Defective Design & Specification Attorneys in Miami, Florida
The collapse of the 12-floor condominium complex known as Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, on June 24, 2021, brought public focus to the perils of construction defects – and the quality of the materials and workmanship used in construction projects – that may not show up until years later.
Generally speaking, those who purchase new structures, or have their current structure remodeled or rebuilt, are given four years from the date of occupancy or remodel completion to sue for any defects under Florida law. However, there is also something known as a statute of repose, which in construction projects is 10 years, meaning that no legal action can be taken after 10 years of occupancy have lapsed.
In the case of Champlain Towers South, the building was 40 years old and well beyond the statute of repose. However, a $1 billion settlement was reached after a class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of the 98 victims and their families, linked the collapse to work being performed on an adjacent structure.
Of course, massive collapses are a rare happening, but homeowners face the prospect of defects whenever they purchase a new residence or remodel an existing one. These defects are not always the result of shoddy workmanship or the use of inferior materials but can spring from the very design and specifications being used for the project.
If you’ve just purchased or remodeled a home or another building in or around Miami, Florida, and you’ve discovered defects that you suspect may spring from the design itself, contact the construction attorney team at Miguel A. Brizuela, P.A.
Our team has extensive experience in construction law at the federal, state, and local levels. We can examine the circumstances of your suspected design defect and develop an effective legal strategy for moving forward to get matters repaired or compensated for.
We proudly serve clients not only in the Miami metro area but also throughout Southern Florida including Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach.
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Common Design Defects
Design defects are not often as initially obvious as defects stemming from workmanship or choice of materials used. For instance, a step on a stairway that is loose or a window that won’t open properly generally won’t spring from faulty design specifications – unless perhaps all windows and all stairway steps exhibit the same defect.
Design defects are more likely to occur in electrical, plumbing, and mechanical infrastructures and systems (such as heating and air conditioning), as surface problems with moisture intrusion, or as access issues to control devices and components that may need maintenance or repair.
Liability for Design and Specification Defects
Liability will often hinge upon language in the contracts governing the project in question. The design contract with the architect may contain a clause that attempts to immunize the designer from liability by shifting it to the general contractor. A savvy general contractor, and even a subcontractor, likewise will insist on language that protects them against defects arising from faulty design or specifications.
Responsibility for defects is often a bone of contention among owners, designers, and builders (contractors). The architect, courts have ruled, is generally required to exert “reasonable care” to ensure that the design and specifications are free from errors that could lead to confusion or misinterpretation that in turn might lead to defects.
A general contractor – and subcontractors as well – are expected to thoroughly read the plans supplied to them and execute everything “in a workmanlike manner,” courts have similarly held.
All this, of course, can leave the owner stuck in the middle. The designer and even the contractor may try to shift blame to the owner for lack of clarity in describing the project or for not exercising careful oversight of first, the design, and then, the construction and execution follow-up on that design.
The Spearin Doctrine and What It Means
Following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1918, what came to be known as the Spearin Doctrine took hold in matters concerning construction-related design and specification issues. This doctrine holds that there is an “implied warranty” presumed to be present in all design specifications, meaning that they are presumed to be accurate as provided.
However, as with many legal matters, caveats and exceptions exist, especially when it comes to the type of specifications being provided to the owner and contractor. The distinction plays a major role in determining whether the architect/designer can be held liable under the principle of an “implied warranty.”
Prescriptive specifications, which precisely spell out the materials to be used and how they are to be used, are subject to the Spearin Doctrine. On the other hand, performance specifications, which describe only the desired end result and leave implementation to the contractor, are not subject to the Spearin Doctrine.
If a Dispute Arises
Florida law is specific on preventing – or at least delaying – lawsuits over design and construction defects. Chapter 558 of the Florida Statutes states that a dispute must begin with “the claimant filing a notice of claim with the contractor, subcontractor, supplier, or design professional that the claimant asserts is responsible for the defect, and should provide the contractor, subcontractor, supplier, or design professional, and the insurer of the contractor, subcontractor, supplier, or design professional, with an opportunity to resolve the claim through confidential settlement negotiations without resort to further legal process."
The person or entity given the notice then has 45 days to respond on what steps they are willing to take or whether they even agree with the claim. If there is no response from the recipient of the claim after 60 days, or the response disputes the allegation, then a lawsuit may be initiated by the claimant.
A lawsuit can tie you up in court for weeks or months and run up your legal expenses, so it is in your best interest to reach a settlement outside of the courtroom.
The design and specification defect attorneys at Miguel A. Brizuela, P.A. have extensive experience in working with owners, contractors, and designers in resolving disputes over defects. If a lawsuit is ultimately warranted, we are also fully prepared to fight for your rights for reparation, utilizing our knowledge and resources in the field of construction law.
Defective Design and Specification Attorneys Serving Miami, Florida
If you have a structure with what you believe to be a design defect in or around Miami, or anywhere throughout Southern Florida, contact Miguel A. Brizuela, P.A. immediately. Let’s discuss your situation and develop a solid plan of action beginning with informative discussions with all involved, and then proceeding to a Chapter 558 Notice if necessary. Reach out today so we can start the process.