School's verdict against roofer is set aside; and ultimately case is dismissed based on new interpretation of statute of limitations
The White Cloud Schools sued their contractor after a new roof collapsed five years and one month after construction. The school system secured a jury verdict against the contractor, Bri-Car Roofing, but the judge set the verdict aside because it wasn't adequate to cover the actual damage the school proved. The judge utilized a procedure called "additur" under which the defendant was required to accept a larger verdict amount or the case would be re-tried on the issue of damages. This procedure can only be utilized where the trial judge concludes that the verdict is absolutely contrary to the evidence and cannot be justified by a reasonable interpretation of the evidence.
The contractor rejected the additur decision and appealed. In the interim, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed precedent and held that in construction/occupancy cases, the statute of repose is not the proper standard to apply on issues of timeliness: instead, the higher court ruled that a six-year statute of limitations must be applied. Relying upon this new decision, the roofer asked the trial court to dismiss the School System's claim entirely, because the school did not bring the case within six years of the date the architect certified that the building was substantially completed.
The judge accepted the roofer's argument and dismissed the action. White Cloud appealed. It argued that this result could not stand, post-verdict, and that in any event, the six-year statute ruling should not be applied retroactively. It also argued that the limitation period should run from the date the architect certified substantial completion, and not the date of substantial completion. The Court of Appeals rejected the school system's arguments and upheld the dismissal.