South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Different Statutes of Repose for Similarly Situated Parties Violates Due Process
Description

Minnesota appeals court held a state statute unconstitutional for setting different length of times in statutes of repose for parties likely to be in the same litigation. Such differential treatment violates due process.

Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words

Due Process; Statute of Repose; Contribution; Indemnity; Real Property; Contractors

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

In 1989, Smith Companies Construction completed a townhouse it sold to Brink. In 2002, Brink sued Smith under Minnesota law, alleging that the home was not built in a workmanlike manner and was in violation of statutory warranties because of water intrusion. Smith filed third-party actions for contribution and indemnity against various subcontractors involved in the construction. The trial court granted the respondents summary judgment due to the 10 to 12 year statute of repose that applied to most construction claims. Smith appealed.

Decision

Reversed. Under Minnesota law, Brink had the right to sue Smith at any time so long as he brought suit within two years of discovering the alleged breach of warranty, which he did. Smith, however, was restricted to suing the subcontractors for contribution and indemnity within 10 to 12 years of construction. This difference in the statute of repose between Smith’s open-ended statute of repose and the shorter one for his subcontractors violates due process and so is unconstitutional.

Citation  

Brink v. Smith Companies Construction, ---N.W.2d--- (2005 WL 2344393, Ct. App., Minn., 2005)

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