Damien Farrell (“Farrell”), an architect initially licensed only in Michigan, sued a developer, Kent Whiteman (“Whiteman”), for architectural services rendered for Whiteman’s condominium project in Idaho. Farrell was successful in his claim for quantum meruit in the trial court, and Whiteman appealed on the ground that Farrell was not a licensed architect in Idaho, rendering his implied-in-fact contract with Whiteman illegal. Farrell argued that, while he only had a Michigan license at the start of the project, much of his work on the condominium project was performed in Michigan, and he eventually obtained an Idaho license.

The Idaho Supreme Court reviewed the trial court’s finding de novo to determine if the contract was, indeed, illegal. The court reviewed the statutory licensing requirements for architects practicing in Idaho, focusing specifically on Idaho Code § 54-310, which states that “[a]ny person, not otherwise exempted, who shall practice or offer to practice ... architecture in this state ... without first securing an architect’s license ... or who shall violate any of the provisions of this chapter, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” The court was bothered by the fact that Farrell had admittedly practiced some architecture in Idaho prior to obtaining a license.

Farrell cited to Johnson v. Delane, 290 P.2d 213 (Id. 1955) for the proposition that, where no defective design is alleged and the architectural work is performed out of state, an architect can maintain an Idaho contract for architectural services without an Idaho license. Farrell claimed that, similar to the situation in Johnson, there were no allegations of faulty work and most of his architectural design was performed out of state. Addressing the specific concern of the court, he argued that his unlicensed architectural work performed in Idaho should be overlooked because he held an Idaho license at all “critical times” during design of the project. The court rejected Farrell’s “critical times” argument, holding to a strict interpretation of the Idaho statute to find that the contract which purportedly existed between Farrell and Whiteman was illegal because some architectural work was performed by Farrell in Idaho while he was unlicensed.

Farrell v. Whiteman, No. 34383, 2009 WL 198516 (ID Jan. 22, 2009)