• Negligence Claims Based on Lack of Safety Gate in Freight Elevator Are Structural Defect Claims Barred by Wisconsin Ten-Year Statute of Repose
  • June 17, 2014
  • Law Firm: Sutherland Asbill Brennan LLP - Washington Office
  • A worker’s foot was crushed while riding on a freight elevator without a safety gate in defendants’ storage building. The worker alleged negligence and violations of Wisconsin’s “safe-place” statute. The defendant moved for summary judgment under a related “statute of repose,” which generally provides a ten-year statute of limitations from the time an improvement is constructed for plaintiffs to bring claims for structural defects. Focusing on the difference between “structural defect” claims (such as design and planning claims) and “maintenance” claims (including negligence in maintaining and operating existing structures), the court dismissed the claims alleging that the lack of a safety gate was a structural defect. Notably, the court held that structural defects older than ten years cannot form the basis of a claim even if a property owner or current occupier knew about the structural defect.