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When the validity of a statute is challenged on constitutional grounds, the sole function of the court is to determine whether it transcends the limits of legislative power. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2305.131 applies only to actions sounding in tort. Actions on a contract between an owner and the architect or builder are governed by the 15-year statute of limitations found Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2305.06. The 10-year repose period of Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2305.131 begins to run upon the completion of performance of the construction-related services. The designation of this triggering event is consonant with the common-law rule shifting liability towards third persons to the owner of a building upon acceptance of the design and construction of such building.
Appellant Michael R. Sedar was a nineteen-year-old student when he was severely injured by passing his right hand and arm through a panel of wire-reinforced glass in one of the doors of his dormitory. The dormitory had been designed between 1961 and 1963 by appellee Larson & Nassau, architectural engineers (formerly known as Fulton, DelaMotte, Larson & Nassau). Appellee Knowlton Construction Company (now known as Arga Company) of Bellefontaine, Ohio, was the general contractor throughout the construction of Clark Hall, which construction was completed by December 31, 1966. Appellant filed this action alleging that appellees had been negligent and careless in the design and/or construction of the dormitory including the door containing the glass panel on which he was injured. Appellees moved for summary judgment on the basis that appellant's claim was barred by the ten-year statute of repose provided in R.C. 2305.131. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of appellees. The court of appeals affirmed, upholding the constitutionality of R.C. 2305.131. Appellant sought review.
Was the construction of the repose statute constitutional?
The court affirmed the order finding that the construction statute of repose was constitutional. The court explained that Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2305.131 barred tort actions against architects, construction contractors and others who performed services related to the design and construction of improvements to real property, where such action was brought more than 10 years following the completion of the services. That, in addition to his due process and equal protection assertions against the statute, the injured individual asserted that a discovery rule should be incorporated into the statute for injuries caused by static conditions in a building. The court, thus, held that the discovery rule had no application in the construction case setting, that the statute did not violate due process because the legislature's choice of a 10 year cut-off for construction related tort actions was neither unreasonable nor arbitrary, and the statute satisfied a proper public purpose of preventing stale litigation and its attendant risks, that the statute did not violate the "open court" and "right to remedy" provisions of the Ohio Constitution, and lastly, a rational basis existed for the legislative classifications in the statute.