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Hampton Hall, LLC v. Chapman Coyle Chapman & Associates Architects AIA, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division

May 21, 2018

Hampton Hall, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
Chapman Coyle Chapman & Associates Architects AIA, Inc., and Choate Construction Company, Defendants,
v.
Choate Construction Company, Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
ABG Caulking Constractors, Inc., et al, Third-Party Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          RICHARD MARK GERGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Third-Party Defendant Southern Roof and Wood Care Corporation's ("Southern Roof) motion for partial summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

         I. Background

         Defendant Chapman Coyle Chapman & Associates Architects, AIA was responsible for the design and oversight of the construction of the Hampton Hall Development amenity facilities, including a golf clubhouse, sports center, and community clubhouse. Defendant Choate Construction Company was the general contractor. Plaintiff filed the present action on May 12, 2017, alleging defective construction and asserting claims for breach of contract, breach of warranty, negligence, gross negligence, and breach of express and implied warranties. On February 2, 2018, the Court ruled that all claims relating to the community clubhouse, except gross negligence claims, are barred by the eight-year South Carolina statute of repose for construction defect claims (S.C. Code § 15-3-640) because the community clubhouse was substantially completed in 2007. (Dkt. No. 36.) The golf clubhouse was substantially completed on May 17, 2004. Before July 1, 2005, the applicable statute of repose was thirteen years. Thus, the present action was filed five days before the lapse of the period of repose as to the golf clubhouse.

         On February 14, 2018, Choate filed a third-party complaint against several of its subcontractors involved with the construction at issue. The third-party complaint asserts claims for negligence, gross negligence, breach of warranty, breach of contract, indemnification, strict products liability, and "apportionment of damages" against the subcontractors. Southern Roof has moved for summary judgment on all claims relating to the golf clubhouse and community clubhouse, arguing claims other than gross negligence claims are barred by the statute of repose and that Choate has not set forth a. prima facie case for gross negligence.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if a party "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should be granted "only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party." HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross, 101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323(1986).

         Once the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard, "[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a 'mere scintilla of evidence'" in support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX Transp., Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Statute of Repose

         South Carolina Code § 15-3-640 provides that "[n]o actions to recover damages based upon or arising out of the defective or unsafe condition of an improvement to real property may be brought more than eight years after substantial completion of the improvement." The statute of repose is not subject to tolling. See Holly Woods Ass 'n of Residence Owners v. Hiller, 708 S.E.2d 787, 793 (S.C. Ct. App. 2011). The statute also provides that a certificate of occupancy "shall constitute proof of substantial completion" unless the parties agree in writing on a different date. S.C. Code § 15-3-640.

         Choate concedes its claims against Southern Roof (other than for gross negligence) regarding the community clubhouse are barred by the statute of repose, but argues the statute of repose does not bar its claims against Southern Roof regarding the golf clubhouse for two reasons. First, Choate argues its third-party complaint included in its answer to Plaintiffs amended complaint should relate back to the original complaint filed in this action. Alternatively, Choate argues the statute of repose should be tolled.

         Both arguments are without merit. The statute of repose cannot be tolled-that is the point of a statute of repose. CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, 134 S.Ct. 2175, 2183 (2014) ("One central distinction between statutes of limitations and statutes of repose underscores their differing purposes. Statutes of limitations, but not statutes of repose, are subject to equitable tolling .. .."); Columbia/CSA-HS Greater Columbia Healthcare Sys., LP v. S.C Med. Malpractice Liab. Joint Underwriting Ass'n, 769 S.E.2d 847, 848 (S.C. 2015). The doctrine of "relation back" allows amended pleadings to "relate back" to the date of the original pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1). As Choate concedes, its third-party complaint is not an amended pleading. Choate cites no authority holding that a third-party complaint relates back to the date of a pleading filed by an adverse party.

         Plaintiff served Choate on May 17, 2017, the day the statute of repose lapsed. The statute of repose thus barred Choate's third-party action even before Choate's right to bring it accrued. Choate argues that result is ...


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