Commercial Construction

Can parties waive both the commencement and length of the statutory limitation periods for construction defect actions?  Yes, answered the Fourth Appellate District, by allowing the parties to contractually preclude the application of the “delayed discovery” rule that normally triggers the commencement of the limitation time period and affirming case law permitting the shortening of the 10-year latent limitation period to four years.  The court did hold, however, that such waiver and shortening is permitted where there are sophisticated parties, in a commercial context, and perhaps that the contract must even be highly negotiated (or at least such negotiation is available).

On June 3, 2013, in Brisbane Lodging, L.P. v. Webcor Builders, Inc. (Cal. Ct. App., June 3, 2013, No. A132555) 2013 WL 2404154, the appellate court reviewed the trial judge’s granting of summary judgment in favor of the general contractor (“Webcor”) on the grounds that a provision in the 1997 version of the AIA 201 (General Conditions to the prime agreement between Owner and Contractor) unambiguously barred all claims, contract and tort, brought more than four years after substantial completion of the project, rather than four years after the Owner discovered the alleged breach or defect and within the 10-year statute of repose.  The key language for both the trial court and the appellate court was found in provision 13.7:

“13.7 Commencement of Statutory Limitation Period

“13.7.1 As between the Owner and Contractor:

“.1 Before Substantial Completion. As to acts or failures to act occurring prior to the relevant date of Substantial Completion, any applicable statute of limitations shall commence to run and any alleged cause of action shall be deemed to have accrued in any and all events not later than such date of Substantial Completion ….” (AIA A201, Article 13.7.1.1 (Article 13.7.1.1), bolding and capitalization omitted.)