Architects practicing in California now have an affirmative defense which could completely bar a third party’s bodily injury claim against them for injuries arising out of open and obvious construction deficiencies. The Court of Appeal of California, in the matter of Neiman v. Daly Company (2012) Cal. App. Lexis 1134, has extended the “completed and accepted doctrine” to include architects. Formerly used by contractors to shield against bodily injury claims brought by injured third parties, the Court has applied the doctrine to guard architects against similar claims.
To read about Neiman v. Daly Company, please click here.
To read about the Completed and Accepted Doctrine, please click here.
Affirmative Defense Action Plan
If a third person is injured at a premises and claims the architect is responsible, it is imperative to perform an early evaluation to determine whether the completed and accepted doctrine is a viable affirmative defense. Typically, a plaintiff will sue the owner of the premises. In turn, the owner will file an indemnity cross-complaint against the architect and/or contractor asserting that the cause of the plaintiff’s injury is a defect in construction and due to the negligence of the architect and/or contractor.
If the completed and accepted doctrine is an available defense based on the facts surrounding the project, then setting the matter for early resolution by way of motion for summary judgment (MSJ) is paramount. Summary judgment is a pre-trial mechanism to allow the judge, as a matter of law, to find that no liability can attach. A finding of judgment as a matter of law eliminates the uncertainty that always exists with a jury trial and further alleviates the stresses put on parties at trial.
To read about the factors necessary for a successful MSJ, please click here.