How Much Control Is Too Much Control? Federal Court in Florida Holds Designers’ Supervision of Project and Issuance of Design Documents Creates Control Over—And Potential Tort Liability To—Project Contractors

Suffolk Constr. Co. v. Rodriguez & Quiroga Architects Chtd., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42652 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 15, 2018)

This case arises out of the design and construction of a science museum in Miami, Florida (the “Project”).  Museum of Science, Inc. (“MSI”), the Project owner, executed several agreements relating to the Project, including: (i) an agreement with Defendant Rodriguez and Quiroga Architects Chartered (“R&Q”) to serve as executive architect; (ii) an agreement with Defendant Grimshaw Architects P.C. (“Grimshaw”) to serve as the design architect; (iii) a construction services contract with Plaintiff Suffolk Construction Co. (“Suffolk”); and (iv) a direct contract with Suffolk’s subcontractor, Plaintiff Baker Concrete Construction, Inc. (“Baker”) for construction services after MSI terminated Suffolk for convenience.  After execution of these agreements, R&Q executed contracts with Defendant Fraga Engineers, LLC (“Fraga”) for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design services, and with Defendant DDA Engineers, P.A. (“DDA”) for structural design and engineering services.

Suffolk and Baker (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed suit for negligence against R&Q, Grimshaw, Fraga, and DDA (collectively, “Defendants”), claiming that by issuing deficient design documents, Defendants breached their duties owed to Plaintiffs causing Plaintiffs to incur economic losses.  All Defendants but R&Q moved to dismiss the claims, arguing that they had no supervisory role or control over Plaintiffs, as demonstrated by the fact that their contracts with MSI did not designate them as “supervisory architects,” and thus, owed no duty to Plaintiffs. Continue reading “How Much Control Is Too Much Control? Federal Court in Florida Holds Designers’ Supervision of Project and Issuance of Design Documents Creates Control Over—And Potential Tort Liability To—Project Contractors”

No Privity, No Problem: Louisiana Court of Appeals Holds That Project Manager Owes a Duty of Professional Care to General Contractor Despite a Lack of Privity

Lathan Co. v. State, No. 2016-CA-0913, 2017 La. App. LEXIS 2277 (La. App. 1st Cir. Dec. 6, 2017).

On December 6, 2017, the Louisiana Court of Appeals, First Circuit, reversed and remanded the trial court’s decision to grant the appellee’s, Jacobs Project Management Co./CRSS Consortium (“Jacobs”), motion for summary judgment.  In its opinion, the court of appeals held that a project manager owed a general contractor a duty of professional care and thus, could be held liable to a general contractor under Louisiana law, even if the project manager was not in direct privity with the general contractor.

On August 13, 2010, the appellant, The Lathan Company, Inc. (“Lathan”), entered into a public works contract with the State of Louisiana, Department of Education, Recovery School District (“Owner”) to renovate the William Frantz School in New Orleans.  Jacobs, through its contract with the Owner, served as project manager on behalf of the Owner.  Four years later, in August 2014, after filing an original lawsuit against the Owner in 2012 for payment of undisputed amounts due, Lathan filed an amended pleading that alleged inter alia Lathan was entitled to damages from Jacobs under general tort law for negligent professional undertaking and under Louisiana’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.  According to Lathan, Jacobs owed Lathan a duty of conduct in accordance with a standard of care similar to professionals in the industry and that Jacobs breached its duty of care by failing to (i) disclose mold conditions and the existence of an underground fuel tank at the outset of the project; (ii) timely respond to Lathan’s 400+ requests for information; (iii) perform inspections consistent with industry standards; and (iv) review, certify, and/or approve amounts due to Lathan.  Continue reading “No Privity, No Problem: Louisiana Court of Appeals Holds That Project Manager Owes a Duty of Professional Care to General Contractor Despite a Lack of Privity”

Fifth Circuit Holds That Spearin-like Provision of Louisiana Civil Code Bars Negligent Failure to Warn Claim

LaShip, LLC v. Hayward Baker, Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 3694 (5th Cir. Mar. 1, 2017)

Beginning in 2007, LaShip, LLC (“LaShip”) undertook the construction of a large shipbuilding facility in Houma, Louisiana (the “Project”), situated on its own private land as well as land owned by the Terrebonne Port Commission (“TPC) – a subdivision of the Louisiana state government. In July 2008, LaShip accepted a bid from Hayward Baker, Inc. (“HBI”) to complete the soil mixing and drill shaft work on the Project.

The contract between LaShip and HBI (the “Contract”) provided for HBI to install subterranean soil-mix columns to form the foundation of the shipbuilding facility and prevent it from collapsing into the soft and compressible Louisiana soil. Pursuant to the Contract, HBI obtained soil samples to ascertain the columns’ strength.  Laboratory testing revealed that, in general, the soil possessed the requisite compressive strength provided for in the Contract.  Nevertheless, as the work progressed the columns exhibited spiraling, and HBI experienced several cave-ins during its installation of the drill shafts and unwanted settlement of the foundation columns.

On January 21, 2011, LaShip filed suit against HBI in the Louisiana Federal District Court alleging that HBI violated Louisiana law by not warning LaShip about alleged defects in the design of the columns. TPC joined the lawsuit on March 6, 2013, also claiming that HBI acted negligently in failing to warn of a dangerous condition.  The District Court ruled that LaShip failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence its claims against HBI.  LaShip and TPC then appealed. Continue reading “Fifth Circuit Holds That Spearin-like Provision of Louisiana Civil Code Bars Negligent Failure to Warn Claim”