Beacon Residential Community Association v. Skidmore, Ownigs, & Merrill LLP 2014 No. S208173 (Cal. Sup. Ct)
By: Richard H. Glucksman, Jon A. Turigliatto and David A. Napper
July 10, 2014
In a seminal ruling the California Supreme Court issued its decision on July 3, 2014 that an architect owes a duty of care to future homeowners where the architect is the principal architect on the project. The Court further held that the duty of care exists even when the architect does not actually build the project or exercise ultimate control over construction.
Design professionals Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP and HKS Inc. (collectively “Design Professionals”) provided architectural and engineering services for construction of The Beacon residential condominiums in San Francisco, California (“Project”). The Beacon Residential Community Association (“Association”) eventually brought a construction defect action against various entities including the Design Professionals. The Design Professionals were the only architects on the Project and played an active role throughout the construction process, coordinating the design and construction teams, conducting weekly site visits and inspections, recommending design revisions as needed, and monitoring compliance with design plans. The Design Professionals demurred, contending they owed no duty of care to the Association. They further contended that even if the architect initiated the substitutions, changes, and other elements of design, so long as the final decision rested with the owner there is no duty owed by the design professionals to the future condominium owners.