Construction Design Negligence
Construction accidents result in an estimated 1,000 deaths and 400,000 injuries every year, according to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These injuries have the potential to be debilitating or even fatal. Although employers are generally immune from injury litigation by employees stemming from workplace injuries, there may be room for consideration of third-party litigation. Construction injury attorneys at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, know some of the entities against which legal action may be taken following a construction accident include architects, designers and engineering professionals. Design professionals can be charged with varying amounts of liability for injuries stemming from construction work on those designs. The best way to determine extent of liability is to closely look at the contract the design team had with the site owner.Design Professional Liability
In some cases, design professionals have a duty to maintain observation of progress throughout a construction project in order to make sure it is being constructed in compliance with specifications and plans, as well as federal, state and local code regulations.
Many of these contracts are carefully written in order to limit an architect’s responsibility to simply visit the site, observe the work and sign off on the fact that it is being completed in accordance with the contract.
Transportation Ins. Co. v. Hunzinger Construction Co. (Wisconsin Court of Appeals, 1993) involved a claim against an architectural firm that was accused of negligent design and supervision when the ceiling suspension system of an under-construction shopping mall collapsed, injuring several workers. However, the appellate court affirmed summary judgment for the architects where proof was presented the subcontractors and the general contracts knew the technology with which they were working, knew it was industry custom to ensure supervision by the architects and yet continued work without it.
Many cases have established that it is construction site owners and contractors who tend to hold the greatest weight of liability. But that’s not always true.Adhering to Industry Standards
Beyond what is spelled out in the contract, there are professional industry standards to which architects, designers and engineers are held during the design and construction phase of any given project. If it can be determined the design team failed to meet those standards, that design professional could be held liable to cover worker injuries.
In Florida, the 2010 Third District Court of Appeals decision in Witt v. La Gorce Country Club Inc. held that the cause of action for negligence against a professional exists independently and regardless of any contractual causes of action, even if the contract contains a limitation of liability provision. In some cases, that provision has been found unenforceable for this very reason.
Another appellate court held in 2005 that an architectural firm could be subject to liability for failing to question the adequacy of an inspection report that was provided to the property owner by the building renovator. The report in question in Kerry v. Angus Young Associates, Inc., was prepared when the structural integrity of the building became suspect. The architectural firm in that case allegedly failed to adhere to the standard of care for performance in their field, the appeals court ruled.
In another case, A.E. Investment Corp. v. Link Builders, Inc., an architect’s failure to fully take into account the condition of underlying subsoil when designing and supervising a construction project was deemed to be a form of negligence which could foreseeably result in harm to a worker or someone else. Thus, the firm could be held liable.
Employers of architects, designers and engineers can be held responsible for employee negligence through the doctrine of respondeat superior. This legal theory allows employers to be made accountable for the negligent actions or inactions of their workers.
While workers’ compensation damages in Florida are capped at a certain percentage/amount/timeline, even in the event of a death, third-party personal injury actions against design professionals for defective design resulting in injury or death are not subject to the same limitations.
Some of the possible damages that may be recovered in these cases include:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
- Costs for therapy
- Ongoing care
- Loss of consortium
Our experienced legal team is prepared to conduct a thorough analysis of the construction design, engineering and architectural work to determine whether liability may be imposed on any of these entities.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation