Statute of Repose Bars Claims Against Contractors

Posted by: Hilger Hammond On: 16th September 2013 | no responses.

airplaneBy Aileen Leipprandt

Contractors can breathe a sigh of relief as a recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case underscores that repair work does not serve to extend the time for filing claims for defective construction under Michigan’s Statute of Repose.

In Tompkins v Hunt Construction, et al., (6th Cir. August 2013), the Court ruled that claims against contractors for defective construction and repair of a roof at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DWA) should be dismissed based upon Michigan’s Statute of Repose.  In Tompkins, plaintiff was injured when she slipped and fell in a terminal at the DWA.   Tompkins sued a host of defendants, including Hunt Construction Group, the contractor who built the terminal, and Crown Corr, the roofing subcontractor who built the roof of the terminal.  Plaintiff claimed defendants negligently installed and repaired the leaky roof.  Crown’s contract included a ten-year warranty and it occasionally made repairs to the roof until 2005.

Generally speaking, under Michigan’s Statute of Repose (SOR), claims against contractors are barred after six years from the date of substantial completion or acceptance of the improvement.  In Tompkins, Crown completed its work and the terminal became operational in February 2002.  Plaintiff, therefore, was required to bring her claim by February 2008.  She did not file her complaint until December 2008.

To avoid application of the Statute of Repose, plaintiff argued that warranty repair work performed by Crown through 2005 did not relate to the original improvement but instead constituted repairs which were not covered by the SOR.  The lower court disagreed and dismissed the contractors, finding that even when work continues after the date of acceptance or completion, the earlier acceptance date can still control for the purposes of the Statute of Repose.  The court reasoned that the repairs by Crown were clearly within the scope of the original contract, and thus a continuation of the work.  In that respect, the repair work was merely incidental to the earlier installation of the roof.