No time runs against the king

Contractors performing public work quickly will realize a centuries-old legal doctrine lives on

Although no English sovereign has sought to exercise control over the U.S. since the conclusion of the American Revolution in 1781, a common law doctrine carried over from England centuries ago still survives in some form in most states. Much to their surprise and torment, contractors and architects doing public work have learned they can be sued for alleged defective construction many years after work was completed and statutes of limitation and repose have expired.

In a 2012 case that grabbed the attention of the construction community in Connecticut and elsewhere, the Connecticut Supreme Court issued a unanimous, 39-page opinion holding the state of Connecticut could pursue claims against construction contractors, architects and others for an unlimited period of time after completion of construction regardless of expiration of Connecticut's six-year contract statute of limitations and seven-year statute of repose.

In the case State v. Lombardo Brothers Mason Contractors, the Connecticut Supreme Court made clear Connecticut adheres to the doctrine nullum tempus occurrit regi. Translated from Latin as "no time runs against the king," this doctrine, commonly referred to as nullum tempus, means statutes of limitation do not run against the state and its agencies. The doctrine is somewhat similar to the doctrine of sovereign immunity that shields states and other government entities from lawsuits unless there has been an express waiver of sovereign immunity by legislative enactment.

The rationale