Texas Architect Owes No Inspection Duty to Third Parties
Posted on Oct. 1, 2012

The Texas Supreme Court recently allowed to stand a 2011 ruling by an appellate court that an architect had no fault for the failure of a contractor to follow construction documents.  The plaintiff in the case suffered spinal damage when she and a friend stepped onto the third-story balcony of a home they were visiting. The balcony broke away from the house and the women fell to the ground.  It was determined that a subcontractor had attached the balcony using nails rather than bolts as shown in the construction documents.

The architect’s contract with the owners of the home, like many owner-architect agreements, required the architect to provide “administration of the construction contract,” “visit the site at intervals,” and “endeavor to guard the owner against defects and deficiencies.”  The architect visited the project several times and took photos. He testified that he did not report the balcony construction defect because he did not notice any issues.

Following trial, the jury awarded a $410,000 verdict against the architect and in favor of the plaintiff.  The jury determined that the general contractor was 70 percent to blame for the balcony collapse, the subcontractor was 20 percent responsible, and that the architect was 10 percent liable.

The architect argued on appeal that he could not be held liable for the contractor’s failures, and that while the architect had a duty to report any defects and deficiencies of which he was aware, he had no duty to identify any and all defects.  The architect also argued that any duty was owed to the homeowners, as his client, and not to visitors to the client’s home.  The appellate court agreed with that argument in reversing the jury’s verdict.  The court said the plaintiff had asked the court to transform and extend the contractual duty owed to the homeowners into a common law duty owed to visitors of the home.

Construction Law
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About Adam

Attorney Adam T. Mow

Adam is a trusted resource for architects, engineers and other members of the construction industry in litigation, risk management, contract negotiations and mechanics’ liens. Adam is also a licensed architect and a past president of the Utah chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He has been elected by his peers to the Utah Legal Elite since 2009.

Awards and Recognition

AV Rating

Excellence in the Study of Architecture, American Institute of Architects Certificate of Merit, 1999

CALI Award for Excellence in Mediation and Advanced Negotiation, 2003

Community Mediator of the Year, Utah Dispute Resolution, 2007

Graduate of the Last Decade, Ball State University, 2008

Utah Business Magazine, Legal Elite, 2009-Present

Mountain States Rising Stars (Construction Litigation), 2009-Present