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Freddy X. Muñoz(left) and Charles E. Fombrun(right) of Peckar & Abramson. Freddy X. Muñoz(left) and Charles E. Fombrun(right) of Peckar & Abramson.

Design professionals such as architects and engineers are exposed to significant risk and potential liability for errors and omissions in their designs and other work on construction projects. In addition to potential up-front design errors, many professionals participate in project administration, which includes the review and approval of payment applications, inspecting and approving construction work as it progresses, and providing clarification and information through submittal approval and RFI responses, which also puts them at risk for post-completion claims. Florida courts have been expanding this liability and risk, and the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s decision in Uddin v. Singer Architects, No. 4D18-2972. (Fla. 4th DCA 2019) is consistent with this expansion by confirming that contractors (who may not even have a contract with the design professional) can file suit against the design professional to recover their damages caused by defective design and project administration.

On many construction projects, the owner hires and has a contractual relationship with its design team, or at least some members of that team. The architect and other members of this team are, of course, liable to their client (typically the owner) for negligence as well as breach of contract. However, what about project participants, such as contractors and subcontractors, who may not have a contractual relationship with the design professional, but could be damaged by their negligence? In the Uddin case, the court held that the contractual relationship was not necessary to impose liability and, in so holding, dramatically increased the risk to design professionals.

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