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Florida legislature changes construction defect deadline

A Florida law recently signed by Gov. Rick Scott is designed to give developers and contractors extra time to address construction defects lawsuits. The concern was that some firms facing a construction or design defect suit would have little or no time to respond to claims filed just before the 10-year deadline.

Under the law signed a little over a month ago, developers and contractors get up to a year to file counterclaims, cross-claims or third-party claims. The law applies to actions that begin after July 1 of this year. The new measure requires pass-through claims in existent lawsuits to be filed before July 1.

Many observers believe that House Bill 875 will have a significant impact on construction defects litigation in our state. Obviously, a number of parties can have interests in these disputes, including a property owner, general contractor, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors, material suppliers, product manufacturers and others.

In the case of a design or construction defect, it might not be immediately apparent to the developer the need for a cross-claim or third party claim until litigation and discovery are underway. The 10-year deadline can in some cases allow too little "time to investigate a claim to identify subcontractors who actually performed the work a plaintiff claims is defective," a recent news report states.

Under existing law, a developer or contractor facing a defects lawsuit on a 2008 building might have just weeks (or even less) to identify subcontractors, suppliers, manufacturers, etc., who were responsible for the alleged defects.

These matters are clearly complex. An attorney experienced in construction defects litigation can help make the impact of the new law clear in your particular circumstances.

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