What sets top-tier Professional Liability insurance companies apart from the rest are their risk management resources. These can include webinars and pre-claims assistance, which are usually made available only to their insureds. Other examples are contract review guides and newsletters. Travelers is one of the longest standing carriers of Professional Liability insurance (or Errors & Omissions insurance) for architects and engineers, and it makes several excellent resources available to all design professionals. In case you need a reason to visit their website, we suggest checking out their Lessons Learned: a series of examples of claims causing loss and recommendations to mitigate risk in the future related to the type of loss. We pulled a recent one up to give you a taste!
An architect contracted to provide design services for a retirement complex in the southwestern United States. In an effort to control costs, the owner chose not to retain the architect to perform construction phase services.
Upon project completion, the residents started complaining about various quality issues, including water intrusion, flashing problems and cracking stucco exteriors. The owner hired a forensic engineer who found numerous construction defects.
While many of the problems appeared to be construction related, the architect came under fire for failing to specify two layers of building paper as part of the exterior wall design. There was some question whether the architect, by specifying a single layer, had violated the local building codes.
The case failed to settle in mediation and went to arbitration.
During the three weeks of testimony, there were long debates about whether the contractor was required to provide one or two layers of building paper. The contractor argued that the specifications were confusing, which led to the installation of the single layer. The architect took the position that the specifications required the contractor to comply with applicable code requirements, which took precedence over the specified single layer of building paper.
The arbitration proceedings closed and the arbitrator rendered her decision. The architect was ordered to pay the owner in the
range of $500,000.
1. Construction Phase Services – Limiting or eliminating the design professional’s involvement during construction can be problematic. Many questions relating to the design intent can arise during construction. Keeping the design team on the sidelines can lead to problems during construction.
2. Specification Ambiguity – Clearly written specifications are important. Ensure that the specifications make sense. Have the specifications reviewed by someone who is unfamiliar with the project. As the author of the specifications, ambiguities most often become the design professional’s problem.
For more information, visit our Web site, contact your Risk Control consultant or email Ask-Risk-Control@travelers.com.