The ruling on June 28 creates new protections for road builders against motorists who file lawsuits years after a road is completed and accepted by the State. In this case, three persons were killed in a head-on collision on U.S. Highway 84 eight years after Weaver had finished a repaving project for the state. The plaintiffs claimed that the accident was caused by the road’s construction.
“This decision is important because of the ‘accepted work doctrine’ rule,” said Latta, who argued and briefed the case on appeal. “Under this new law, contractors cannot be sued for injuries that occur to a third party years after the work has been completed, and has been accepted by the owner.”
The “accepted work doctrine” specifically cuts off liability for road builders in cases where the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has accepted road work that it has subcontracted to a road builder. The basis of the ruling is the State’s inherent ownership and maintenance of its public roads, compared to the lack of control of a sub-contractor once the work is finished.
“This ruling brings Alabama in line with other states,” added Latta. “While road contractors strive for the highest quality standards, their work always is subject to inspection and approval by the State in accordance with contract standards the State provides. The effect of this case raises the bar for public agencies and contractors to work together to ensure the traveling public’s safety.”