October 19, 2012 Articles

Statutes of Repose Present Interpretive Challenges statutes of repose.

Courts confront difficult issues regarding when the statute is triggered and how to handle apportionment problems

by Alexander X. Saunders

Practically all states have a statute of repose limiting actions based on improvements to realty. Statutes of repose extinguish any liability after the passing of a certain number of years regardless of whether a cause of action has accrued and, therefore, they act as outer limits for actions against contractors, engineers, and architects. Companies in the construction industry are afforded a measure of finality for any potential claims arising out of construction projects completed long ago by operation of the statutes of repose.

Some of the most challenging issues that arise in connection with the statute of repose are determining when the statute of repose begins to run and resolving apportionment issues when some but not all potentially liable parties are protected by the statute of repose. The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, has recently issued a pair of rulings on these precise issues. Both of these cases have been appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court and practitioners should pay close attention to the way these thorny issues are handled by the court.

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