A recent ruling by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal has clarified the question of whether a negligence claim against a design professional on a construction project is subject to the four-year or two-year statute of limitations set forth in Fla. Stat. §95.11. The Third DCA held that construction-related malpractice suits against design professionals are subject to the four-year rather than two-year statute of limitations.
In Am. Auto. Ins. v. FDH Infrastructure Servs., an engineering firm was sued after a construction accident claimed the lives of three workers during an installation on a nearly 1,000-foot tall telecommunications tower. The lower court granted summary judgment to the engineering firm, finding that the two-year statute of limitations for professional malpractice claims barred the lawsuit. In the ensuing appeal the plaintiff argued that the four-year statute of limitations for construction-related claims should apply instead of the two year, more general statute of limitations.
Prior to this decision, which statute applies was a legal ambiguity which implicated two different statutes of limitations. One sets a period of two years for actions for professional malpractice, other than medical malpractice, and the other provides for four years for any action based on the design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property. The uncertainty resulted in prior conflicting rulings applying each of the two- and four-year statutes.