An Architect’s Liability for Injury to a Contractor

Contractors rely on the specifications of architect’s when completing work, and can suffer losses when specifications prove to be inaccurate. However, the architect may only have a contract with the developer or owner, leaving the contractor without a breach of contract claim if the architect’s work proves to be unsatisfactory.

While a breach of contract claim may not be available, a contractor who suffers a loss due to an architect’s plans or specifications may have a claim for negligence against the architect. In Donnelly Const. Co. v. Oberg/Hunt/Gilleland, the Arizona Supreme Court examined a claim by a contractor against an architect, where the architect’s inaccurate specifications caused the contractor to incur substantially more costs then they had expected when making a bid on the project.

The court found that even though no contract existed between the contractor and the architect, the contractor was able to pursue their claim for negligence. The architect had a duty to use the ordinary skill and care of their profession when drafting the plans, and this duty extended to the contractor even without a contract.

Architect’s Liability for Negligence

As in any negligence case, the defendant must prove the existence of a duty, a breach that duty, proximate cause, and damages. The standard of care in this case is the standard of a professional in their field.

According to Donnelly, the plans and specifications made by the architect must be sufficient and adequate. This duty extends to contractors and other third parties that are not in privity of contract.

An architect’s plans must comply with all building codes, but code compliance alone is not enough to meet the required standard of care. A claim for negligence may still exist, even when all building code requirements have been satisfied.

However, if an architect’s plans to contain building code violations, this could be used as evidence of negligence, as well as exposing the architect to other types of liability.

Architect’s should be aware that they can be liable for several different types of claims if they fail to perform their work properly, including negligence and breach of contract.  Contractors should know that they may have a remedy if poorly prepared plans cause them harm.

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