Navigating a Lawsuit for Construction Defects
When one enlists a contractor to complete a construction project, the desired outcome is unfortunately not always what is delivered. Some defects may even put the owner in a worse position than before the project began. In such situations, the hiring party has the right to sue in order to recover damages for repairs and other costs associated with the error, as well as any injuries or decline in the property’s value that can be linked to the defect.
Before one pursues a lawsuit regarding a construction defect, it is important to understand what the law has to say regarding this particular issue. Discussing the case with an experienced Florida construction litigation attorney is the best way to determine whether the lawsuit is likely to be effective.
Here are some aspects of construction litigation law that are important to know before filing a lawsuit over one.
Patent vs. Latent Defects
When seeking to sue over a construction defect, one must first determine what kind of defect he or she is faced with. In its most basic form, a defect is either “patent” or “latent.” The former means a mistake is apparent immediately, such as faulty heating or electrical systems. These kinds of defects are understandably easier to link to a contract when suing over the matter. In order to be viable, a lawsuit must commence within the four-year statute of limitations set forth in Florida law.
On the other hand, latent defects may take several years to become apparent. These may come in the form of a cracking foundation, mold, dry rot, and even structural failure. Many of these issues are quite serious and can lead to a severe loss of value, injury or even death. To link issues discovered at a later date to an architect or contractor’s error, one must seek out construction experts to testify that the defect was caused by the defendant. That said, it is important to note that this must fall within the statute of repose, which in the state of Florida is 10 years from the contract’s completion.
Proving Fault in Court
Once a defect has been identified, one will need to work with his or her attorney to draft a complaint that alleges one of the following:
- Negligence — If the contractor did not exhibit the standard level of skill, knowledge or care needed to prevent the defect
- Breach of warranty — If the defect is covered by a warranty, whether express or implied, which was not honored by the contractor
- Strict Liability — If the contractor delivered a product that renders the residence inhabitable
- Fraud — If the contractor misrepresented his or her plans for the design of the project, his or her credentials, or negligently misrepresented the company’s quality of work
A Solid Contract Can Make the Case
As with any business dispute, the best way to protect one’s interests is to have a thorough, enforceable contract from the beginning. Rather than attempting to prove negligence occurred, one could simply show a clause in the contract that addresses how the project was to be carried out, how defects would be handled, what the contractor is responsible for, and so on. The easier it is to prove a breach of contract occurred, the more likely one is to secure a judgment in their favor.
If a contractor is refusing to remedy a construction defect for which they are at fault, there are avenues for seeking retribution. To begin the process, contact a Florida construction litigation attorney at Kelley Kaplan & Eller to discuss the specifics of your case. Together, we can work toward a favorable outcome.