Attack on Architect and Builder Liability

If the first week is any indication we will be spending much of our time defending against bad bills. Senator Brian Weinstein (D-41) looks to be a source of many concerning bills dealing with liability and tort issues. On the second day of the legislative session he introduced several bills that bode ill for the design and construction community.

SB 5044 would increase the time limit in the state’s statute of repose from 6 years to 10 years and completely exempt structural defects in residential construction from any limits.

SB 5046 creates new causes of action for defects in residential (non-condominium) construction. It blows the doors wide open for new litigation on residential construction. You have to read the bill to understand how truly broad its application would be for architects, engineers, contractors, product manufacturers and others in the development community.

SB 5049 creates new warranty rights for basically everything in residential construction including: 2 years for defects in materials and workmanship, 3 years for systems in the home (plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc.), 5 years for water penetration and 10 years for structural defects.

SB 5048 tolls the statute of limitations on condominium jobs if the suit is dismissed without prejudice. Basically, the bill extends the statute of limitations.

We are forming a Tort Reform Working group to tackle these bills. The working group will be responsible for analyzing the bills and helping with testimony. If you are interested in participating on this group, please contact me right away.

There is a work session the “Homeowners Bill of Rights” on Tuesday, January 16 at 1:30 p.m. before the Senate Consumer Protection and Housing Committee. It is no surprise that the chair of this new committee is Senator Weinstein. As this is a “work session” and not an official hearing, the witness list was preset and the AIA/WA was not included. The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) will testify, but the deck is stacked with “homeowner” groups and trial attorneys.

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