Tennessee Looks to Define Improvements to Real Property

Villa luxury home

Attorney Lian Skaf analyzes Maddox v. Olshan Found. Repair & Waterproofing Co. of Nashville.

January 27, 2020
Lian Skaf - The Subrogation Strategist

For subrogation practitioners dealing with an installation-based statute of repose, knowing what is an improvement to real property is the first battle in what can, but does not have to be, a long fight. Like many other states, Tennessee’s statute of repose bars claims based on improvements to real property. Tennessee’s statute of repose runs four years after substantial completion of the improvement. See Tennessee Code Ann. § 28-3-202. In the case of Maddox v. Olshan Found. Repair & Waterproofing Co. of Nashville, L.P., E A, 2019 Tenn.App. LEXIS 464, 2019 WL 4464816, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee examined whether or not the work done by the defendant, Olshan Foundation Repair & Waterproofing Co. of Nashville, L.P., E.A. (Olshan) — which addressed bowing walls, cracks in the foundation and walls and water intrusion — qualified as improvements to real property for the purposes of the statute of repose. The court held that the work by Olshan essentially amounted to repairs, and did not qualify as improvements to real property.

In Maddox, the plaintiff, Rachel Maddox (Maddox), noticed cracking in her home in 2005 and hired Olshan to assess the issue and conduct necessary repairs. Olshan made several recommendations and the parties agreed on Olshan’s proposal for the price of $27,000. From their initial work in 2005 until late 2011, Olshan visited the property several times to address ongoing structural issues with the home. Eventually, eight months after Olshan told Maddox they could not fix the house and failed to return her phone calls, Maddox filed suit, alleging fraud against the company.

After a three-day bench trial, the trial court found in favor of the plaintiff for $187,000, plus $15,0000 in punitive damages. Among other holdings, the court rejected Olshan’s statute of repose defense. Olshan appealed, raising the statute of repose issue again.

Mr. Skaf may be contacted at skafl@whiteandwilliams.com



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