Ohio’s 10-Year Statute of Repose in Jeopardy
Kegler Brown Construction Newsletter May 1, 1994
Ohio contractors, engineers and architects have long enjoyed a 10-year statute of repose, Ohio Revised Code §2305.131, which basically provided that negligence claims arising from defective construction, completed more than 10 years before, were barred, regardless of when the injury occurred.
However, a recent Franklin County Court of Appeals case, Stewart v. Haughton Elevator (1993), 87 Ohio App. 3d 122, has put this traditional protection from liability for construction completed more than a decade before in jeopardy. In that case, the Court ruled that a person injured by a malfunctioning elevator could sue the elevator contractor even though more than 10 years had passed since the elevator was constructed. The Court held that it would be unconstitutional to allow this statute to bar claims asserted within a "reasonable time" after the injury.
This case means that design professionals and builders may no longer be able to breathe easier once a project has been completed for at least 10 years, in that negligence claims may be asserted more than 10 years after the work was completed so long as they are filed within a reasonable time after the injury occurs.
This also means as a practical matter that design professionals and builders are faced with the hardship of retaining their records for an almost indefinite period of time or risk being unable to defend themselves from a claim that is asserted from construction completed more than a decade earlier.