In a recent wrongful death case before a state appellate court, the court allowed a case to proceed against a property owner for the alleged defective condition of a building built in 1990. The plaintiffs filed a Maryland wrongful death case against the owner and property manager of a shopping center. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants failed to warn a HVAC repairman that there was no roof access from a wall when he fell from the wall back in 2012. The worker was severely injured as a result of the fall, and died 12 days later from his injuries. The defendants argued the claims were barred by the statute of repose, because there was a 20-year limit on claims, as the building was completed in 1990.
Here, the statute stated that a claim cannot be filed for an injury “resulting from the defective and unsafe condition of an improvement to real property” if the injury occurs more than 20 years after “the date the entire improvement first becomes available for its intended use.” However, Maryland Code of Courts and Judicial Proceedings 5-108 states that the section did not apply “[i]f the defendant was in actual possession and control of the property as owner, tenant, or otherwise when the injury occurred” in certain causes of action, in certain causes of action involving asbestos, or in a cause of action for injury to real property resulting from a defective and unsafe condition of an improvement to real property under certain conditions.
The plaintiffs contended the claim fell under an exception, and the defendant argued that the exceptions only applied in asbestos cases. The court found the possession-and-control exception applied in non-asbestos cases, as the first time the exception was created, the court did not reference asbestos. Therefore, the court applied the exception to cases against anyone in possession or control of real property, and the plaintiffs’ claims were not barred by the statute of repose.