Architect Owes Implied Warranty…to Contractor

Architect Owes Implied Warranty…to Contractor

By Matthew Meaker & Roger Owers, Ph.D., P.E., J.D.

Andante Law Group of Daniel E. Garrison, PLLC

www.andantelaw.com

Architecture Plus, Ltd., was hired by Vern Haugen to design a custom home on Haugen’s hillside lot in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Haugen wanted the home to be designed so as to maximize the extraordinary view of the city.  Haugen provided Architecture Plus a topological map marking the corridor within which Architecture Plus was to design the home and discussed with the principal architect of Architecture Plus, Ltd. the importance of properly orienting the home.  Once designed, Haugen intended on having his company, North Peak Construction, LLC build the home.

Prior to the beginning of construction, Haugen sold the lot and the preliminary plans prepared by Architecture Plus to Russell Scaramella.  Scaramella retained Architecture Plus to complete the design, using the same terms as Haugen had with Architecture Plus. Scaramella also hired North Peak to build the home.

In 2006, while the house was under construction, Scaramella and North Peak realized that the design of the home had resulted in the home being oriented toward a mountain and a water tank, not toward the city lights.  It cost approximately $165,000 in additional expenses to get the house oriented properly.

In 2009, North Peak (the contractor–not the homeowner Scaramella) sued Architecture Plus.  North Peak asserted claims against Architecture Plus for breach of an implied warranty and for negligence.  North Peak claimed it relied upon Architecture Plus’ design plans and that Architecture Plus breached the implied warranty by providing deficient and substandard workmanship in designing the custom home without maximizing the views of the city lights, as expressly required by the contract.  The trial court threw out North Peak’s implied warranty claim based upon Architecture Plus’ Motion to Dismiss, in which it argued that the implied warranty claim was nothing more than a reassertion of the claim for negligence.

However, on appeal, the appellate court found a new tool available against design professionals.  Even though the architect did not necessarily breach the design contract with the homeowner, the appellate court held “that by providing design plans that did not properly align the house, (Architecture Plus) breached an implied warranty that it would use its skill with care and diligence and in a reasonable, non-negligent manner.”

So now, in Arizona, not only does the designer owe certain duties to its client, the architect can be found liable to the contractor for breach of an implied warranty in the contract.

The case is North Peak Construction, LLC v. Architecture Plus, et al., decided on April 26, 2011 by Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals.  It can be found at http://azcourts.gov/Portals/89/opinionfiles/CV/CV100017.pdf.

This article is intended for general information only.  It should not be construed as legal advice with respect to any particular situation.  Readers should not act upon information contained in this article without first consulting their lawyer.

Matthew Meaker is a Partner with the Andante Law Group of Daniel E. Garrison, PLLC and provides legal representation in the areas of construction law, creditor’s rights and general business disputes.  Mr. Meaker is a member of the Attorneys Council for the American Subcontractors Association of Arizona and a member of the Executive Council for the Construction Law Section of the Arizona Bar Association.  He can be reached via e-mail at matt@andantelaw.com.

Roger S. Owers is a commercial real estate professional with Keyser LLC and is a lawyer with the Kaibab Law Offices of Roger S. Owers LLC.  Roger holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering, is a registered professional civil engineer, holds a real estate license, and is a licensed attorney.  He can be reached via e-mail at rowers@kaibabllc.com or www.kaibabllc.com.  He can also be found on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/rogerowers/.

rowers

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