Worried About Old Projects?
On July 17, 2019, in a case captioned New Riegel Local School Dist. Bd. Of Edn. v. Buehrer Group Architecture & Eng., Inc., the Ohio Supreme Court held that Ohio’s 10-year construction statute of repose is not limited to tort (i.e. negligence) actions, but also applies to contract claims. So what does this mean for contractors and design professionals? Well, because Ohio’s state agencies are not subject to Ohio’s 8-year breach of contract statute of limitations, there was never a time limit on their construction claims. Thus, the State of Ohio was able to bring claims against contractors and design professional 8, 10 or even 15 years after the project was completed. This is no small matter as state agencies are major builders in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Transportation awards billions of dollars in construction work
every year and The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission awards hundreds of millions. To make matters worse, these stale claims are typically the most costly and time consuming due to key witnesses being unavailable and critical documents having long ago been lost or destroyed.
Although not specifically decided by the majority, the New Reigel decision should now bar state agencies like ODOT and the OFCC from filing suit on stale claims older than 10 years after a project’s substantial completion. Thus, contractors and design professionals may rest easier knowing that there is at long last a final and predictable end to all potential construction claims on a project.
New Riegel Local School Dist. Bd. Of Edn. v. Buehrer Group Architecture & Eng., Inc., Slip Opinion No. 2019-Ohio-2851.
Author: Alan Dailide is an attorney in the Frantz Ward Construction Group. He can be reached at 216-515-1645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.