Identifying construction defects

| Feb 19, 2021 | Construction Law |

New construction expectations are not always met. Construction defects are common but can cause delay, inconvenience and even physical risks to people and property. Dealing with these defects may involve construction law litigation.

General defects

Defects usually involve design, material, workmanship, or other construction deficiencies which lead to a structure failure. These usually cause financial loss or damage to a person or property.

Defect types are patent or latent. A patent defect is known or readily obvious through inspection. Correction usually involves an aesthetic or surface level fix. Repairing the defect is usually not very invasive.

Latent defects are concealed or not readily observable. Correction is usually more difficult because the defect is within the project and repairs are invasive.

Major defects

The first major defect is design. This is a design professional’s failure to create accurate and well-organized construction document because of errors or omissions. Errors usually need redesign or replacement of a component part. Omissions are fixed by change orders adding to a contractor’s scope of work.

Damaged or inadequate building materials cause material defects. If manufacturing caused the defect, the parties using the material remain unaware of the defect until it was already installed into the project. Repairs are usually expensive because additional labor and new materials may be required.

Finally, workmanship defects occur when a contractor does not build a structure or its component in accordance with its construction documents. These defects range from minor aesthetic issues to structural integrity problems.

Determining liability for workmanship defects and how and who violated the standard of care can be complicated. The standard of care for a project requires completion of work in accordance with all the contract and design documents.

Prevention

Construction contracts can help prevent defects by assigning accountability and responsibility for designers, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers.

Quality control programs and quality assurance groups should be established. Groups need to meet regularly, review plans and make occasional site visits.

Daily site visits of work and materials can help uncover defects earlier. The owner, contractor or management team should do an immediate walk through to determine its resolution.

Litigation

Defect litigation may be long and complicated. It can involve many defendants, different insurance policy coverage, anti-indemnity laws and extensive fact-finding. Lawsuits must usually commence within a period set by Florida law usually after discovery of the defect.

Plaintiffs may seek repair costs, drop in property value, loss of use, court costs and punitive damages if there was recklessness or gross negligence. Courts must allocate damages if there are multiple defendants.

Attorneys can help property owners with seeking repairs. They can also help pursue damages.