Fourth Circuit Finds No Bad Faith for Delay in Investigating Construction Defect Claim

James W. Bryan | Nexsen Pruet | September 12, 2017

Construction defect claims often include coverage disputes spiced with allegations of bad faith designed to turn up the heat on the insurer. The Fourth Circuit, in its review of one such recent North Carolina case, held while the insured prevailed on its contract claim, there was no bad faith. Delay, without other, aggravating factors is not enough to establish the malice or reckless indifference to consequences necessary to reach the level of bad faith. Westchester Surplus Lines Ins. Co. v. Clancy & Theys Construction Co., 683 Fed.Appx. 259 (4th Cir. 2017).

Westchester involved a dispute over insurance coverage for a general contractor’s liability for defective design of a building foundation. A joint venture, in which Clancy was a partner, was hired to construct a mid-rise student housing building in Raleigh, North Carolina. In September 2011, after construction was well under way, a portion of the building began to lean, damaging other portions of the building. The owner demanded a remedy that would result in no risk to it, or its lender. Following agreement on a repair plan, the joint venture initiated a mediation process with potentially responsible subcontractors seeking allocation of the $14.4 million repair costs. This resulted in agreement that 10.5 million would be paid on behalf of subcontractors, leaving the remaining damages to be absorbed by the joint venture. Clancy sought reimbursement of its share from Westchester under general and professional liability policies.

Upon receiving the owner’s demand for repair in September 2011, Clancy notified Westchester of the potential claim. Clancy was unable to contact the Westchester representative assigned to the claim who, unbeknownst to Clancy, had left the employ of Westchester. After about a month, Clancy established contact with another Westchester employee assigned to the claim. After providing all of the communications between Clancy and the owner, Westchester was silent for another two months. As Clancy pressed for a coverage determination, Westchester requested an accounting of costs and a copy of the joint venture agreement, all of which Clancy provided. Eventually, in May 2012, Westchester informed Clancy it believed its policy did not cover Clancy’s obligations for the construction damages but it was not issuing a formal denial of coverage. Indeed, three months later, Westchester stated it was still investigating the coverage issue. In September, 2012, Clancy complained of Westchester’s year long delay and threatened suit. In response, Westchester filed its action for a declaratory judgment that its policy afforded no coverage. Clancy counterclaimed alleging Westchester’s breach of contract and tortious breach of contract based upon Westchester’s failure to timely investigate, failure to timely issue a coverage opinion, failure to properly defend, failure to assist in mitigating damages, and failure to indemnify for covered losses. Clancy also alleged Westchester acted in willful, wanton disregard of its duty to defend and indemnify, entitling Clancy to extra-contractual damages.

In May 2014, the district court denied summary judgment for either party on the contract dispute but entered summary judgment for Westchester on Clancy’s claim for bad faith tortious breach of contract, finding “in order to recover for tortious breach of an insurance contract, an insured must show that the refusal to pay on the insurance contract was based not on honest disagreement or innocent mistake, but rather on ‘malice, oppression, willfulness and reckless indifference to consequences.’”

The district court concluded

Though there is much dispute present in the record regarding when and whether Clancy notified Westchester of a claim against it, the record does not support that Westchester acted with malice, oppression, or a reckless indifference to consequences. Where courts have found that a refusal to settle an insurance claim was an act of bad faith there has been ample evidence to show not only delay in investigation but also other aggravating factors such as the offer of a woefully low settlement amount, reliance on estimation of damage and repairs submitted by a clearly unqualified professional, and evidence that the insurance company “stirred up hate and discontent” against its insured by making false accusations regarding the insured’s participation in the loss…While the record certainly reflects that Westchester does not think Clancy is entitled to indemnity and defense, Clancy has not demonstrated the presence of sufficient aggravating factors, nor an opinion that Westchester’s actions were not reasonable or appropriate within industry practices, and summary judgment in favor of Westchester is appropriate on Clancy’s tortious breach of contract claim.

A year later, in a bench trial as to the remaining issues, the district court found Westchester owed Clancy coverage for its portion of the loss, less its deductible, plus applicable interest. Westchester appealed and Clancy cross- appealed. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the bench trial judgment on the contract claim, rejecting Westchester’s argument that the joint venture’s liability was separate and distinct from the liability of each of its members. As to the bad faith claim based upon delays in Westchester’s investigation, the Fourth Circuit concluded summary judgment in favor of Westchester was proper, relying on North Carolina law requiring, “malice, oppression, willfulness [or] reckless indifference to consequences” in order to establish tortious breach of contract.

Though an unpublished decision, Westchester reflects a North Carolina trend; delay-based extra-contractual claims in construction defect cases do not end well for the insured. The procedural history of Westchester demonstrates a common pattern and the court’s opinion demonstrates a frequent result.

Assignment of Contingent Benefits in California

Lawrence Moon | Property Insurance Coverage Law Blog | September 10, 2017

In Assignment of Unaccrued or Contingent Benefits, I discussed the distinction between assignments of Contingent Benefits and assignments of Noncontingent Benefits under a property insurance policy. For purposes of this blog, a Contingent Benefit is a benefit or payment that is either not yet fixed in amount or the carrier is not yet obligated to provide because additional, specific conditions of the policy have not yet been fulfilled or excused. Noncontingent Benefits are those for which all of the applicable conditions have been fulfilled or excused and the carrier’s obligation to provide the benefits (such as a payment) has accrued. An example of a Noncontingent Benefit is a policyholder’s right to receive payment of the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of a claim after the insurance company has been notified of the loss and the policyholder has cooperated with the carrier’s evaluation of the loss. An example of a Contingent Benefit regarding a replacement cost property insurance policy is the right to receive the depreciation holdback (sometimes called the replacement cost holdback) prior to completion of the underlying repairs. In other words, the carrier’s obligation to pay the depreciation holdback is contingent upon, and does not arise unless and until, the underlying repairs are completed.

I noted in my previous blog that in 2015, the Supreme Court of California pointed out that insurance companies had only recently begun to challenge the validity of assignments of Contingent Benefits. In this blog, I will discuss how the Supreme Court of California handled that question—that is, the validity of assignments of Contingent Benefits—in Fluor Corporation v. Superior Court, 61 Cal.4th 1175, 354 P.3d 302 (2015).

The specific question presented to the California Supreme Court in Fluor was whether a statute that has been on the books in California since 1872 had any effect on the court’s prior ruling regarding the validity of assignments of Contingent Benefits under common law principles. In its 2003 decision in Henkel Corp. v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co., 29 Cal.4th 934, 62 P.3d 69 (2003), the court ruled that, based on common law principles, the policyholder under a liability policy that contained a provision prohibiting assignments could not assign the right to invoke coverage under the policy, even after a loss, until the loss had “been reduced to a sum of money due or to become due.” In other words, in Henkel, the court ruled that, under common law principles, the policyholder’s assignment of a Contingent Benefit under a liability policy was not valid or enforceable, despite the fact that the respective loss had already occurred.

Henkel remained the law in California with respect to post-loss assignments of Contingent Benefits until the court was asked to review the same question in Fluor—except in Fluor, the court was asked to consider that question in light of section 520 of California’s Insurance Code. That section states: “An agreement not to transfer the claim of the insured against the insurer after a loss has happened, is void if made before the loss.” Although section 520 was in effect at the time the court decided Henkel, neither party addressed section 520 and the court did not consider that statute when it reached its decision based on common law principles.

In a lengthy opinion in which it analyzed the history of California’s insurance code and the treatment of assignments of insurance benefits, specifically regarding liability policies, the California Supreme Court ruled in Fluor that section 520 prohibits carriers from refusing to honor post-loss assignments of Contingent Benefits, as well as Noncontingent Benefits. The court further held that section 520 supersedes common law principles applicable to assignments, including the principles it relied on when it decided Henkel twelve years before.

The court noted that the principle reflected in the decisions of other courts that have upheld the validity of post-loss assignments of Contingent Benefits have been “described as a venerable one, born of experience and practice, facilitating the productive transformation of corporate entities, and thereby fostering economic activity.” Interestingly, the court surmised that although section 520 of California’s Insurance Code has been in effect for over 145 years, it had not previously been asked to address its application to assignments of Contingent Benefits apparently because insurers had only “recently beg[u]n to disallow and contest such assignments [and therefore,] . . . there was little cause for insureds to think about, much less rely on, section 520.”

Although the decision in Fluor concerned a post-loss assignment of benefits under a liability policy, the court at least suggested that section 520 applies to first party, as well as third party, policies. Therefore, policyholders under property insurance policies should be able to rely on section 520. The California Supreme Court decision in Fluor suggests that post-loss assignments of Contingent Benefits under property insurance policies are valid in California, as in the other states I mentioned in my prior blog.

In an upcoming blog, I’ll discuss how we addressed the issue of post-loss assignments of Contingent Benefits in the Arizona cases we are handling, and how the courts in Arizona have ruled on that question.

Sometimes courts express general principles that go beyond the specific case they are deciding and which are worth noting in other contexts, even on a personal level. In that regard, the California Supreme Court stated the following in its last footnote in Fluor, in which it addressed the fact that neither party in Henkel had raised section 520 in their briefs, although that statute clearly applied to the dispute and would have changed the outcome of it:

Of course, this still does not explain why section 520 was not discussed by the parties — especially the plaintiff or its amicus curiae — in Henkel itself. And yet as observed . . . such omissions occasionally happen. This reminds us that even with access to computer research technology, any human enterprise cannot be perfect; and that it is better that wisdom, or at least controlling authority, come to our attention late, rather than not at all.

Sink or Swim – District Court Approves Removing Flood Insurance Claims to Federal Court

R. Bruce Wallace | Nexsen Pruet | September 7, 2017

As hurricane season swings into full measure, the flooding of Hurricane Harvey has ravaged Texas, and Irma’s path remains uncertain, it is time to revisit the law of flood insurance.

In May of this year, Nexsen Pruet wrote about the Woodson decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which ruled that the FEMA 1-year statute of limitations covered flood insurance claims. Now, the United States District Court for South Carolina considered a motion to remand a bad faith action involving another FEMA flood insurance claim.

Briefly, in Roberts v. Discovery Home Loans, Inc., 2017 WL 3316047, Plaintiff William A. Roberts sued Discovery Home Loans, its servicing company, and Allstate Insurance Company in South Carolina state court over the failure of the servicing company to renew Roberts’ flood insurance policy on his home.  Despite having sufficient funds in escrow to pay Roberts’ flood renewal premium, the servicing company failed to pay the renewal, and Allstate canceled the policy.  Following cancellation, Roberts could only find replacement flood insurance at vastly higher premiums.  Roberts alleged he would have to pay these higher premiums over the life of the loan.  In his state court complaint, Roberts alleged causes of action for gross negligence, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, unfair trade practices and unjust enrichment.

Allstate removed the action to the district court, arguing federal question jurisdiction.  To begin its analysis, the district court confirmed that Allstate serves as a Write-Your-Own carrier (“WYO”), which issues flood insurance policies under the government program in its own name. WYO carriers’ flood insurance policies under the WYO program must mirror the exact terms and conditions found in FEMA flood regulations promulgated by the U.S. government.  As such, “Federal common law alone” governs the insurance policy at issue.  Nevertheless, the district court looked further, and held that federal question jurisdiction exists when the plaintiff’s “well-pleaded complaint establishes … that the plaintiff’s right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law….”  Following the United States Supreme Court opinion in Grable & Sons Metal Prods., Inc. v. Darue Eng’g & Mfg.(2005), the district court considered four factors to decide whether Roberts’ state law claims raised a substantial federal question:

(1) whether the state law claim necessarily raises a federal issue;
(2) whether the federal issue is disputed;
(3) whether there is a substantial federal issue; and
(4) status of federal/state balance in light of the federal issue.

The district court easily resolved the factors in favor of federal question jurisdiction.  The flood insurance policy was issued pursuant to the National Flood Insurance Program, and its terms must mirror federal flood regulations. As a result, federal law establishes the standard of care. Citing cases from the Seventh and Eleventh Circuits, the district court found a complaint alleging breach of a flood insurance policy raises “a substantial federal question on its face.” Finally, the district court found “federal rules, federal regulations or federal common law govern all disputes involving the handling of a [flood] claim”, such that those claims are restricted to federal court. As a result the exercise of federal question jurisdiction over all flood insurance policies “will not disturb the balance of federal and state power.”

Roberts argued some of his claims arose out of the “procurement” of the flood insurance policy rather than the handling of a claim under the policy. Relying on a line of Fifth Circuit decisions, Roberts argued such claims did not implicate federal question jurisdiction.  Under Campo v. Allstate Insurance Co.(5th Cir. 2009), federal law does not preempt state law procurement-based claims. The district court found the resolution of the issue turned on “the status of the insured at the time of the interaction between the parties.” Because Roberts was covered by a federal flood insurance policy at the time he alleges Allstate owed him a duty of care, then Roberts’ claims fall under “handling,” not procurement. Therefore, federal law, not state law, controlled.

When it comes to flood insurance policy claims, there is a deluge of decisions, including the Woodson decision, confirming federal question jurisdiction and federal pre-emption of this area. The next time you and your client are faced with a flood insurance claim—and in light of current conditions, it could be soon—either file it in the district court or be prepared for it to float up there on removal.

Assignment of Unaccrued or Contingent Benefits

Lawrence Moon | Property Insurance Coverage Law Blog | September 2, 2017

It is widely accepted that insurance policies are generally not assignable by the policyholder unless the insurance company consents to the assignment. In most states, it is also well-established that after a covered loss has occurred, the policyholder ordinarily may assign the claim to another person or entity, even if the policy contains a clause that prohibits assignments. But what does that mean, exactly? Specifically, what rights and benefits can a policyholder assign to a third party after a covered loss has occurred?

Typically, when “post-loss assignments” are discussed, the conversation pertains to the assignment of a payment that has been reduced to a specific amount owed by the insurance company and regarding which there is nothing more that the policyholder must do to be entitled to receive the payment. For example, after a covered loss has occurred and the policyholder has notified the insurer of the loss, other than cooperating with the insurer’s evaluation of the loss and responding to any reasonable requests the insurer may have, ordinarily there is nothing more that the policyholder must do to be entitled to receive payment of the actual cash value (ACV) of the claim. In other words, the insurer’s obligation to pay the ACV of the claim to the policyholder is not contingent on any other specific conditions of the policy being satisfied or excused. In this blog, I will refer to such rights and benefits as “Noncontingent Benefits.”

As a number of my colleagues have written about in other blogs, it is well-established in most states that a policyholder may freely assign Noncontingent Benefits to a third party and the insurer must honor such assignments. For instance, if a policyholder assigns her rights to the ACV payment of her claim and the policyholder has cooperated with the carrier’s evaluation of the claim, the carrier ordinarily must pay the ACV amount of the claim to the assignee and the assignee may enforce the assignment against the carrier. But what about rights and benefits that the policyholder is not yet entitled to either because certain specific conditions of the policy have not yet been satisfied or the claim has not yet been reduced to a fixed amount or judgment? For instance, under a replacement cost property insurance policy, can a policyholder assign the replacement cost value (RCV) benefits, such as the right to receive the “depreciation holdback” payment, before the approved repairs have been completed? In other words, can a policyholder assign a benefit or right that is still subject to the satisfaction or fulfillment of one or more specific conditions of the policy, such as completion of the approved repairs under a replacement cost policy? In this blog, I will refer to such rights and benefits as “Contingent Benefits.”

While the validity of assignments of Noncontingent Benefits has been addressed fairly extensively by the courts in most states, the validity of assignments of Contingent Benefits has not. We are handling separate lawsuits in Arizona in which a national property insurance company has refused to honor assignments of Contingent Benefits—specifically, pre-repair assignments of the depreciation holdback associated with RCV benefits under a replacement cost policy. The carrier has asserted that only the policyholder may complete the approved repairs for it to have an obligation to pay the depreciation holdback. In addition, according to the carrier, if the policyholder assigns her rights to the RCV benefits before the approved repairs are completed and someone other than the policyholder completes the repairs (such as the assignee), the carrier has no obligation to pay the depreciation holdback to the assignee or anyone else.

All of the reported court decisions I have found that address the validity of assignments of Contingent Benefits—and there are only a few courts that have addressed that specific issue—have ruled that Contingent Benefits are as freely assignable as Noncontingent Benefits. For instance, courts in California, Iowa, Tennessee, Florida, Wisconsin (applying Mississippi law), and the District of Columbia have held that post-loss assignments of Contingent Benefits are valid and enforceable by the assignee. The primary distinction between Contingent Benefits and Noncontingent Benefits noted by the courts is that the assignee’s entitlement to the Contingent Benefits only arises when and if all conditions applicable to the Contingent Benefits are fulfilled or excused. If the conditions are not fulfilled or excused, the carrier may raise the unfulfilled conditions as a defense to enforcement of the assignment.

The carrier in our Arizona cases, however, noted that in an unreported decision, a federal district court in Washington held just the opposite, that an assignment of Contingent Benefits was not valid.1 In that decision, the district court held that the policyholders’ assignment of their claim for the replacement cost holdback was not valid or enforceable against their insurance company. Despite acknowledging that Washington follows the general rule that post-loss assignments of policy benefits are valid, the district court in Sherard held that the assignment of a claim for the replacement cost holdback is not valid if the claim is assigned before the approved repairs are completed. The court reasoned that only “accrued” claims could be assigned and a claim for the replacement cost holdback does not “accrue” until the approved repairs are completed. Ultimately, the district court in Sherard ruled that the policyholders could not assign their claim for the replacement cost holdback unless the underlying repairs had been completed.

The holding in Sherard contradicts the holdings and reasoning of the reported court decisions I found that specifically address the validity of assignments of Contingent Benefits. It also contradicts a substantial body of law regarding assignments of contract rights, generally. Perhaps coincidentally, the same year the district court in Sherard held that assignments of Contingent Benefits are not valid in Washington (i.e., 2015), the Supreme Court of California noted that the assignment of Contingent Benefits was an area that insurers had only recently begun to challenge.

In upcoming blogs, I will discuss how the Supreme Court of California has handled the assignment of Contingent Benefits in California, how we addressed the issue in our Arizona cases, and how the courts in Arizona have ruled on the issue.
1 Sherard v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Amer., 2015 WL 5918397 (W.D. Wash.).

So, When are You “Off the Hook?”

Christine D. Barker | Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani | August 30, 2017

A Look at Statutes of Limitation and Repose in California Construction Claims

Like everything in life, all good things must come to an end, even a plaintiff’s right to sue. Known as the Statute of Limitation or Statute of Repose1, these government-imposed laws set the time limit on a plaintiff’s the right to file a lawsuit on a particular cause of action. Which statute applies depends on the claim.

Breach of Contract

When two parties enter into a contract, be it written or oral, the legislature has imposed a time limit on when claims under that contract must be brought in a court of law. If it is an oral contract, the SOL is 2 years from the date the agreement was breached. If the agreement is written, then the SOL is 4 years from the date of the breach. What constitutes a breach, you might ask? When one party claims that another party did not perform as promised.2 Couple of caveats, generally only the parties to the agreement can bring a lawsuit. Of course, like hand-me-downs, parties can assign their rights to other or forfeit them by dirtying their own hands first.


When a party, let’s call this one the homeowner, claims that another party, say the contractor, fails to perform its work on a project within the “acceptable standard of care” then the homeowner can bring a lawsuit for negligent work provided that: 1) the work caused property damage or personal injury, and 2) the action is brought within 3-years of suffering damage.3 Unlike breach of contract, the damaged homeowner does not have to be the one that actually hired or paid the contractor, rather subsequent homeowners can sue for negligence work.

SB800 – Right to Repair

Just to complicate things further, in 2003, California created a new kind of claims process for defective construction work, known fondly as SB 800 – The Right to Repair Act (Civil Code (“CC”) §895-945.5.).4 This Act was designed to create performance standards for new residential construction after January 1, 2003. The SOL for SB800 claims runs either from the close of escrow date or, in condo cases, the date the developer relinquishes control to a condominium association, whichever is later, for one to five years depending on the defect.

For example, fit and finish of flooring, paint, trim, countertops, and exterior walls, 1 year from close of escrow – CC §900; plumbing and sewer, 4 years – CC §896(e); Electrical, 4 years – CC §896(f); driveways, patios, sidewalks, 4 years – CC §986(g)(1); stucco, siding, 4 years – CC §986(g)(2); irrigation and drainage, 1 year – CC § 986(g)(7); exterior paints and stains, 5 years – CC §986(g)(10); and landscaping, 2 years – CC §986(g)(12), you get the idea.5

Extending the Statute of Limitation

Like the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. Performing repairs to alleged defective work may toll the statute of limitations for negligence or even “reset” the statute for breach of contract if further promises to perform are made. Of course, there are times when a contractor may want to toll the SOL in order to make repairs or allow the parties time to resolve a dispute. Such times should be discussed with your counsel and reduced to writing to ensure all parties are on the same page.

Construction Defect Claims

California has two statutes of repose related to actions for construction defects – CCP §337.1 and CCP §337.15. Both SOR apply to property damage or personal injury caused by defective construction work.

Section 337.1 requires a lawsuit be filed for “patent defects” to design, specifications, surveying, planning, supervision, observation of construction, or construction within four (4) years of substantial completionof the construction. See what they did there? The trigger is the completion of construction, not injury. For SOR it doesn’t matter when you discovered it, it only matters when the construction was substantially completed. Patent defects are defined as “deficiencies which are apparent by reasonable inspection.” If the defect causes injury to person or property within the 4 years, then an action must be brought within one year of the date of injury.

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Section 337.15 relates to “latent defects” and requires claims be brought within ten (10) years of substantial completion of the construction. Different from patent defects, the SOR for latent defects is not limited to actions for personal injury or property damages. Section 337.15 also applies to actions for indemnity brought against other supplying services or materials to the construction. Meaning, a general contractor can file a cross-complaint against its subcontractor for indemnity in the same action even if the 10-year has expired so long as the homeowner filed within the SOR.

The fun thing about SOLs and SORs is that a plaintiff must bring their action within both periods. For example, when a defect is discovered then the one, three or four-year limitation period starts to run, but will not extend past the end of the repose period. Said another way, if a homeowner discovers property damage caused by negligent roofing work 9 years after completions of construction, all claims cut off in one (1) year, be it negligence, or otherwise.

Recent Developments

Here’s a fun twist, according to the First Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal Section 337.15 (that’s the 10-year SOR), imputes actual and constructive knowledge of the prior landowner to the current landowner. (Estuary Owners Association v. Shell Oil Company, No. A145516, (Cal. Ct. App. July 26, 2017).)

In that case, Estuary Owners Association (“EOA”) claims that in 2008 it discovered that the condominiums complex had been constructed with moisture barriers beneath the building slabs instead of the called-out vapor/gas barriers trapping toxic chemicals in the soil and groundwater beneath a complex. The EOA filed suit against the project’s developers, design professionals, subcontractors, and prior owners, including Shell. The complaints alleged, among other things, that the defendants knew of the soil and groundwater contamination, failed to adequately remove and clean the contamination, and failed to properly construct the vapor/moisture barriers underneath the slab.

Shell moved for summary judgment arguing that: 1) all of EOA’s causes of action were barred by the 10-year statute of repose for latent construction defects; and 2) all of EOA’s causes of action were barred by the 3-year statute of limitations for damage to real property. The trial court agreed and granted Shell’s Motion for Summary Judgment. EOA appealed.

On appeal, EOA’s argued two things. First, EOA claimed that its injuries were caused by Shell’s negligent actions after the fuel distribution terminal was completed and thus the 10-year SOR was inapplicable – the Court of Appeals agreed. In doing so, the Court held that “section 337.15 can bar only claims alleging injury caused by latent construction defects.” The Court reasoned section 337.15’s “protection applies to claims for damage due to defects in how an improvement was designed and constructed, not to claims based on how the improvement was used after its construction is complete.”

EOA’s second argument was less successful. EOA argued its allegations concerned “new and different” damage to their property, which they did not learn was caused by Shell until 2008 or later. On this issue, the Court affirmed that a cause of action for damage to real property accrues when there is “actual and appreciable harm” to the property. The Court further emphasized that, while the limitations period to present such an action may be tolled until the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered all facts essential to her claim, the actual and constructive knowledge of the prior landowner is imputed to the current landowner and the transfer of ownership does not restart the limitations period. Imputing the prior owner’s knowledge of the harm in 2002 to EOA, the Court affirmed that the EOA’s actions were barred by the three-year statute of limitations for damage to real property.

Now, you know all you need to about SOL/SOR to impress your friends at your next dinner party.