Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon.
Creed D. Tucker, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
A limitations period is shortened, but by virtue of a savings clause, the relevant statute is applicable only to acts or omissions occurring after its effective date.
Later, the savings clause is repealed.
May the holder of a claim which — but for the savings clause — is barred, successfully maintain an action on the claim which is filed some months after repeal of the savings clause?
Between May 1971 and September 1973, defendants, pursuant to contracts with plaintiff, designed and constructed an addition to the Champaign County Nursing Home. On or before April 1, 1978, employees of plaintiff discovered damage to the addition's roof, gutters and soffit. In July 1979, plaintiff became aware that the damage may have resulted from defects in the design and construction of the addition. On April 16, 1982, plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging that the damage to the addition was attributable to various acts of misfeasance and malfeasance on their part in design, construction, and supervision of construction. The circuit court dismissed the suit on December 29, 1982, holding that the action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations.
At the time that the damage was discovered, the relevant statutes of limitations prescribed a five-year limitation period for actions premised on negligent damage to property and a 10-year limitation period for actions premised on written contracts. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 83, pars. 16, 17.) On November 29, 1979, a special statute of limitations relative to actions based on tort or contract and arising out of the negligent design, planning, construction, etc., of buildings became effective. This legislation prescribed a limitation period of two years from discovery of the relevant act or omission with a maximum limitation period of 12 years from the date of the act or omission. (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1980 Supp., ch. 83, pars. 22.3(a), (b).) The statute further provided: "The limitations of this Section shall apply to all acts or omissions which occur on or after the effective date of this amendatory Act of 1979." (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1980 Supp., ch. 83, par. 22.3(e).) On September 16, 1981, the statute was re-enacted without the language just quoted. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 83, par. 22.3.
The Code of Civil Procedure, as originally enacted, contained the language of the initial version of former section 21.3 of the Limitations Act (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1980 Supp., ch. 83, par. 22.3) and, thus, the savings clause contained in subsection (e) of former section 21.3 again became effective on July 1, 1982. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 110, par. 13-214(e).) On July 13, 1982, however, section 13-214 of the Code was re-enacted without the savings clause. Ill. Rev. Stat., 1982 Supp., ch. 110, par. 13-214.
• 1 The question of whether a statute operates retroactively, or has prospective effect only, is primarily one of legislative intent. (Moore v. Jackson Park Hospital (1983), 95 Ill.2d 223, 447 N.E.2d 408.) During the debate in the House of Representative on the bill which re-enacted section 21.3 of the Limitations Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 83, par. 22.3) without the savings clause, Representative Mautino, the bill's House sponsor, stated:
"Last year in the 81st General Assembly we passed Public Act 81-1169 [section 21.3] which set the statute limitation on construction and repairs on real estate. We put that statute of limitations, it's to be twelve years after the building and within a two year period for the filing fee [sic].
What this legislation does is allow those buildings built before 1979 to come under the same provisions that we enacted ...