Business Workshop: Contractors need to be aware of law's limits

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Pennsylvania law limits the time someone has to file a claim for certain construction deficiencies against a builder to 12 years. This limit is called the "statute of repose."

Unfortunately for Pennsylvania builders, there are circumstances in which this time period may be extended, or may not apply at all. Some of the more frequent reasons to extend or waive the statute of repose include:

• An injury occurs near the end of the 12-year period, which may allow the time period to be further extended.

• If the contractor engages in fraud, concealment or misrepresentation.

• When the work fails to comply with regulations and codes, at least according to one federal court's interpretation of the Pennsylvania statute of repose. This interpretation is particularly problematic for builders and contractors. Codes are designed to apply in many different situations and the language they use often leaves room for interpretation.

Some have also argued that the statute of repose does not apply when a contractor or subcontractor is not properly licensed.

Certainly running an ethical business and complying with relevant code provisions are musts if a builder wants to minimize lawsuits for construction deficiencies. A general knowledge of Pennsylvania's statute of repose and exceptions can guide contractors in effectively managing risks that may arise after work has been completed.

But if a letter threatening a lawsuit arrives, contractors should consult with an experienced construction lawyer familiar with Pennsylvania construction laws.

-- Brandon Rothey, Meyer, Unkovic & Scott, bbr@muslaw.com

legalnews

Business workshop is a weekly feature from local experts offering tidbits on matters affecting business. To contribute, contact Business Editor Brian Hyslop at bhyslop@post-gazette.com.


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