On January 3, 1923 the Allen Street Bridge in Kelso, Washington collapsed. More than 35 people were originally estimated to have been killed although the actual number may have been less than that. Shortly after that a bridge in Issaquah collapsed due to a design defect. In each instance lawsuits were brought by the injured and on behalf of the deceased and the Washington State Supreme Court, finding rather substantial negligence, allowed recovery.
Recovery for injury, death and damage caused by design defects or construction defects was possible at that time, but would not now be possible, no matter how many people were killed or injured. In the late 1960’s the Washington legislature passed a construction statute of repose which barred any action whatsoever related to construction if the claim arose six years or more after the completion of the construction. If a school or bridge collapses more than six years after completion there is no recourse in Washington for construction or design defects.
In the 1990’s there was a great deal of difficulty arising from condominium construction, often in connection with defective materials. The Washington legislature’s response to that was to pass a construction statute of repose that barred any lawsuits related to defective condominium construction — whether negligent or even involvingmintentional violations of the law — arising more than 4 years after completion of the condominium project.