Statutes of Limitations in Construction Disputes

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In Alabama, construction disputes may be subject to various statutes of limitations. The common Law provides a six-year statute of limitations from the completion of the construction project for contract actions based on a warranty to construct a house in a workmanlike manner. See Mitchell v. Richmond, 754 So.2d 627 (Ala.1999); Kelly v. Alexander, 554 So.2d 343, 345 (Ala. 1989); Stephens v. Creel, 429 So.2d 278 (Ala. 1983); Sims v. Lewis, 374 So.2d 298 (Ala. 1979).

The State of Alabama also has a statutory two-year statute of limitations under Ala. Code § 6-5-221 (1975), which applies to civil actions against builders, architects, or engineers. The statute requires claims to be brought within two years from when the cause of action accrued. A cause of action arises where the damage is latent “at the time the damage or injury is or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have been first discovered, whichever is earlier.” (Ala. Code § 6-5-220(e)). Furthermore, the statute of limitations was amended in 2011 to prohibit any action filed more than seven years after the cause of action accrues. However, this statute only applies to construction done pursuant to architectural or engineering plans, and only to those who, at the time of construction, were licensed as a general contractor in the State of Alabama. Id. at § 6-5-221 (a).

Estoppel may also apply in certain situations where the contractor induced the plaintiff not to file suit, but only certain actions trigger estoppel. The court in Page v. Hale, 472 So.2d 634, 636 (Ala. 1985) held that the mere entry into or continuation of negotiations is generally not enough to toll the statute of limitations. The type of conduct which is sufficient to give rise to an estoppel against pleading the statute of limitations must amount to an affirmative inducement to the claimant to delay bringing action. One can be estopped from asserting the statute of limitations as a defense when they “intentionally or fraudulently misrepresents or conceals information, or specifically states that there is no need to file a lawsuit because he intends to remedy the problem. . .” City of Birmingham v. Cochrane Roofing & Metal Co., Inc., 547 So.2d 1159, 1168 (Ala. 1989) (emphasis added); see also Seybold v. Magnolia Land Co., 376 So.2d 1083, 1085 (Ala. 1979

In conclusion, it is essential for parties involved in construction disputesin Alabama to be aware of the applicable statutes of limitations and potential estoppel issues to avoid any adverse consequences.

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