limitations to Construction and Design Actions Brought by the State or a Political Subdivision of the State” would amend General Statutes Section 52-584a, which presently contains a seven year statute of repose running from the date of substantial completion for claims against design professionals for deficiencies in the original design or construction administration of a project. The amendment would add a provision expressly subjecting the state to the statue and providing that any claim by the state that accrues after October 1, 2015 must be brought no more than ten years after substantial completion.
Significantly, the bill’s title is a misnomer. Although it purports to address the applicability of statutes of limitations to “construction and design actions,” as presently drafted, the bill only applies to claims against design professionals. Claims by the state against contractors and sureties for defective construction would still be exempt from the applicable statutes of limitations under the nullum tempus doctrine. In order to subject the state to statutes of limitations for claims related to defective or incomplete construction, additional statues of limitations would need to be amended to expressly subject the state to their provisions. While the present bill has generally been supported by the construction, design, insurance and surety industries, industry groups have sought to expand the bill’s reach beyond claims against design professionals, to also include claims against construction firms and sureties.