When a defect – or defects – is present in a construction project, the potential liability for a developer or contractor can be enormous. Simply mitigating a defect can result in a seven or eight figure price tag for parties involved in the project. In cases where personal injury or death result from a design or construction defect, which can also be an indication of professional malpractice, the legal and financial consequences can be devastating for a business.
The consequences in terms of injury and loss of life, on the other hand, are catastrophic for victims and their families. The recent collapse of a pedestrian bridge that was to connect Florida International University to the suburb of Sweetwater makes clear the dangers of design and/or construction defects, or negligence, in very clear, very tragic terms. Several lives were lost and many people were injured in the tragedy.
The finger-pointing – rightfully so – began almost immediately, centering on the engineering and construction firms involved in the project. The investigation is ongoing, and no one can yet say who will ultimately be held accountable for the collapse. Notwithstanding the forthcoming personal injury and wrongful death suits, firms involved in such a tragedy often end up involved in construction litigation, as well, as parties attempt to limit their legal exposure.
Among the parties involved in a construction project, liability for defects derives from the contracts among the parties. In the case of the Miami bridge collapse, for example, FIU may allege that either the engineer, the builder or the firm that moved the span into place – or all three – breached their contracts related to the project and demand to be shielded from liability, or indemnified, for the collapse. When such a tragedy strikes, it is often left to investigators and construction lawyers to figure out how things went so terribly wrong.
Source: Miami Herald, “Meet MCM and FIGG, the two firms behind FIU’s collapsed pedestrian bridge,” David Smiley, Nicholas Nehamas, Sarah Balskey, Ben Wieder and Douglas Hanks, Mar. 15, 2018