Gilbert, Arizona homeowners filed a construction defect lawsuit against Shea Homes in 2003, but class certification was denied and the homeowners settled out of court. Another suit involving other homeowners in the development was filed in 2006 but was dismissed for failure to comply with the state’s “right to repair” law procedures. Finally, in 2007, yet another case involving the Shea development was filed, and that case eventually made its way to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In the federal appellate court, the judges asked the Arizona Supreme Court to rule on the applicable statute of limitations, which in Arizona, is eight years. The reason for this questioning has to do with the fact that statutes of limitation are tolled while a judge evaluates class action status, creating a conflict between federal court procedure and state law. In this case, Justice John Pelander ruled that the state law superseded federal procedures, affirming the eight year statute of limitations and establishing a precedent for subsequent cases.
Howard Fischer, of Capitol Media Services, has more on this story:
Purchasers of new homes who don’t file construction defect lawsuits within eight years are out of luck, at least according to the Arizona Supreme Court.
In the first ruling of its kind on the issue, the justices said the eight-year limit on homeowner lawsuits enacted by the Legislature is absolute. They concluded that the fact that some homeowners filed suit within the proper time period did not mean everyone else could file later.