The Slavin Doctrine: A Defense Against Third Party Lawsuits
Even with your best efforts issues may still arise. One area of concern many contractors should be aware of is the possibility of litigation regarding a project you’ve moved on from. If after the completion of a construction project you receive a complaint of injury from a third party, a Tampa construction attorney can help you decide whether the Slavin Doctrine can be used as a defense against the complaint made against you.
According to the Supreme Court ruling of Slavin v. Kay, 108 So. 2d 462 (Fla. 1958), if construction work done by a contractor has been completed and accepted by the owner, the contractor may no longer be held responsible.
Relief From Liability
Where does contractor liability end and third party responsibility begin? On one hand, minor defects can be discovered and corrected before it is handed over to the owner. In more complex cases, defects can occur long after the project has been completed and transferred over to the owner.
Here are two ways you can be released from liability in the event a complaint is made:
- A patent defect. This is an “open and obvious” defect in workmanship that is known before, at completion, or during the defects liability period. It is easily discoverable through inspection of the work. Once the defect is discovered it should be brought to the attention of the contractor. The contractor must rectify any defects reported within a reasonable timeframe. Keep in mind it must be easily detected and not hidden (hard to detect) as with latent defects.
- The owner accepts the contractor’s work after corrections of known defects have been made or accepts the work with defects that could have been reasonably discovered by an inspection prior to accepting the work. This transfer of ownership means the owner is aware, in control, and responsible for the project; therefore, the owner is “chargeable with knowledge” moving forward.
Are you the potential target of a lawsuit due to a construction defect? Contact a Tampa construction lawyer to help you determine if a claim could be taken up against you or if the owner is liable.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.