Florida SB 360 was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on April 13, 2023. The new law changes when the time to file a claim begins to run for purposes of the statute of limitations and statute of repose.
Statute of Limitations
The prior version of Section 95.11(3)(c), Florida Statutes, established a 4-year statute of limitations for construction claims and a 10-year statute of repose. The running of the statute of limitations could be tolled in the case of latent (hidden) defects, meaning that the four years would not begin to run until the owner discovered—or reasonably should have discovered—the defect.
Certain triggering events in the prior version have now been eliminated by the legislature, more specifically, the date of actual possession by the owner and date of completion or termination is no longer a triggering event. Rather, the new law states the triggering event for the statute of limitations and statute of repose begins to run on the earliest of the following dates: the issuance of a temporary certificate of occupancy, certificate of occupancy or certificate of completion, or the date of abandonment of construction, if construction is not completed.
Statute of Repose
Although the 4-year statute of limitations remains, the statute of repose was shortened from 10 years to 7 years. A statute of repose is like a statute of limitations except it cuts off legal rights if a claim is not filed by a specified deadline. But unlike statutes of limitations, a statute of repose is an absolute bar on claims after a specified time measured from a discrete event, without regard as to when a defect was or should have been discovered.
The law is effective immediately and applies to all design and construction defect actions filed on or after that date. Since the law significantly shortens the time previously allowed under the statutes of limitations and repose, the law does allow plaintiffs to file any claims that would not have been time barred under the last version of the statute, to file their claims through July 1, 2024.
The bill benefits potential defendants and insurance carriers by reducing the statute of repose time of their exposure to liability by 3 years. This can be problematic, as structural defects are often not visible and only discovered many years post-construction. By then, the statute of repose may have run.