Whether you work in residential or commercial construction, there are a myriad of ways your business can be entangled in a construction defect dispute. In some cases, there may be several professionals responsible for a construction defect; however, the general contractor is generally responsible for any defects discovered during the building process.
At Cotney Construction Law, we are a nationally recognized construction law firm that represents construction clients in a variety of legal disputes, including construction defect claims. In this article, we will discuss some common types of construction defects and how a contractor may be sued for a defect by an owner. If you are dealing with a construction defect claim, consult a Chattanooga contractor attorney today for legal defense.
The Many Types of Construction Defects
A construction defect is any type of mistake made during the building process that results in a reduction in the value of the structure. Some construction defects are immediately identified (patent), whereas others may not be discovered until years later (latent). A construction defect can stem from a variety of issues, including:
- Soil Problems: Before breaking ground, if an improper soil analysis was performed, this can result in foundation issues and a construction defect claim.
- Strategy: Any failure in strategy during the planning phase, including the site selection, can result in a defect claim.
- Design: Whether it be an error or omission on the part of the architect, design gaffes can also lead to a claim.
- Poor Workmanship: Any form of substandard work performed during the building process by a contractor or subcontractor can result in a defect.
- Defective Materials: Any manufacturing defect with the building materials can result in a claim with the manufacturer or supplier being found responsible for the defect.
A construction defect can be related to a variety of problems, including HVAC issues, mold or dry rot, an electrical or water problem, soil or drainage issues, or foundation problems. Foundation problems can be related to flooring, walls, or the roof.
Related: 5 Common Roofing Defects
Construction Defect Claims
If a construction defect claim is brought against you, the plaintiff will be seeking damages. This can include:
- Repair Costs: This is the most straightforward form of damages to be recovered in a defect claim. If a structure is damaged because of a defect, the professional responsible may be on the hook for the costs associated with repairs.
- Loss in Value: If a construction defect resulted in a decline in value of the property, the professional responsible will be liable. For example, if an owner’s business needed to be closed to repair the defect, this would significantly impact their profitability.
- Other Costs: There can be a wide range of other costs associated with a construction defect claim. A homeowner may have to move out of their house and rent another place to live when a defect is discovered. In other cases, a defendant may be required to cover for the plaintiff’s legal fees, depending on their contract.
- Personal Injury: If a construction defect resulted in a bystander’s injury, they may be awarded compensation due to a construction professional’s negligence.
Common Construction Defect Lawsuits
As we stated above, a plaintiff can seek damages for a variety of reasons. They may also file a lawsuit against a contractor for breach of contract or professional negligence, depending on the circumstances of the case. A negligence-based claim would showcase that a contractor failed to complete their work to the “duty of care.” For example, if a contractor fails to build in compliance with safety codes, this could result in a professional negligence claim. To learn more about liability laws in Tennessee related to professional negligence, speak with our Chattanooga contractor attorneys.
Breach of contract claims are another common form of dispute in the construction industry. Ideally, you would always have a Chattanooga construction lawyer reviewing your contracts before you put pen to paper; however, if a construction defect claim is brought against you, it’s critical to have an attorney review your contract. A contract can contain many clauses related to construction defects, including provisions that define the building specifications or what materials can be utilized on the project. When you have our Chattanooga construction lawyers draft your contracts, they can include an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) clause that requires both parties to try to resolve disputes like a construction defect outside of the courtroom.
Consult a Construction Attorney
In order to prove a construction defect litigation claim, the plaintiff’s legal counsel will rely on testimony from experts that specialize in this area of construction. As part of this process, the construction defect will be investigated further, experts will try to determine the reason for the defect, and instructions on how to improve the defect will be provided. As this process heavily focuses on practices and laws related to construction, partner with a construction attorney to ensure your legal counsel understands the intricacies of your case.
The plaintiff must also file a charge by the required deadline in order to validate their claim. The statute of limitations to file a valid construction defect claim varies from state to state, and the requirements vary depending on the facts associated with your case. To learn more about the statute of limitations in Tennessee for construction defect claims, consult a construction attorney.