gavelCalifornia architects can breathe a little easier. Filed June 3, 2013, the Court of Appeals decision in Brisbane Lodging, LP v. Webcor Builders, Inc. held that the section of the 1997 AIA Standard Form of Agreement between Owner and Contractor is enforceable.

This is good news for Design Professionals, as section shortens the statute of limitations period to four years and effectively abrogates the delayed discovery rule in California.

Per an announcement email recently received from Jacqueline Pons-Bunney, a partner at law firm Weil & Drage:

The case involves a contract between an owner and a contractor for the construction of a hotel. The clause at issue reads:

“any applicable statute of limitations shall commence to run and any alleged cause of action shall be deemed to have accrued in any and all events not later than such date of Substantial Completion.”

Substantial completion at the subject project was July 31, 2000. In early 2005, the owner discovered a break in the sewer line which caused waste to flow under the hotel. It was determined that the plumbing problem was a latent defect. Both the contractor and its plumbing subcontractor investigated the problem and attempted repairs. It was ultimately discovered that the plumbing subcontractor had installed ABS pipe rather than cast iron pipe for the sewer line, in violation of the Uniform Plumbing Code. The owner filed a lawsuit in May 2008. Continue reading “California Court Upholds Contractual Statute of Limitations Provision in AIA Standard Form”

pronetworknews_nov2012If you have ever gone car or shoe shopping with and for someone else (teenagers and significant others, in particular), you know the difficulty and frustration that usually follows efforts to fit and style those with strong opinions and feelings on the subject. Such shopping is more an effort in very personal comfort, feel and perception than utility. The same can be true for design professionals’ scope of services. The most recent economy has left design professionals to suffer earliest, longest and hardest, particularly those that rely on residential development. To keep busy, some A/Es are marketing a broader scope of services, including services historically reserved for construction contractors. The comfort, feel and perception of such expanded scopes of services are highly personal but come with distinct and practical liabilities and risks. Like finding the right shoe size or vehicle type, A/Es can manage expanded risks with properly fitting contracts, insurance and professional structure.

SUV v. Sedan and Dress Shoe v. Cleats

In annual magazine reviews, sedans are compared to sedans and SUVs are compared to SUVs. The same is true of legal standards by which different roles are judged. A/Es provide a professional service and are compared to other A/Es by a standard of care – what others in the same profession are doing or would have done for a similar project. A/E contracts typically take care to adhere to recitations of the baseline standard of care and avoid or disclaim responsibility for means and methods, safety, warranties and the contractor’s timely or proper performance.

Contractors provide a finished product which is judged by a good and workmanlike standard: a warranty of quality, timeliness and, usually, safe performance of the work. Contractor agreements therefore give the contractor control over and responsibility for means and methods, safety, warranties, schedule and performance.

Crossovers and Hybrids

There is a line between trucks and cars, but there are luxury SUVs and crossovers to blur the line and offer compromises of varying degree.  The line between A/E services and contractor services has become equally fuzzy.  Try to explain in words the difference between the scope of services of a Construction Manager/Advisor, a Program Manager and an Owner’s Representative. For example:  The label is less important than the intended division of responsibility, control and money, and how that is expressed in a contract.  Continue reading “Architects Step Into Contractors Liability, Size XXL”