The rule of repose is couched in terms of the "running of the period against claims," "absolute bar to unasserted claims," "lack of diligence in asserting rights," "sleeping upon their rights," etc.' and is accordingly based upon the pre-existing right to assert a claim. Therefore, the 20-year period begins to run against claims the first time those claims could have been asserted, regardless of the claimant's notice of a claim. The application of the rule of repose has only one element--the passage of twenty years time from the moment that the actions giving rise to the claim occurred--and, if that time has elapsed, no claim can be pursued.
The state's highest court noted that a fire was started by arson. The residents alleged that the landlord had a duty to construct, and the principal had a duty to operate a reasonably safe apartment building, equipped with appropriate exits and fire-suppression safeguards designed to reduce the risk of injury as a result of a fire, regardless of the origin of the fire. There was a fact issue as to whether the landlord constructed and the principal operated a reasonably safe apartment building with regard to fire safety. The residents did not have a viable and cognizable claim against the landlord until the fire occurred and they suffered injuries. Only then did the residents have a right to sue. The 20-year common-law rule of repose was premised upon a preexisting right to assert a claim.
Is the rule of repose applicable in this case, barring the cause of action?
After the fire and the injury it caused, the residents had a reason to sue. They sued within 20 years, making the 20-year common-law rule of repose inapplicable hence, the trial court’s summary judgment was found erroneous.