A statute of repose terminates the right to file a claim after a specified time even if the injury has not yet occurred. The construction statute of repose bars claims arising from construction, design, or engineering of any improvement upon real property that has not accrued within six years after substantial completion. But what constitutes an “improvement upon real property” necessitating application of the six-year bar, and when does the bar NOT apply?
The Washington Court of Appeals recently addressed these questions in Puente v. Resources Conservation Co., Int’l. There, the personal representative of the estate of Javier Puente sued several parties after Mr. Puente, an employee of a manufacturer, suffered fatal boric acid burns in 2012 while performing maintenance on a pump system installed at the manufacturer’s facility in 2002. The estate alleged claims of negligence and liability under the Washington Product Liability Act (WPLA). The trial court granted summary judgment to defendants, concluding that the installed pump system constituted a statutory “improvement upon real property” and the six-year statute of repose applied. The estate appealed.