Implications of tort law on professional liability in the design and construction industries

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Virginia Tech


This thesis discusses the application of tort law to the design and construction industries. Basic theories of civil law, negligence, and risk management are explained relative to their influence on professional architectural liability.

Theories of negligence are examined and provide the foundation for subsequent discussions of professional liability and the variations found in recent case histories. Legal trends indicate that design professionals are held to higher standards of professional conduct than the ordinary person. Architects are also responsible to third parties as well as contractual parties. This expansion of professional duties contributes to the increase in legal claims against architects and engineers. Moreover, conventional risk management techniques do not always adequately address third party liability.

It is determined that architectural liability is strongly influenced by external factors, such as privity requirements and statutory regulations, and internal factors, such as quality control measures and inadequate client education. Consequently, reformation efforts of these factors may be the best approach to mitigate professional liability.

Successful risk management in the future will involve avoidance, transferral, and insurance of risks.