California State Supreme Court decision (July 3, 2014).
A homeowners association sued a the project developer and various other parties including two architectural firms on behalf of its members over construction design defects that allegedly make the homes unsafe and uninhabitable. The architectural firms were alleged to have designed the homes in a negligent manner but they did not make the final decisions regarding how the homes would be built.
The trial court dismissed the claims against the architectural firms reasoning that an architect who makes recommendations but not final decisions on construction owes no duty of care to future homeowners with whom it has no contractual relationship. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that an architect owes a duty of care to homeowners under the circumstances presented in the case.
The Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court’s decision and held that an architect owes a duty of care to future homeowners where the architect is a principal architect on the project (not subordinate to any other design professional) even if the architect does not actually build the project or exercise ultimate control over construction decisions. The Court stated that to hold that an architect’s failure to exercise due care in designing a building can be justified by client interests that are at odds with the interest of prospective homeowners in safety and habitability would be patently inconsistent with public policy.
See case decision: Beacon_Residential_Cmty._Ass’n_v._Skidmore_Owings__Merrill_LLP_59_Cal.4th_568_327_P.3d_850_173_Cal.Rptr.3d_752_(Cal._2014)1