The Washington Court of Appeals Clarifies When the Statute of Limitations for a Negligence Claim Begins to Run Under the Discovery Rule

Dep’t of Transp. v. Seattle Tunnel Partners, 2019 BL 36988, 2 (Wash. App. Div. 2 Feb. 05, 2019)

Christine Z. Fan

On January 8, 2019, the Court of Appeals for the State of Washington reversed and remanded in part a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in a tunnel-boring construction case.  Specifically, the Court clarified that the three-year statute of limitations for negligence claims begins to run as soon as the aggrieved party becomes aware of the factual elements of the claims.  It does not matter whether the underlying cause of the claims remains disputed.

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Divided Delaware Supreme Court Holds Highway Contractor Owes a Common Law Duty to Provide for the Safety of the Traveling Public, Above and Beyond Its Approved Traffic Control Plan

Pavik v. George & Lynch, Inc., No. 160, 2017, 2018 Del. LEXIS 133 (Mar. 23, 2018)

This case arises out of a highway reconstruction project and a car accident which occurred on the highway during non-working hours.  The Delaware Department of Transportation (“DelDOT”) hired George & Lynch, Inc. (“G&L”) to repave Omar Road.  The contract obligated G&L to perform its work in a manner that would provide reasonably safe passage to the traveling public and to provide for the protection and safety of the general public.  DelDOT approved G&L’s traffic control plan, which provided for placement of temporary warning signs during working hours and permanent warning signs advising travelers of road work ahead.  As part of its work, G&L performed cold in-place recycling, a process by which asphalt is removed, recycled, and reapplied as a base layer.  As the recycled asphalt cures, the road surface can support traffic, but there is a risk that raveling—a condition in which the base layer breaks apart—can occur.

It was during a curing period that the accident occurred.  On Friday, after asphalt had been installed and began to cure, the road was reopened.  On Saturday, after a thunderstorm, DelDOT received complaints of potholes on the road.  On Sunday, DelDOT patched the potholes and later that night, the driver lost control of her car and ran off the road.  Plaintiffs claimed the accident was caused by raveling and that G&L was negligent because it failed to provide warning signs about the road’s condition during the non-working hours.  G&L argued that it had no duty to erect additional signs and that DelDOT’s repairs broke the chain of causation. Continue reading “Divided Delaware Supreme Court Holds Highway Contractor Owes a Common Law Duty to Provide for the Safety of the Traveling Public, Above and Beyond Its Approved Traffic Control Plan”

A Project Consisting of Several Component Projects Is a Single Project or “Product Purchased by the Owner” Within the Meaning of the Indiana Economic Loss Rule; Only Damage to Pre-Exiting Property at the Site May Be Subject to Recovery in Negligence

City of Whiting v. Whitney, Bailey, Cox & Magnani, LLC, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44943 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 20, 2018)

The City of Whiting, Indiana (the “City”) undertook a 26-acre lakefront development project.  It hired an engineering firm to serve as the consultant for the project.  The consultant subcontracted with a subconsultant for marine engineering services, including design of a rock revetment on the lakefront for shoreline protection.  According to the City, the revetment failed on three occasions, resulting in damage to the City’s property at the project site, including a walking path, landscaping and existing trees, a gazebo, and an existing Gun Club structure, which the City had planned to convert to a restaurant.

After accepting assignment of the consultant’s contract with the subconsultant, the City filed a six-count complaint and alleged that the subconsultant’s negligent revetment design caused damage to the City’s property.  The subconsultant moved for summary judgment on the City’s negligence claim, arguing that the economic loss rule precluded liability against it in tort.  The court noted that Indiana’s economic loss rule bars tort liability when there is damage only to the product contracted for itself, but that the rule does not preclude tort liability if there is personal injury or damage to “other property.” Continue reading “A Project Consisting of Several Component Projects Is a Single Project or “Product Purchased by the Owner” Within the Meaning of the Indiana Economic Loss Rule; Only Damage to Pre-Exiting Property at the Site May Be Subject to Recovery in Negligence”