Contractors Can Pursue Negligence Claim Against Designers Who Controlled Project Risk

Friday, November 02, 2018 6:26 am
October 2018 - Volume 40 Number 10

Negligence --- Breach of Contract

Suffolk Constr. Co. v. Rodriguez & Quiroga Architects Chtd., 2018 U.S. Dist. Lexis 42652 (Fl. March 15, 2018)

A Florida court ruled that if a contractor relies on a designer’s plans, even without contract privity, the designer has both control over the project outcome and liability to the contractor for omissions/defects.

Under separate contracts with the Museum of Science, Inc. (MSM), Suffolk Construction Co. (Suffolk) and Baker Concrete Construction, Inc. (Baker) performed as construction contractors on a project to develop a science museum in Miami, Florida. Alleging that project design flaws caused increased costs and delays, the contractors sued the project designers for negligence.

Neither contractor had contract privity with the project designers---these included: Rodriguez and Quiroga Architects Chartered (R&Q), which served as Executive Architects; Grimshaw Architects P.C. (Grimshaw), which served as Design Architects; and Grimshaw’s subcontractors, Fraga Engineers, LLC (Fraga) and DDA Engineers, P.A. (DDA).

In response to the suit, the designers collectively argued that, because they had no direct contracts with the contractors, they had no legal duty to them. The court did not agree.

Designers created ‘foreseeable zone of risk’

Specifically, the contractors argued that the designers “breached their duties by providing deficient architectural, design, or engineering plans for the project.”

Florida law states that to prove negligence, the complainant must show a legal duty requiring the other parties to protect from unreasonable risks, a breach of that duty, a causal connection between the conduct and the injury, and damages. Williams v. Davis, 2007 Sup. Ct. Lexis 2200 (Fl. Nov. 21, 2007); Moransais v. Heathman, 1999 Sup. Ct. Lexis 1134, (Fl. July 1, 1999)

R&Q responded to Suffolk and[..]