Ten-Year Statute of Repose Does Not Bar Common Law Premises Liability Claims in Minnesota.

The defendants designed and built a duplex, and one defendant lived there. Attached to the back of the house was a deck, which was approximately six or seven feet above the ground. Ten steps granted access to the deck from the back yard. The deck had a railing around the perimeter, but there was no handrail on either side of the three-foot-wide steps. The plaintiff and the defendant who lived in the home had been friends for many years. The defendant allowed the plaintiff and his family to park their camper in his back yard and access the defendant’s home through the deck. On night after the plaintiff had drunk four or five beers inside of the plaintiff’s home, he headed to his camper by way of the deck. His right leg “gave out” on the first step, he fell off the side of the stairs, and fractured his spine. The plaintiff then sued the defendants, alleging that his injuries were caused by the lack of a handrail on their stairs. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants on the grounds that the action was barred by the 10-year statute of repose, Minn. Stat. §541.051, since the deck had been negligently constructed more than 10 years before the accident. On review, the court reversed. While it agreed that the statute of repose barred an action based upon the negligent construction of the deck, the court ruled that the defendants could still be liable under a theory that they failed to use reasonable care to ensure the safety of their guests by remedying a dangerous condition.  The statute of repose did not bar this common law premises liability claim. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. Monson v. Suck, No. A14-0461, 2014 Minn. App. LEXIS 89 (Minn. Ct. App. Oct. 14, 2014).

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