Architect Liability in Minnesota

December 15, 2016

very construction project begins with an idea. Whether it be the dream home of a residential homebuyer or a fifty-story tower to add to a skyline, a professional architect must first design the project. Should a construction project manifest defects upon completion, the question of who’s at fault follows. Delays in the work, going beyond an allotted budget, and construction defects are all potential problems that could be the responsibility of a professional architect. Compared to laborers, professional architects are held to a different standard of care when it comes to proving fault for any problems haunting a project. In Minnesota, proving a professional architect breached his or her standard of care requires extra steps for aggrieved property owners at the outset of a lawsuit.

A common claim against a professional architect is improper design, which can mean anything from specifying the wrong windows for Minnesota winters to designing a property in violation of local building codes and ordinances. Architects are not expected to create flawless designs, but they must exercise the skill and judgment that can be reasonably expected from similarly situated professionals. The Minnesota Supreme Court explains that the rationale for this standard is because architects, like doctors, lawyers, or others rendering professional services, carry an inescapable possibility of error when rendering services.

Given that professional architects are measured against similarly situated architects, proving a design defect requires more than citing potential code violations or offering proof of a poor choice of windows. An architect’s professional standard of care can extend beyond design. An architect’s work can include coordination, planning, and oversight of a construction project, too. Such responsibilities may be outlined in the contracts used in the project. Any architectural service performed during the project is held to the architect’s professional standard of care.

As Minnesota Statutes Section 544.42 explains, in order to bring a negligence claim against an architect, the claim must be accompanied by an affidavit of expert review, which must indicate that the architect deviated from the professional standard of care. In order for a homeowner to bring a claim against an architect, therefore, the homeowner needs another architect to state that the architect breached the professional standard of care and that the breach caused injury to the owner.

Claims against professional architects invoking the professional standard of care can be complicated. Any homeowner who feels that the problems with their home relate to an architect’s design should seek legal advice in order to understand the nuances of such claim and the statutory prerequisites in seeking a remedy.