DESIGN PROFESSIONALS OWE A DUTY OF CARE TO THIRD PARTY PURCHASERS OF RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS

On December 13, 2012, the Court of Appeals for the First District filed its opinion in Beacon Residential Community Association v. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP et al. (No. A134542.) The decision is bad news for architects and other design professionals since it
holds they can be held liable in negligence to third party purchasers under both the common law and Senate Bill 800.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) and HKS Architects (HKS) provided architectural and engineering services for the Beacon Residential Condominiums, a 595 unit development in San Francisco. Alleged construction defects caused problems with water infiltration, inadequate fire separations, structural cracks, and other life safety hazards. SOM and HKS demurred to claims for negligence and statutory negligence. The trial court granted the demurrer, reasoning that design professionals owe no duty of care to condominium associations or residents if the owner retains final
decision-making power over the design. Plaintiffs appealed.

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