Architectural company involved in SIUE design work seeks summary judgment on statute of repose

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Apr 30, 2014

An architectural company involved in the design of a Southern University of Illinois-Edwardsville building has moved for summary judgment in a personal injury suit based on the Illinois Construction Statute of Repose.

Plaintiff Joy Tedford claims she was injured on Feb. 2, 2011, when a sheet of ice fell off the roof of the engineering building at SIUE. She filed a lawsuit on June 25, 2012 bringing negligence claims against several defendants, including FGM Architects Inc., which designed the building.

Plaintiff Gary Tedford then filed a lawsuit against FGM on March 25, 2014, alleging loss of consortium.

However, FGM argues in its motion for summary judgment, filed April 17, that claims are barred because FGM’s design work was completed more than 10 years ago.

According to the motion, FGM’s design work for the project was completed by March 16, 1998, and construction was finished by the fall of 2000 when SIUE occupied and began teaching classes in the buildings.

In support of its argument for summary judgment, FGM states that the statute of repose bars all claims against design and construction professionals unless the claim accrues within 10 years of the negligent act or omission complained of.

It added that the statute of repose is different from the statute of limitations, stating that the former is an “absolute bar” for any lawsuits accruing more than 10 years after the alleged negligent act or omission.

While the statute of limitations is governed by the discovery rule, the statute of repose is applied whether the plaintiff knew or should have known about the allegations.

Simply put, “once the 10 years have run, new claims are completely barred,” FGM explained.

“The statute of repose serves ‘to curtail the long tail of liability that results from the discovery rule’ and ‘gives effect to a policy different from that advanced by a period of limitations; the purpose of a statute of repose is to impose a cap on the applicability of the discovery rule so that the outer limit terminates the possibility of liability after a definite period of time, regardless of a potential plaintiff’s lack of knowledge of his cause of action,’” FGM added.

In the case at hand, Joy Tedford alleged three acts of negligent design omission by FGM:

-Failure to include ice blocks or dams in the design for the roof.
-Failure to include sufficient room between the buildings and the sidewalk.
-Failure to include anything in the design to reduce the danger of falling ice from the roof.

However, FGM asserts each of these allegations, if actionable, occurred not later than March of 1998 when its design work was finished.

Furthermore, even if FGM had continued design work until the fall of 2000 when construction was completed, the allegations were still accrued more than 10 years later, FGM argues.

FGM also argues Gary Tedford’s claims are barred by the statute of limitations because he failed to file his claim within two years of the accrual of his claim.

FGM added that Gary's cause of action accrued on the date of Joy Tedford’s injury in 2011, but he did not file his suit until last month. Because Joy Tedford filed her lawsuit in 2012 and failed to include any claim on Gary Tedford’s behalf, he does not enjoy protection, FGM argues.

“[A] claim for loss of consortium is independent, not derivative of the underlying claim, for purposes of statute of limitations analysis," FGM argues.

In its answer to the complaint filed April 17, FGM denied the allegations and argued several affirmative defenses. It contends the plaintiffs’ recovery should be barred or reduced because JoyTedford contributed to her alleged injuries for failing to keep a lookout for snow and ice.

The plaintiffs are represented by Randall P. Steele of the Steele Law Offices in Glen Carbon and William Meacham of Edwardsville.

Defendant FGM Architects Inc. is represented by Philip J. Christofferson and Steven M.Cockriel of Cockriel & Christofferson LLC in St. Louis.

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