In construction defect disputes, owners, developers, and associations, often times assert a claim against contractors for a violation of the building code. Such a claim is authorized pursuant to Florida Statute s. 553.84. This inevitably brings up the question of who determines whether an asserted defect, error, or omission constitutes a violation of the building code. In legal terms, it is a matter of whether it is question of law for the judge, or a question of fact for the jury? Florida courts have determined it is a question of law for the judge to determine.
For instance, in Edward J. Seibert, A.I.A. Architect and Planner, P.A. v. Bayport Beach and Tennis Club Ass’n, Inc., 573 So.2d 889 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990), a condominium association filed suit against numerous parties, including the architect. The jury found that the architect was liable for violating the building code in the fire exit design even though the design had been originally approved by the subject building department. In support of its claim for building violation, the association had an expert testify on interpretation of the building code. The Second District ultimately held that the interpretation of the code was a question of law that should not have been submitted to the jury. “An expert should not be allowed to testify concerning questions of law, and the interpretation of the building code presented a question of law.” “It was the duty of the trial court to interpret the meaning of the code and instruct the jury concerning that meaning. Any conflicts in interpretation were for the court to resolve and their resolution was not a jury issue.”