Architects in New York can be found liable for damages in various situations, depending on who claims damage, and the basis of the claim itself. For example, where an owner has a direct contract with the architect, the owner could bring forth a simple claim based on the contract or a claim based on a tort action. Such a tort action, based on negligence, is a claim for malpractice.
For New York Architects, Landscape Architects, Engineers, and Land Surveyors, exposure to liability on their completed projects may extend long beyond the completion of the project itself. Exactly how long design professionals can be ‘on the hook’ for claims has been a bit of a moving target in New York, with changes and proposed additional changes to this timeframe.
One topic that came up in my practice recently was a contractor’s potential exposure to liability for punitive damages under New York law. As the name suggests, punitive damages are awarded above and beyond their contract or property damages, ‘where the wrong done was aggravated by circumstances of violence, oppression, malice, fraud, … on the part of the defendant, and are intended to address the plaintiff’s mental anguish or other aggravation, to punish the defendant for its behavior.’ Black’s Law Dictionary 390 (6th Ed. 1991).
Construction is filled with countless risks, from weather conditions, labor strikes, material unavailability, subsurface conditions, inaccurate plans, and specifications, among others variables. Each has the potential to delay the project, cause increased completion costs, and increase the likelihood of disputes, liens, or litigation. Problems stemming from inaccurate plans and specs can quickly become the obstacles of others beyond just the design professional itself.
It is certain that New York construction law imposes principal responsibility for plan and specification accuracy on the design professional itself. The design professional is required to use the degree of skill, knowledge, and judgment generally used by other design professionals in the same geographic area.
In a nutshell, the “economic loss rule” is a rule that courts use to prevent a plaintiff from against a defendant for a tort (usually negligence) when the essence of the claim is for failure to live up to the terms of a contract.
CAN I BE SUED FOR VIOLATING THE BUILDING CODE?
CLAIMS AGAINST CONTRACTORS AND ARCHITECTS FOR CODE VIOLATIONS
In my construction law practice, I’m often confronted with instances of building code violations and questions of whether building code violations should subject a contractor or architect to liability.
THE ECONOMIC LOSS RULE IN NEW YORK CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS:
WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT MAY BENEFIT CONTRACTORS AND ARCHITECTS
The “economic loss rule” is a rule that New York courts use to prevent a plaintiff from recovering against a defendant for a tort (usually negligence), when the essence of the plaintiff’s claim is for failure to live up to the terms of a contract.
Construction contracts in New York often place the architect or engineer in the additional role of an initial impartial decider as to any disagreement or disputes between the contractor and the owner, in addition to their roles as the design professionals.