Section 6-5-225

Time for commencement of action against architects, engineers, and builders.

(a) It is the purpose and intent of the Legislature in connection with all actions against architects and engineers, who perform or furnish the design, planning, specifications, testing, supervision, administration, or observation of the construction of an improvement on or to real property, and builders who construct, perform, or manage the construction of an improvement on or to real property designed by and constructed under the supervision, administration or observation of, or in accordance with the plans and specifications prepared by, an architect or engineer, to limit the time for commencement of an action to a period of two years from the date a cause of action accrues and to bar all causes of action and rights of action which accrue more than seven years after substantial completion of such improvement. The Legislature finds that this classification distinguishing architects, engineers, and builders is rationally and reasonably related to the legislative regulatory scheme and is valid. The Legislature has declared that the practices of architecture and engineering are subject to regulation and control in the public interest and has established high professional standards which must be met by architects and engineers to qualify them to practice architecture and engineering in the State of Alabama. These requirements imposed by the Legislature make the practices of architecture and engineering learned professions fully regulated and accountable to the state and members of the public. Regulation has also been imposed by the Legislature upon general contractors who construct such improvements on or to real property. Builders distinguished in this article are those licensed as general contractors who construct, or perform or manage the construction of, such improvements designed by and constructed under the supervision, administration or observation of, or in accordance with the plans and specifications prepared by an architect or engineer.

(b) This article bears a reasonable relationship to the proposed legislative objective of limiting the period of liability for architects and engineers and builders whose professional services or work on improvements to real property generally ends at the time of substantial completion of the improvement. While protecting architects and engineers from exposure to liabilities for injuries and damages occurring long after the completion of their professional architectural and engineering services and builders as defined from exposure to liabilities for injuries and damages occurring long after the completion of their work, the article imposes no unfair burden on the injured party for he or she is still afforded an avenue of legal action to seek redress from those who are more likely to have been responsible for or could have prevented such injury.

(c) It is the legislative intent and purpose to establish a single period of limitation for all civil actions, whether in tort, contract, or otherwise, commenced against architects and engineers and builders, which limitation period is two years from the date the cause of action accrues. This limitation period is equally applicable to actions in tort which currently must be commenced within two years from the date injury occurs, and those founded on contract which currently may be commenced within two years for oral contracts, six years for written contracts, or ten years for written contracts under seal after the completion of the contract work. The proposed two-year statute provides a uniform period of two years for filing all causes of action against architects in tort, contract, or otherwise, but provides that the statute of limitation does not commence until the time of injury or damage, which extends the commencement of the time for filing contract actions, or where latent or by its nature not reasonably discovered, does not commence until the time of discovery thereby applying for the first time to both these tort and contractual actions, the so-called "discovery rule." These changes accrue to the benefit of the injured party, and the Legislature finds that this benefit constitutes an adequate quid pro quo for abolishing rights of action which have not accrued within seven years of substantial completion of their work.

(d) It is the further legislative objective to provide for the abolishing of rights of action against architects and engineers and builders which would have accrued after the passage of seven years from the substantial completion of the construction of an improvement on or to real property, except rights of action for breach of written express warranties, contracts, or indemnities which extend beyond seven years. Where causes of action accrue during the seven years from completion, an action may be brought within two years of accrual even though this extends beyond the seven-year period. This permits all injured parties a period of two years to file suit unless already barred because the cause of action accrues after the passage of seven years, which would in certain circumstances permit the filing of an action up to nine years after the completion of the improvement (or up to two years after the expiration of written express warranties, contracts, or indemnities).

(e) The legislative objective of abolishing potential liabilities of architects and engineers and builders after the passage of a sufficient period of time from the completion of their work is rationally and reasonably related to the permissible state objective of removing responsibility from, and preventing suit against these regulated professions and builders which are least likely to be responsible or at fault for defects and deficiencies which cause injury long after their services or work is completed. The Legislature has deemed that, after a lapse of time of more than seven years without incident, the burden on the courts to adjudicate, the complexities of proof with the obstacle of faded memories, unavailable witnesses and lost evidence, and even where evidence is available, the opportunity for intervening factors such as acts or omissions of others in inadequate maintenance, improper use, intervening alterations, improvements and services, and other negligence, and such as changes in standards for design and construction and changes in building codes, and the burden on architects and engineers and builders, who have no control over the improvements after their services are completed, to disprove responsibility after acceptance and years of possession by other parties, all weigh more heavily in favor of repose or the abolishing of rights of action against architects and engineers and builders than allowing adjudication of the few, if any, meritorious claims which might have accrued thereafter. The Legislature finds that the burden of tenuous claims upon both the courts and architects and engineers and builders sufficiently vindicates the denial of a right of action after the passage of a period of seven years from the substantial completion of the construction of the improvement.

(Acts 1994, No. 94-138, p. 183, §6; Act 2011-519, p. 830, §1.)