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Failure by Architects to Properly Supervise Construction

An architect is defined as a person skilled in practical architecture, one whose profession it is to devise the plans and ornamentation of buildings or other structures and supervise their construction.[i] If an architect fails to perform the required skill and care conducting his/her work, s/he will be liable for damage or extra expense caused to the employer.  The liability of an architect for his/her negligence resulting in personal injury or death will be based on the supervisory duties of the architect.

An architect, while fulfilling his/her contract with the employer is required to exercise the ability, skill and care used by architects upon such projects.  Any negligent supervision by an architect can lead to liability for the economic losses suffered as a result by contractors working on the project.[ii] The liability of an architect for performing supervisory duties in a negligent way is considered to be distinct from the liability of the party who negligently performs the actual building process.[iii]

Likewise, any possible liability for negligence resulting in personal injuries may be based upon supervisory activities or upon defects in the plans of the architects.  Their possible liability is not limited to the owner who employed them.  Architects are liable to exercise reasonable care, technical skill and ability, and diligence required of architects in the course of supervisions during construction for the protection of any person who may be injured by the failure to do so.[iv]

However, an architect is under no duty to notify or warn workers or employees of the contractor or subcontractor about the hazardous conditions on the construction site, if s/he is not supervising a project.[v] Similarly, to supervise a work only creates a duty of the architect to see that the completed building meets the plans and specifications and it will not include a duty to supervise the safe construction of the building.  Moreover, liability for injuries to workmen must not be imposed on an architect who is contractually responsible for the supervision of a construction project but absent a clear assumption of duty.[vi]

In the absence of the contractual right or responsibility to supervise and control the construction work including site safety, an architect will not incur any liability for injuries caused to by ordinary negligence at the site.[vii] Similarly, architects are under no duty to supervise construction unless they expressly agree to do so.[viii]

[i] Geer v. Bennett, 237 So. 2d 311 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 1970)

[ii] Quail Hollow East Condominium Asso. v. Donald J. Scholz Co., 47 N.C. App. 518, 523 (N.C. Ct. App. 1980)

[iii] Geer v. Bennett, 237 So. 2d 311 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 1970)

[iv] Id

[v] Hobson v. Waggoner Eng’g, Inc., 878 So. 2d 68 (Miss. Ct. App. 2003)

[vi] Wheeler & Lewis v. Slifer, 195 Colo. 291 (Colo. 1978)

[vii] Padgett v. CH2M Hill Southeast, 866 F. Supp. 563 (M.D. Ga. 1994)

[viii] Welch v. Grant Dev. Co., 120 Misc. 2d 493 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1983)

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