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In Suffolk Construction Co., Inc v. Rodriquez Quiroga
Architects, et al., 2018 WL 1335185 (U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Fla. Mar 15,
2018), the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
held that an architect and engineer breached owed a duty to the contractor by
providing design plans which the contractor relied upon.
Museum of Science, Inc. contracted with Rodriquez and
Quiroga Architects (“R&Q”) as Executive Architect and with Grimshaw
Architects (“Grimshaw”) as Design Architect for a science museum in Miami,
Florida. R&Q subcontracted with
Fraga Engineers, LLC (“Fraga”) to provide engineering services with respect to
the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and with DDA Engineers, P.A.
(“DDA”) for structural engineering services.
The Museum contracted with Suffolk Construction, Inc. (“Suffolk”) as the
general contractor. After the Museum
terminated the contract with Suffolk, Suffolk filed suit against R&Q,
Grimshaw, Fraga and DDA for professional negligence.
Suffolk argued Defendants breached their duties owed to
Suffolk by providing deficient architectural and engineering design plans. Suffolk argued the flawed documents provided
by the Defendants caused increased costs and delays. Defendants denied they owed Suffolk a duty
and filed Motions to Dismiss.
In Florida, legal duties arise from “the general facts of
the case.” According to the Court, the
duty alleged in this action was one that “arises because of a foreseeable zone
of risk arising from the acts of the defendants.” The Court held that “the
foreseeable zone of risk created by the defendants’ conduct defines the scope
of the defendants’ legal duty.”
The Court relied on A.R. Moyer, Inc. v. Graham, 285
So. 2d 39 (Fla. 1973), which held an architect owed a duty to a general
contractor despite the lack of privity between them because architects simply
have too much control over a contractor not to owe a legal duty. The Florida Supreme Court held that an
architect’s level of control over a contractor and the foreseeability of injury
caused by reliance on the design established a professional duty.
The Suffolk Court recognized that cases following A.R.
Moyer required, in the absence of privity, a professional architect or
engineer to have some level of control over a contractor for a duty to
arise. The Suffolk Court explained
that control may be established where the architect or engineer has a
supervisory role, but also may be established where the architect or engineer
acts with the knowledge that the contractor will rely on its design plans. The Suffolk Court held the level of
control exercised by Defendants, even the subcontracted sub-consultant defendants,
warranted the finding of a duty, because they knew the general contractor would
rely on their designs to construct the Project.