Say you and your partner finally decided to build your dream home. You researched potential architects and chose one who seemed to share your vision and who was within your budget.
Seven years later you find your roof leaks and there is now a mold problem because of it.
Can you sue your architect?
The answer of course is yes. But the better question is: Should you sue your architect? Most architects have insurance to protect their personal finances, home and business capital. And while there are definite times when suing the architect makes sense there are several things to consider. A designer and an architect are two very different professions that are held to different levels of responsibility.
The statute of limitations in Colorado
The statute of limitations for suing a construction company or architect is six years. So in the case above, if it is seven years after construction is complete and after you first noticed the leak, then as per Colo. Rev/ Stat§ 13-80-104 you do not have a viable case. The action "must be commenced within two years after a defect is discovered." A two-year extension is given if the defect was noticed in the fifth or sixth year.
The importance of a contract
The law provides for six years unless it states otherwise in your written contract. Your contract may also state whether in cases of disagreement arbitration, mediation or notice of breach are required before you sue. The contract should also spell out who pays the legal fees in such cases.
A complex case to prove
Suing an architect is complex because if you chose to go this route you must prove negligence. This means you must show that the architect:
- Owed you a duty of care: "a reasonable skill and care of a competent architect"
- Breached that duty of care
- Caused you a financial loss because of the breach
Even the most notable architects aren't perfect
A 2007 case of M.I.T suing architect Frank Gehry shows that even the world's most acclaimed architects are not immune to criticism and lawsuits. Gehry designed some very imaginative and contemporary buildings for M.I.T.'s robotics department. While the designs were stunning to say the least there were problems with water leakage.
The "value engineering" issue
Was this the fault of the architect? Mr. Gehry says no. He claims the problems stem from "value engineering." Mr. Gehry states that important elements or devices for the roof were not implemented in order for the client to save money. This may be true and may protect Mr. Gehry. In fact, if you chose not to use certain materials or not to include specified safety features, the resultant damage or issues may be your burden, not the architect's.
Reasons you may want to pursue a claim
If an architect is willfully negligent and this costs you money or creates an egregious safety issue you may want to speak with an attorney. Some factors to consider are whether the architect:
- Specified incorrect materials
- Did not follow code
- Failed to get relevant planning permission for the project
Most architects are deeply concerned with safety and providing quality services. Many times disagreements can be resolved in a sit down meeting where you point out the issues and work together to find a suitable resolution.