On April 13, 2023, Senate Bill 360 was signed into law by Florida Governor DeSantis. This bill makes changes to Florida Statute 95.11(3), which addresses when a lawsuit can be brought in relation to the design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property.
The bill shortens the statute of repose for construction defect claims from ten (10) years to seven (7) years. In short, a statute of repose extinguishes a potential plaintiff’s right to pursue causes of action related to the construction of an improvement after the expiration of a certain period of time. While there may be some limited exceptions, in Florida and many other states, the running of the statute of repose functions as an absolute bar for bringing a claim in any way related to the construction of an improvement. Accordingly, shortening that time frame is a meaningful change for the construction industry.
The prior version of the statute provided that the 10-year clock would not start running until the latest of several triggering events occurred. The new version provides that the 7-year time frame starts running at the earliest of the date the authority having jurisdiction issues a (1) temporary certificate of occupancy, (2) a certificate of occupancy, (3) a certificate of completion; or (4) the date of abandonment of construction if not completed. Further, if the improvement consists of the design, planning, or construction of multiple buildings, each building must be considered its own improvement for purposes of determining when the statute of repose clock starts running, as to that building.
The amendments took effect on the date the bill was signed, meaning that they apply to any cause of action commenced on or after April 13, 2023, regardless of when the cause of action accrued. One exception is for actions that would not have been barred under the old version of the law. Such actions will need to be commenced on or before July 1, 2024 or be barred.
While the scale of the impact of these changes remains to be seen, owners and contractors alike should be aware of them and plan accordingly.