By: Greg Cafouros
An Architect walks into a bar that he designed. No, this isn’t a joke, but a question. When is a design professional liable for injuries to the general public for his or her faulty design?
Until fairly recently, a builder or architect’s responsibility to injured third parties terminated upon completion of the structure and acceptance by the owner. This rule was known as the “acceptance rule,” and was based on the idea that the builder or architect should be liable only to the person with whom he or she had a contract, but no one else. Under this rule, if a building collapsed and injured a member of the general public after a project was completed and turned over to the owner, the injured person could sue only the owner—not the contractor or architect.
In 2004, the Indiana Supreme Court retreated entirely from the “acceptance rule,” holding instead that even after an owner has accepted the design professional’s work, an architect or contractor “has a duty to use reasonable care both in his or her work and in the course of performance of the work.” Moreover, that duty is owed to anyone “who might be reasonably be foreseen as being subject to injury by the breach of the duty,” regardless of whether the architect or contractor had a contract with the injured party.
Thus, Indiana law provides that contractors, architects, and engineers owe duties of careful design and construction to anyone from the general public who might be reasonably be foreseen as being subject to personal injuries from a defect in the design or construction of a building.
To read a more in depth discussion of this topic, click here.