The Ohio Supreme Court sided with Ohio construction contractors in its highly-anticipated decision issued on July 17, 2019, regarding Ohio’s construction statute of repose in New Riegel Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. Buehrer Group Architecture & Eng., Inc., 2019-Ohio-2851. A full copy of the decision is available here. The Court reversed the Third District Court of Appeals and declared that Ohio’s construction statute of repose applies to both tort and contract actions, providing much needed clarity and finality to construction defect claims against contractors in Ohio. Attorneys Pete Welin, Jason Harley, and John Gambill of McDonald Hopkins’ Construction Law Group represented the Associated General Contractors of Ohio and the Ohio Contractors Association in filing a “friend of the court” brief, urging reversal of the appellate court’s decision and advocating for a ruling that provides clarity and certainty on an issue that construction contractors face regularly.
With this decision, it is clear that Ohio’s construction statute of repose applies to all causes of action, whether sounding in tort or in contract, arising out of a defective and unsafe condition of an improvement to real property. It does not matter when the owner discovers the alleged defect or whether the owner couches its claim as a tort or a breach of contract—the ten year time limitation for bringing such construction defect claim applies. The decision is a clear victory for construction contractors and greatly benefits the construction industry and owners because it lowers the ultimate cost of construction; contractors do not have to pass on the cost of the risk of never-ending liability.
For background information on the New Riegel case and McDonald Hopkins involvement in the matter on behalf of the AGC and OCA, see our post “Construction trade organizations file brief in Ohio Supreme Court on statute of repose.”