A-E LEGAL STANDARDS-OF-CARE


By: J. NORMAN STARK, ATTORNEY, ARCHITECT EMERITUS (Ohio) A.I.A., N.C.A.R.B.

Professional practice is not a well-known board game, where landing on “GO TO JAIL” was always met with laughter and good-natured taunts.  Architects and Engineers (“A-E’s”), as licensed construction design professionals are, under the applicable laws of each state, held to a high duty and standard of care.   These standards are measured in the law by two factors. First, the contractual standard requires the design professional perform the services described in the written agreement with the Owner/Client.   Next, the manner of performance is judged by the professional standard of care, a standard set forth in tort (negligence) law.  In some cases, violations of duty may even invoke criminal liability and jail! 

Under both of the applicable standards, the design professional is held to the same degree of care as is ordinarily practiced by other, similarly situated design professionals, in that discipline. An Architect or Engineer, in performing certain contractual responsibilities in providing cost estimates, may do so and, in so doing makes an error, the professional could be held liable for malpractice, a form of professional negligence, but only if such error was the result of provable negligence.

The professional standard of care of A-E’s is recognized by common law (judicial decisions) in courts throughout the United States.  However, this dual standard may be difficult for lay persons to understand, especially because it is a part of the laws of each jurisdiction, where the event took place. The American Institute of Architects’ “AIA Owner-Architect Agreements” now contains a contractually defined standard of care, in easily understood language. “The Architect shall provide the professional services as set forth in this Agreement consistent with the professional skill and care ordinarily provided by Architects practicing in the same or similar locality under the same or similar circumstances.  The Architect shall perform its services as expeditiously as is consistent with such professional skill and care and the orderly progress of the Project.”

The NSPE – National Society of Professional Engineers’ Code of Ethics provides: “ Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public; perform services only in the areas of their competence; issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner; act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees; avoid deceptive acts; be guided in all their relations by the highest standards of honesty and integrity.”

To evaluate potential legal claims arising out of an A-E’s alleged deviation from prescribed ethical standards and standards of care, experienced Legal Counsel should provide assistance and guidance to carefully review, consider, and avoid unlawful or baseless claims or charges.  Unsupported legal challenges against professional conduct may be met with potential counterclaims by the A-E for defamation, or damage to business and professional reputation.

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“WHERE EXPERIENCE COUNTS, COUNT ON MY EXPERIENCE”

J. NORMAN STARK, ATTORNEY

ARCHITECT EMERITUS (Ohio) A.I.A., N.C.A.R.B.

1109 Carnegie Avenue   Cleveland, Ohio 44115-2508

(216) 282-1849  Cel: (216) 310-7100  Email: Jnorman@Jnormanstarklaw.com

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