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Company filed suit within applicable limitations

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A construction company's attempt to cast itself in the same class of professionals as attorneys or architects was rejected by the Indiana Court of Appeals today. The appellate court upheld on interlocutory appeal the denial of the company's motion for summary judgment in a breach of contract complaint.

In Powers & Sons Construction Co. Inc. v. Healthy East Chicago, No. 45A05-0904-CV-204, Powers & Sons filed a motion for summary judgment alleging Healthy East Chicago filed its complaint against the construction company for breach of contract outside of the applicable statute of limitations.

Healthy East Chicago hired Powers & Sons in late 1997 to serve as the construction manager for the building of a new health service facility. After construction was completed in December 1998, Healthy East Chicago discovered cracks in the floors, walls, and ceilings. The construction company claimed the cracks were normal because of movement and settling. In February 2007, Healthy East Chicago sued the company.

The dispute in this case is over which statute of limitations applies - Powers & Sons claimed a 2-year statute of limitations on injury to personal property applies; Healthy East Chicago argued the 10-year statute of limitations on contracts applies.

Even in the "broad and natural sense" of the term, Healthy East Chicago's building isn't personal property, wrote Judge Margret Robb. The building would typically be considered part of the real estate, so the appellate court rejected Powers & Sons argument that the 2-year statute of limitations applied.

Healthy East Chicago argued the substance of its action is in contract; Powers & Sons argued the action is in tort, citing Whitehouse v. Quinn, 477 N.E.2d 270, 272 (Ind. 1985). The construction company also attempted to claim it was in the same class as professionals that may be held liable in tort if they fail to exercise reasonable care in fulfilling their contractual duties, and that Healthy East Chicago's complaint is professional negligence.

"We have never held the responsibility of a general contractor to be akin to that of an attorney or a doctor, however," wrote Judge Robb. "The relationship between the parties and Powers & Sons's duties and responsibilities as general contractor arose from the contract rather than from a standard of care imposed by law."

Healthy East Chicago's complaint sought recovery of damages sustained as a result of Powers & Sons' failure to perform according to the contract, therefore, its complaint is governed by the 10-year statute of limitations applicable to written contracts, the appellate court ruled.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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