A recent Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling reminds remodelers to be on the lookout for code violations and extra work, even in the middle of a job.
In 1998, a woman fell and broke her hip at a middle school. She sued the school district, arguing that a drop-off in the doorway of a courtyard caused her spill. The doorway was indeed found to be in violation of the state's building codes.
The defense argued that because the drop-off had been part of the original design, 40 years prior to this incident, the 10-year statute of limitations on liability had expired. However, in 1992, the school district had done a minor remodel elsewhere in the courtyard, and the court found that such a project actually restarts the 10-year period. The school district was found to be liable in the case. The decision is still subject to appeal.
It isn't accurate to say that this case sets precedents of any kind for contractors, because the remodeler in this case wasn't part of the lawsuit. It is unlikely that the school district in this case could successfully sue the contractor, claiming that he's responsible for not pointing out the code violation even though it wasn't part of the original project.
However, even if the risk of liability is low for contractors in a case like this, the ruling does serve as reminder that you can rarely go wrong by pointing out additional work that could or should be done on a structure you're remodeling. In addition to potentially making a little more money off of the "upsell" you show your client that you know your stuff and that you're looking out for them — a sure ticket to repeat business and referrals.