News & Insights


In American Automobile Insurance Company v. FDH Infrastructure Services., LLC, 364 So.3d 1082 (Fla. 3d DCA 2023), The Court of Appeals of Florida, Third District (“Court of Appeals”) held all construction-based claims against design professionals are subject to a four-year statute of limitations, not the two-year statute of limitations.

Tower King II was contracted to install an upgraded antenna on an existing television tower. Tower King II retained FDH Infrastructure Services, LLC (“FDH”) to provide a structural analysis of the tower including whether it could support the rigging needed for installation. FDH provided a “Qualified Engineering Review Letter” which set forth calculations to ensure the installation could be carried out safely.

Shortly after the installation commenced, the rigging failed. Three workers fell to their deaths and construction equipment sustained damaged. Various Insurers paid out benefits under their respective policies and filed suit against FHD for the loss. FDH sought summary judgment alleging the action was barred by the two-year professional malpractice statute of limitations contained in Fla. Stat. §95.11(4)(a). The trial court granted the motion, but the decision was appealed.

Florida has two separate statutes of limitations that arguably applied to the claim, Fla. Stat. §95.11(4)(a). §95.11(4)(a), states “an action for professional malpractice, other than medical malpractice, whether founded on contract or tort” must be filed within two years. Fla. Stat. §95.11(3)(c) is a four-year statute of limitations on any action “founded on the design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property.

The Court noted that when a cause of action is subject to the competing statutes of limitation, the three following tenets of statutory construction guide the analysis: 1) a specific statute preempts a more general statute; (2) a later statute is given effect over an earlier statute; and (3) if doubt arises, the longer period of limitations should ordinarily prevail. In determining which statute of limitation is applicable to the particular case, courts have looked to the nature of the action and type of injury sustained.

The Court of Appeals notes §95.11(3)(c) applies specifically to only construction-based claims, whereas §95.11(4)(a) encompasses any “professional malpractice action.” Here, the Insurers seek relief in subrogation for claims they paid as the result of the structural failure of the rigging equipment, which the Court determined was a claim for construction. The Court of Appeals held §95.11(3)(c) preempts §95.11(4)(a) because it is more specific in nature than the professional malpractice statute.

Architects and engineers should note that by recognizing the four-year statute of limitations as the governing statute, all claims founded on design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property are essentially extended by two years.