Statutes of Repose in Washington, D.C. Construction Accident Claims

When someone buys a home, especially one that is newly built, they assume that it will be safe. However, that is not always the case. Construction companies routinely cut corners as they approach deadlines, or as other jobs start coming in. On occasion, these shortcuts will affect the structural integrity of the home or the home’s safety.

Generally, home builders can be responsible when someone is hurt as a result of their negligence through a Washington, D.C. personal injury case. However, under D.C. Code § 12–310, there is a ten-year statute of repose that applies to these claims. A statute of repose is a law that imposes a deadline by which a plaintiff must file their claim. Unlike a statute of limitation, a statute of repose cannot be tolled or extended, even if the plaintiff has no idea they may have a case against the defendant until the statute has expired.

D.C. Code § 12–310 provides that claims resulting from the defective or unsafe condition of an improvement to real property must be filed “within the ten-year period beginning on the date the improvement was substantially completed.” A recent state appellate decision illustrates how courts analyze construction claims.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was repairing a leak in his attic when the attic stairs collapsed. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the construction company that built the home. The claim was filed more than ten years after the plaintiff purchased the home.

The home builder argued that the ten-year statute of repose barred the plaintiff’s case. In response, the plaintiff asked the court not to apply the statute of repose. The plaintiff claimed that the fastening of a pre-assembled ladder does not constitute an “improvement to real property.”

The court noted that the ladder did not need to be permanent nor did it need to significantly add to the value of the house to be considered an “improvement.” The court explained that the ladder unquestionably added utility, in that it eliminated the need for the plaintiff to carry a ladder to and from the attic opening each time he wanted to access the attic. The court also pointed out that the plaintiff paid an additional $249 for the attic ladder when contracting with the home builder. For these reasons, the court held that the plaintiff’s case was subject to the ten-year statute of repose.

Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Construction Accident?

If you or someone you love recently suffered injury as a result of a Washington, D.C. construction accident, contact the personal injury advocates at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, for assistance. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we provide injury victims and their families with exceptional representation in all types of personal injury claims across Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Our attorneys know the difficulties accident victims face during recovery, and make the process as smooth as possible. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 800-654-1949 to schedule a free consultation today.

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