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South Conejos School District RE-10 v. Wold Architects Inc.

2023 COA 85. No. 23CA0595. Construction Law—Construction Defect Action Reform Act—Limitation of Actions—Accrual of Claims.

September 21, 2023

A kindergarten through 12th grade school in Antonito sustained post-flood damage. The Colorado School District Self Insurance Pool (self insurance pool) and the South Conejos School District RE-10 (the district) sued their school contractor, their architects, and others involved in a school construction project for the damage. The district and the self insurance pool settled with most defendants, and only the claims against Wold Architects Inc. (Wold), which was hired to design the school and provide construction administration and observation services, remained. Wold moved for summary judgment on most of the claims asserted against it, arguing that the claims are time-barred because the accrual of the district’s claims should be governed by CRS § 13-80-104 of the Construction Defect Action Reform Act (CDARA), not the more generous claim accrual provision in the parties’ contract. The district court granted Wold’s summary judgment motion in part and denied it in part. The court agreed that the interplay between the accrual standard in the contract and the accrual standard in CRS § 13-80-104 is critical to resolving the motion, acknowledging that a Colorado appellate court has not yet addressed whether the parties could agree to something different in their contract, or whether such an agreement was void because it conflicts with the statute. The district court certified its order for interlocutory review.

As an initial matter on appeal, the court of appeals concluded that review of Wold’s appeal is appropriate under CRS § 13-4-102.1 and C.A.R. 4.2(b) because (1) questions of fact remain under either accrual standard, and resolution of the issue will guide the evidence to be presented at trial; (2) Wold is the only defendant left, so the applicable accrual standard affects all of the remaining proceedings; and (3) no published Colorado case has addressed whether a contract provision is enforceable if it provides a more generous claim accrual standard than the one in CRS § 13-80-104.

On the merits, Wold contended that the district court erred by accepting the accrual provision in the contract rather than CDARA’s accrual provision. Wold maintained that the contract’s accrual provision is void as against public policy because it violates the policies underlying statutes of limitation generally and CRS § 13-80-104’s accrual provision more specifically. The court of appeals concluded that CDARA’s plain text does not expressly prohibit parties from contracting around, or waiving, its protections. Further, Colorado has a significant interest in enforcing agreements between sophisticated parties, who may agree to extend the accrual period without violating public policy. Here, Wold and the district are sophisticated parties that sought through their contract to allocate business risks in advance. Accordingly, their extended contractual accrual provision is valid and enforceable, and the district court did not err.

The order was affirmed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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