A Project Consisting of Several Component Projects Is a Single Project or “Product Purchased by the Owner” Within the Meaning of the Indiana Economic Loss Rule; Only Damage to Pre-Exiting Property at the Site May Be Subject to Recovery in Negligence

City of Whiting v. Whitney, Bailey, Cox & Magnani, LLC, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44943 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 20, 2018)

The City of Whiting, Indiana (the “City”) undertook a 26-acre lakefront development project.  It hired an engineering firm to serve as the consultant for the project.  The consultant subcontracted with a subconsultant for marine engineering services, including design of a rock revetment on the lakefront for shoreline protection.  According to the City, the revetment failed on three occasions, resulting in damage to the City’s property at the project site, including a walking path, landscaping and existing trees, a gazebo, and an existing Gun Club structure, which the City had planned to convert to a restaurant.

After accepting assignment of the consultant’s contract with the subconsultant, the City filed a six-count complaint and alleged that the subconsultant’s negligent revetment design caused damage to the City’s property.  The subconsultant moved for summary judgment on the City’s negligence claim, arguing that the economic loss rule precluded liability against it in tort.  The court noted that Indiana’s economic loss rule bars tort liability when there is damage only to the product contracted for itself, but that the rule does not preclude tort liability if there is personal injury or damage to “other property.” Continue reading “A Project Consisting of Several Component Projects Is a Single Project or “Product Purchased by the Owner” Within the Meaning of the Indiana Economic Loss Rule; Only Damage to Pre-Exiting Property at the Site May Be Subject to Recovery in Negligence”

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”