Source: http://www.lexology.com, June 6, 2013
By: Jennifer W. Fletcher, Michael G. Kerman, Kent W. Collier , Jennifer S. Lowndes and Laura J. Stipanowich, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP
Over the past fourteen years, third parties have been able to maintain a direct negligence cause of action against an individual design professional, such as an architect or engineer, arising out a construction project, despite the contractual arrangements being with the design professional’s employer.1 A new Florida statute will soon change this law.
In other words, if a general contractor contracted with an architectural firm to perform design work, and an architect employed by the architectural firm was negligent in the design, then the owner (the contractor’s client) could maintain its defect claims against the contractor, the architect (assuming no economic loss issues), and the individual architect personally. Or, in the case of a design/build firm, the action could be maintained individually against the architect employed by the design/build firm.
A recent Florida statute that becomes effective July 1, 2013, changes this common law. This new statute, Section 558.0035, allows firms providing professional services, including design/build contractors, to limit by contract the liability of their individual design professionals (architects, interior designers, landscape architects, engineers, surveyors or geologists) so long as:
The new statute is a significant departure from the Florida common law of the past fourteen years. Now, individual design professionals may enjoy limited liability when working for corporate design and engineering firms, similar to the law in many other U.S. jurisdictions. The law also changes an owner’s expectations regarding who may be responsible for alleged design or engineering defects.