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Construction defect liability can extend to architects

A Texas court decided that an architectural firm contracting with a homeowner to design a home and conduct post-design administration services as part of that contract can be held responsible for injuries that occur to homeowners and their houseguests.

On appeal, the architectural firm claimed that it was not responsible for injuries to houseguests and that the contract did not require the architect to be responsible for a subcontractor's faulty construction.

However, at a trial held in the Third Court of Appeals, the jury returned a judgment for the injured party. The jury determined that the architectural firm was partly responsible, along with the builder and a subcontractor, for injuries that left the homeowner's guest paralyzed after a balcony, which was attached to the home by a subcontractor, collapsed.

Difficulty in pursuing claims for construction defects

If the parts of a building do not function as intended or fail to meet applicable building codes, a construction defect exists. Such defects not only bring the value of one's property down, but they can also create hazardous conditions if they are not fixed, as illustrated in the case described above.

Unfortunately, Texas law makes it difficult for homeowners to pursue claims for construction defects. The Texas Residential Construction Commission Act expects homeowners to hire costly experts, follow stringent timelines and generate numerous pages of paperwork in order to make their way through the complex maze that is the claims process.

Determining liability for construction defects

In general, cases that involve construction defects are contract-based. Homeowners who have had to deal with the effects of a poorly installed plumbing system or an improperly connected balcony often wonder who can be held responsible for their home issues.

Once a defect is discovered, a homeowner's ultimate objective is to have the defect fixed or to receive compensation for injuries caused by the defect. However, trying to deal with builders and contractors can be difficult. In addition, sometimes a complaint must be filed in order to resolve the matter.

The homeowner can make several claims in the complaint for construction defects, including the following:

  • Breach of contract
  • Negligence
  • Fraud
  • Strict liability
  • Negligent misrepresentation

While it can be difficult for homeowners to prove these claims, it is not impossible. In fact, when proper strategies are employed, it may be possible to avoid making a claim at all.

When handling construction defects, key concerns include properly identifying the issues, solving any problems that arise and resolving disputes before, during and after construction. Homeowners who find it difficult to tackle these issues on their own may want to consider obtaining the assistance of a legal professional who is skilled and knowledgeable in this area of law.

An experienced construction defect lawyer can assist a homeowner in communicating with contractors, navigating the claims process and getting the defect fixed.

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