Changes to Florida’s statute of limitations: Effect on construction defect claims

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Florida House Bill No. 837, executed by Gov. DeSantis on March 24, 2023, changes the statute of limitations on negligence claims in the state of Florida. The bill amends Florida Statutes section 95.11(3) to remove actions “founded on negligence” from the four-year statute of limitations. General negligence claims are now subject to the two-year statute of limitations prescribed in section 95.11(4).

Construction practitioners should be aware of this change, as it may affect general negligence actions that accrue after the effective date of the bill. The four-year statute of limitations still applies to actions founded on the “design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property” which is re-codified at section 95.11(3)(b). In the past, however, some practitioners have argued that actions against design professionals should be subject to the two-year statute of limitations governing actions for professional malpractice.

Many courts have rejected this theory, holding that the more specific four-year statute of limitations outlined in section 95.11(3)(b) (former subsection (3)(c)) applies. See Kelley v. School Bd. Of Seminole County, 435 So.2d 804 (Fla. 1983) (holding that statute specific to design, planning or construction is more applicable to a “case involving a suit between an owner and its architect”); see also Toledo Park Homes v. Grant, 447 So.2d 343, 344 (Fla. 4th DCA 1984) (holding that statute of limitations on actions for professional malpractice is inapplicable to claims for professional malpractice against a land surveyor).

While H.B. 837 does not specifically explain how the amendment will affect general negligence claims related to design, planning, or construction, practitioners can anticipate that courts will rely on prior decisions interpreting the conflict between the pre-existing two-year statute of limitations on claims for professional malpractice and the more specific four-year statute of limitations related to construction and design claims. Owners and contractors should likewise be aware of the potential statute of limitations issues that may arise before courts fully address this issue.

Parties must act quickly when they discover potential issues on a project site.  or more insight, please contact our construction team.

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