Construction Failure: Design Professional Malpractice
Construction projects often involve design professionals such as architects, engineers or structural consultants. When hired, these professionals have a legal duty to provide services that fully meet the legal standard of care. If a construction failure occurs, a dispute can arise over whether or not this issue was caused by a design professional breaching their duty of care. If a breach occurred, the design professional can often be held liable for related damages. If your construction dispute involves alleged design professional malpractice, please contact a qualified West Palm Beach construction litigation lawyer as soon as possible.
Breach of the Standard of Care
In Florida, the standard of care for construction design professionals is clearly articulated in the case of School Board of Broward County v. Pierce Goodwin. According to the court, architects and engineers must provide services that meet a level of competence and diligence that would be used by similar professionals under similar circumstances. The failure to live up to this standard is professional malpractice. Specific forms of construction design malpractice include:
- Flawed design plans;
- The failure of the professional to properly supervise the project;
- The use of faulty surveys in the design or development of the project;
- Failure to adequately monitor to the progress of the project;
- Lack of required inspection;
- The failure to use materials of adequate quality; or
- Violation of state or local building codes.
Finally, it is also important to note that individual contracts can stipulate that professionals will be held to a heightened standard of care. Architects and engineers must always meet the performance obligations set forth in their contract.
What Damages are Available?
There are generally two distinct categories of damages that may be available in construction design professional malpractice cases:
- Direct damages: These are damages that are related directly to an injury, or property damage, that stems from the malpractice. For example, the cost of correcting a design-related construction defect would be classified as a direct damage.
- Consequential damages: Consequential damages can be more significant than direct damages, and are typically more fiercely contested. Consequential damages include indirect losses that stem from the malpractice, such as lost profits.
Recovering damages in these cases, especially any consequential damages, is incredibly complex. It can involve both tort law and contract law. Ultimately, the precise terms of the contract between the business and the design professional will make a major impact on any potential award of damages.
Defenses for Design Professionals
A design professional can escape liability if their attorney can demonstrate that the plaintiff does not have enough evidence to prove negligence. Beyond that they may also be able to escape liability by:
- Proving that the claim came after the statute of limitations expired;
- Reducing their liability under the theory of comparative negligence;
- Showing that recovery for the design issue would result in betterment for the plaintiff;
- Establishing that they have immunity under the contract through a liability waiver; or
- Using the legal concept of estoppel, to prove that liability should be excused.
Contact Our Office Today
The experienced West Palm Beach attorneys at Pike & Lustig, LLP can help you with all of your construction litigation needs. If you have any construction-related legal questions, please do not hesitate to call us today 561-291-8298.