Wash. State Baseball Stadium Pub. Facilities Dist. v. Huber Hunt & Nichols-Kiewit Constr. Co., 202 P.3d 924 (Wash. 2009)
The Washington Supreme Court recently issued a decision in Wash. State Baseball Stadium Pub. Facilities Dist. v. Huber Hunt & Nichols-Kiewit Constr. Co. that may have far-reaching impact on other public construction projects. In that case, the Court unanimously held the statute of limitations does not apply to claims regarding the construction of Safeco Field brought by the owner, the Washington State Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District (“PFD”), because the construction was for the common good of the state.
At issue were construction defect claims filed by the PFD against its general contractor. The PFD alleged the general contractor failed to follow the intumescent fire protection specification for structural steel members, causing a catastrophic failure of the fire protection. The PFD discovered the defect in 2005, and filed the lawsuit in 2006. This was more than seven years after substantial completion of Safeco Field; the applicable statute of limitations for contract claims is six years. RCW 4.16.040.
The Supreme Court overturned a summary judgment dismissal of the PFD’s claims granted by the trial court, and held that the statute of limitations does not apply. The Court relied on statutory language providing that limitation periods do not apply “to actions brought in the name or for the benefit of the state.” RCW 4.16.160. The majority of the Court’s opinion grapples with the question of whether the PFD brought the construction defect action “for the benefit of the state.”