Supreme Court to Address Whether “Statute of Repose” for Actions Against Contractors Applies to Implied “Tort” Claims for Injuries to Property

On March 8, 2011, the Michigan Supreme Court heard oral argument to consider whether MCL 600.5839, the statute of repose, for “any action” against architects, engineers, or contractors to recover damages for “any injury to property, real or personal”, governs a general contractor’s suit for a subcontractor’s breach of contract, or is instead limited to tort actions, among other issues. Read the grant order here:  Miller-Davis v Ahrens (Grant Order)

Miller-Davis sued the subcontractor Ahrens for breach of contract only, related to the alleged substandard performance of the contract to construct a timber roof of a natatorium for the YMCA complex in Sherman Lake, Augusta, Michigan. After a bench trial, the judge entered a verdict in favor of Miller-Davis on the breach of contract issue. On appeal, the defendant argued that MCL 600.5839(1) the “statute of repose” applied to bar the claim because it was in reality an action for “injury to property”. The Court of Appeals (Jansen, Hoekstra and Markey) in a published opinion agreed and reversed, holding that the language of this statute applied if the allegations in the breach of contract action related to an injury to property, i.e., a tort claim,regardless that the allegations in the complaint was specifically for breach of contract and that the parties in the contract had defined the statute of limitations accrual date to be from the date of substantial completion. This is a very important issue for construction contract law and contract law in general and goes to the very heart of the debate about whether and to what extent “tort law” concepts should influence pure breach of contract actions and whether and to what extent courts should interfere with the freedom of parties to enter into contracts and define the terms and conditions of performance, the damages for breach, and the time periods and provisions regarding timing and tolling for performance and completion.

Here is the Court of Appeals opinion:  Miller-Davis v Ahrens


About cjtucker06

Owner of law firm since July 2014; Handles all types of appellate matters and assists other lawyers with complex litigation and insurance coverage issues; Admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the State Bar of Michigan; Expertise in prosecuting and defending appeals with several significant successes in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals; Author of briefs amicus curiae in the Michigan Supreme Court for the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel and the Insurance Institute of Michigan; Represents Insurance Companies, Major International Business, Governmental Entities, Law Enforcement Officers and County Sheriffs. Board of Directors, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Amicus Committee Co-Chair, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Military - Retired Major in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the United States Army, Brigade Judge Advocate and Staff JAG officer for the Maneuver Training Center, Camp Grayling, Michigan; Recipient of the Army's Meritorious Service Medal (the highest medal of honor available to Soldiers serving in non-combat roles); 2012 Graduate of the Judge Advocate Officer Advanced Course, at The Judge Advocate Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Virginia. United States Navy Reserves, Combat Warfare Qualification, January 1989 to July 2003 Former law clerk to Justice Stephen J. Markman, Michigan Supreme Court, Research Attorney, Michigan Court of Appeals. Insurance Coverage Associate Plunkett Cooney; Environmental Law Attorney at Squire Sanders, now Squire Patton Boggs; Master's Degree in Environmental Law; Environmental Law Scholar, ALI/ABA Washington, D.C., Juris Doctorate, Vermont Law School, Environmental Editor, Vermont Law Review; Treasurer and Finalist, Moot Court Advisory Board.
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