In August, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida personal injury case discussing the statute of limitations for a negligence claim against a construction company. According to the court’s opinion, in 2012 the plaintiff was climbing up an attic ladder in his residence when it collapsed, causing injuries. Four years later, in 2016, the plaintiff sued the defendant construction company who had built the home, alleging negligence in the installation of the attic ladder.
The defendant construction company filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted by the trial court because Florida law states that an action based on the “construction of an improvement to real property” has a ten-year statute of limitations. Finding that the Florida law applied in this case, and that the house was completed in 2004, the trial court found that the plaintiff’s claim was barred.
The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s dismissal, arguing that the Florida law does not apply because the construction of the attic ladder was not an “improvement to real property.” On appeal, however, the state appellate court agreed with the defendant construction company and affirmed the trial court’s holding and the defendant’s motion to dismiss. According to the court’s opinion, the attic ladder constituted an “improvement to real property” because it provided additional utility to the home; residents could now access the attic without having to bring a stand-alone ladder to the attic opening. The court held that the attic ladder did not have to increase the value of the property or be essential to the property to constitute an improvement; merely providing the additional utility was enough. Additionally, the court found that the ladder was installed during the home’s initial construction, and required both labor and money to be installed, which further supported the conclusion that the ladder was an “improvement to real property.”