In most engineering and construction projects, defects occur in either the design phase or the building stage. The general rule of thumb is that either the project architect, engineer, or contractor, is responsible for the damages resulting from these defects. Cases that result from these defects are often based on contracts that were signed between homeowners and developers, and those that were signed between contractors and subcontractors.
The ultimate goal of establishing legal liability for construction defects is to pinpoint the at-fault party, who will then be legally obligated to remedy the flaws. If not addressed, construction defects can cause bigger problems including costly repairs, and injuries to workers and building occupants. The following are four of the main types of construction defects.
Design experts such as engineers and architects can be sued if they design structures that end up being defective. Typically, design deficiencies pertain to building against specified codes. This may include implementing roof designs that result in poor drainage, water penetration, or insufficient structural support.
The use of substandard construction materials can also lead to significant problems including cracks on buildings. Besides this, buildings that are constructed using inferior materials cannot withstand weather elements such as strong winds and rainfall. A contractor has legal liability for construction defects if he/she used substandard materials.
The most obvious cause of construction defects is poor craftsmanship. This leads to defects irrespective of the project design, or the quality of materials used. Poor quality craftsmanship may lead to water infiltration, rotting, mechanical and electrical problems, leaks, and pest infestation.
Most construction sites are characterized by expansive soil conditions, which make it difficult to lay down a strong and stable foundation for buildings. This often leads to cracks in floor slabs in addition to other adverse damages. Engineers can be sued if they fail to ensure that subsurface conditions at the construction site are properly compacted. Besides this, they must ensure that there is proper drainage, more so when laying foundations in hilly areas.
To properly comprehend the dynamics of construction defects cases, it is important to understand the meaning of concepts such as negligence, breach of contract, breach of warranty, strict liability claims, and fraudulent misrepresentation.
Negligence in Construction Projects
Property developers, general contractors, and subcontractors are obligated to exercise a reasonable degree of skill, expertise, and care when undertaking projects. The duty of care is similarly extended to individuals who can foreseeably sustain injuries as a result of a construction defect. This includes those who will occupy the building once construction is complete. General contractors and developers are equally responsible for their subcontractor’s negligence.
Breach of Contract
Homeowners have the right to sue builders who breach any provision that is stipulated in the contract. This includes instructions concerning how construction is to be undertaken. Breach of contract may similarly entail aspects of the project that goes beyond the builder’s failure to undertake construction in a manner that is in accordance with the client’s wishes. When such a lawsuit is filed, courts mostly invoke the code of substantial performance. This rule requires builders to pay homeowners the contract price after deducting the reduced prevailing market value of the home.
Breach of Warranty
This has a close similarity to a breach of contract. Just like it is the case with breach of contract, purchase documents that were signed by the homeowner and the developer sets forth warranties pertaining to the property’s condition. If a breach of express warranty arises, the principles of contract can apply.
Strict Liability Claims
More often than less, the implicit warranty of habitability enforces strict liability on general contractors. The idea of strict liability against general contractors grew from the products liability law. In strict liability claims, the complainant doesn’t have to prove that the developer or the general contractor was negligent during the design or construction of a building. The plaintiff is only required to prove that the respondent played a role in the project and that a defect exists. Besides this, he/she needs to show that the defects proximately caused the damages and that the defendant is the cause of the defect.
Negligent and Fraud Misrepresentation
Negligent misrepresentation is often based on the grounds that the developer wrongfully proclaimed information regarding the project to be factual, yet it isn’t. Fraud can be alleged based on the argument that the builder deliberately misrepresented the quality of a building’s construction in false adverts or statements. In such cases, the plaintiff needs to provide evidence that the developer didn’t have the intention of following design specifications and plans as promised.
Typically, compensation paid to the plaintiff can either be categorized as reliance or expectation damages. Expectation damages are those whose intention is to put the plaintiff in the position that he/she would have been had the contract been fulfilled as planned. Expectation damages are often measures through:
• The cost of rectification.
• Variation in value between the expected and actual performance
• Variation in expenses between the expected and actual outcome.
• Loss of amenity had the project been completed as intended.
Reliance losses imply wasted expenditure. The role of these damages is to compensate the homeowner for any expenses incurred, the losses that he/she may have suffered due as a result of undertaking the project, and its ensuing defects.