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What Should You Do If Accused of Negligence-Related Construction Defects

Even the most seasoned construction professionals may finish a project and stand accused of a construction defect. These defects can occur from a variety of causes, but one of the most common accusations is that of negligence resulting in a defect. 

If you are facing a construction defect, contact a Fort Lauderdale construction defect lawyer, who will discuss your rights and the best course of action. The accusation of negligence is complex and may result in costly litigation if legal counsel is not retained, which is why it is so vital to speak to an attorney at the first discovery of a defect or first notice of a dispute.  

What Is a Construction Defect?

A defect can occur due to a variety of reasons, including poor workmanship, improper materials, negligence, improper site preparation, poor workmanship, defective materials/equipment, or poor site selection. There are a few construction defects that are common in the construction industry:

  • Electrical systems issues
  • Foundation issues (i.e., wall, roof, and floor cracks)
  • Water/plumbing issues
  • Drainage issues
  • Landscaping/soil issues
  • Mold/dry rot
  • Heating/electrical issues
  • Water and plumbing issues

Construction defects may be patent (noticeable right away) or latent (detected later on, sometimes months or even years later).

Related: Statute of Limitations and Statute of Repose On Construction Defects in Florida

What Is Negligence?

An accusation of negligence-related construction defects is serious. These accusations can scar your record if not handled correctly, which is why it is so important to understand exactly what entails negligence.  A claim of negligence states that the duty of care by a party was breached, which resulted in damages. This is different from a general construction defect claim, which may not name a specific cause; rather, it will name a specific party. 

An example of a negligence-related defect is a construction crew who installed a wheelchair ramp, and then the building owner moves in and begins using the space. Unfortunately, after using the ramp a few times, it’s discovered that the ramp was not built in compliance with proper safety codes and someone becomes seriously injured. The construction company neglected their duty to follow proper protocols, and although it may not have been intentional or malicious, they caused harm and can therefore be held responsible for damages and injuries as a result of that negligence. 

Another example of negligence lies in a construction company that neglects to use best practices and building codes when working with a specific material, like drywall. As a result, months later, the drywall begins to fall apart and may even fall onto and cause injury to someone nearby. This is a construction defect, negligence, and cause for damages. The construction company may be held liable for this defect and all damages and injuries that occurred as a result. 

Defenses Against Negligent Construction Defects

If you have been accused of a negligence-related construction defect, it is important to discuss all possible defenses with a Fort Lauderdale construction dispute attorney. Attempting to defend yourself may result in costly arbitration or litigation fees and fines. Your attorney will discuss a few possible defenses with you, which may include: 

Related: Defending Against Negligence and Defective Construction Claims

The Economic Loss Doctrine

The Economic Loss Doctrine was established to prohibit specific tort actions based solely on economic losses. Historically, this doctrine has acted as a legal shield to defendants who have been accused of negligence and/or defective construction. Under this doctrine, the plaintiff must plead something in addition to a purely economic loss for their claim to stand. However, in recent years, the Florida Supreme Court has found this doctrine to apply strictly to product liability, which may have a significant impact on its future application.

The Slavin Doctrine

The Slavin Doctrine, also commonly known as the “open and obvious rule,” is a rule which states that contractors cannot be held liable for injury to third parties after work has been performed and accepted by the owner. One particular exception to this defense is that the alleged condition or defect must be discoverable by reasonable inspection and rectifiable by feasible means for the contractor to avoid liability. If the alleged condition or defect is latent and irremediable, the contractor may be found liable for injury and/or damages.

The Spearin Doctrine

The Spearin Doctrine states that a contractor cannot be held liable for injury, loss, or damages resulting solely from insufficiencies or defects in information, plans, design, or specifications that have been supplied by the plaintiff or representative thereof. The Spearin Doctrine establishes that the owner impliedly warrants the information, plans, designs, or specifications provided to the contractor commissioned to carry out the project, thereby releasing the contractor of liability for the consequences of the defect.

These are not the only defenses to an accusation of negligence, however, and your attorney will discuss all possible defenses, including whether the negligence was on your company’s part or was the issue of a subcontractor or third-party. 

If you have been accused of a construction defect, an experienced Fort Lauderdale contractor lawyer with Cotney Construction Law will provide you with sound legal advice at every level and assist your firm with any construction need. Not only do we advise our clients on legal matters, but we also provide a myriad of other valuable services for construction businesses, including contract review, employment law advice, and litigation and arbitration services. We also advocate for clients involved in licensing complaints, permitting issues, stop-work orders, business immigration, and more. 

If you would like to speak with a Fort Lauderdale construction dispute lawyer, contact us today.

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.