Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal Reverses Dismissal of Contract Dispute Based on Statute of Limitations

One of the most important considerations in any lawsuit is the statute of limitations. This law operates to bar certain claims that are not filed within the statutorily defined window. For each type of claim, the state legislature will set a time limit on when it can be filed, usually consisting of a number of years. The statute of limitations runs from the date that the harm occurred or accrued.

However, there are a number of legally recognized doctrines that can affect the statute of limitations. In cases involving personal injury, for example, courts often apply a theory called discovery tolling. Since many individuals are unaware that they have suffered physical injuries related to another party’s malfeasance until a doctor informs them about the injuries, or until the symptoms manifest, it can be hard to know when the wrong has occurred. Under discovery tolling, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the date that the plaintiff knew or should have known that his or her injuries were the result of another person’s negligence.

In the recent case of Riverwalk at Sunrise Homeowners Association v. Biscayne Painting Corporation, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal had the occasion to consider the application of a statute of limitations. In this case, a homeowners association appealed a lower court’s ruling that its negligence claim against defendant Sherwin-Williams was time-barred.

In 2005, the defendant was hired to perform certain painting services for the homeowners association. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant performed these services negligently and that it failed to test and inspect the stucco on the homeowners association’s buildings before it applied the paint and failed to warn the plaintiff that the paint could fail if the stucco was not in appropriate condition. The lower court challenged the plaintiff’s action on the basis that its action against the defendant began to accrue in 2005, when the defendant first inspected the premises, including the stucco. The plaintiff contended that the action did not accrue until 2009, when they discovered that the paint failed to adhere to the stucco.

On appeal, the Fourth District first stated that the event that triggers the statute of limitations is defined as the event that provides notice or knowledge to the injured party that a cause of action is available to him. It is not the date upon which the negligent action took place. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the homeowners association first observed the paint failing in 2009, when it started to crack, flake, chip, and otherwise fall off the buildings. According to the appellate court, this timeframe was when the statute of limitations began to run. Since the plaintiff filed its action within the four-year statute of limitations that applied to this type of claim, the trial court erred in dismissing it on the basis that it was time-barred.

If you believe that you have a cause of action against another individual based on a contract dispute or real property matter, you should consult a Southwest Florida attorney as soon as possible. Determining whether your action is time-barred and how much time you have to file your case is critical to pursuing the settlement or the judgment that you deserve. Representing clients throughout the region, including in Fort Myers, Naples, and Cape Coral, we offer a free consultation to discuss your situation and to help you identify the legal remedies that may be available to you. Call us now at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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