JOHN C. RANKIN & a.
SOUTH STREET DOWNTOWN HOLDINGS, INC. SOUTH STREET DOWNTOWN HOLDINGS, INC.
TRUEXCULLINS AND PARTNERS ARCHITECTS & a.
Argued: June 4, 2019
Shaheen & Gordon, P.A., of Dover, for the plaintiffs,
John C. Rankin and MaryAnne Rankin, filed no brief.
Devine, Millimet & Branch, Professional Association, of
Manchester (Andrew D. Dunn and Tavish M. Brown on the brief,
and Mr. Dunn orally), for the defendant/third-party
plaintiff, South Street Downtown Holdings, Inc.
Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, of Boston, Massachusetts
(Kenneth B. Walton and Elena M. Brander on the brief, and Mr.
Walton orally), for third-party defendant TruexCullins and
Morrison Mahoney LLP, of Manchester (William A. Staar and
Nicholas Meunier on the brief, and Mr. Staar orally), for
third-party defendant Wagner Hodgson, Inc.
case is before us on an interlocutory transfer without ruling
from the Superior Court (MacLeod, J.). See Sup.
Ct. R. 9. The trial court transferred the following
Does RSA 508:4-b ("the statute of repose") as
amended in 1990 apply to and bar third party actions by a
property owner defendant (in a premises liability action) for
indemnity and/or contribution against architects involved in
the design of the improvement to real property which the
injured plaintiff alleges was dangerous and did not meet
applicable building codes?
conclude that it does.
accept the facts as presented in the interlocutory transfer
statement. See In re C.M., 163 N.H. 768, 770 (2012).
We recite additional facts, for background only, as alleged
in the complaint brought by John C. Rankin (Rankin) and his
wife MaryAnne (collectively, the underlying plaintiffs) and
in South Street Downtown Holdings, Inc.'s (South Street)
third-party complaint. In March 2015, Rankin fell while
leaving a business located at 70 South Main Street in Hanover
(the property). The property is owned by South Street. In
March 2017, the underlying plaintiffs sued South Street for
negligence and loss of consortium, alleging that Rankin fell
on an "inadequate and dangerous ramp or partial
stair" that "did not meet applicable building
Street, in turn, filed a third-party complaint against the
third-party defendants, project architect TruexCullins and
Partners Architects (TruexCullins) and landscape architect
Wagner Hodgson, Inc. (Wagner Hodgson), seeking indemnity
and/or contribution. South Street had hired the third-party
defendants to serve as design professionals for renovations
to the property that took place between 2002 and 2009, and
were substantially completed by January 2009. South Street
alleged that both third-party defendants were involved in
designing the area in which Rankin allegedly fell. On appeal,
South Street concedes that its "third-party action was
brought more than 8 years after the date of substantial
Hodgson moved to dismiss on grounds that the claims against
it are barred by the statute of repose, RSA 508:4-b (2010).
The trial court found that "a substantial basis exists
for a difference of opinion as to whether the current version
of [RSA 508:4-b] applies to indemnity and/or contribution
claims arising out of a deficiency in the creation of an
improvement to real property," and transferred the
question now before us.
answer the transferred question, we must engage in statutory
The interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which
we review de novo. In matters of statutory
interpretation, we are the final arbiters of the
legislature's intent as expressed in the words of the
statute considered as a whole. In construing its meaning, we
first examine the language found in the statute, and when
possible, we ascribe the plain and ordinary meanings to the
words used. We interpret legislative intent from the statute
as written and will not consider what the legislature might
have said or add language that the legislature did not see
fit to include. We interpret statutory provisions in the
context of the overall statutory scheme. Absent an ambiguity,
we will not look beyond the language of the statute to
discern legislative intent.
Bank of N.Y. Mellon v. Dowgiert, 169 N.H. 200, 204
(2016) (citations omitted).
statute at issue, RSA 508:4-b, currently provides, in
Except as otherwise provided in this section, all actions to
recover damages for injury to property, injury to the person,
wrongful death or economic loss arising out of any deficiency
in the creation of an improvement to real property, including
without limitation the design, labor, materials, engineering,
planning, surveying, construction, observation, supervision
or inspection of that improvement, shall be ...