Construction Defect Q&A: Important Terms to Understand

Cristina Pierson, Attorney, Kelley | Uustal

Even for commercial attorneys, there can be a lot of confusion when it comes to understanding key terms relating to construction defect litigation. Let’s start with some of the basics.  

QUESTION:  WHAT TYPES OF CLAIMS ARE CONSIDERED “CONSTRUCTION DEFECTS?”

ANSWER: A reliable definition of a “construction defect” can be found in Florida Statute § 558.002, which establishes notice requirements as conditions to pursuing litigation relating to a Florida construction project. That section defines a construction defect as “a deficiency in, or a deficiency arising out of, the design, specifications, surveying, planning, supervision, observation of construction, or construction, repair, alteration, or remodeling of real property resulting from:

(a) Defective material, products, or components used in the construction or remodeling;

(b) A violation of the applicable codes in effect at the time of construction or remodeling which gives rise to a cause of action pursuant to s. 553.84;

© A failure of the design of real property to meet the applicable professional standards of care at the time of governmental approval; or

(d) A failure to construct or remodel real property in accordance with accepted trade standards for good and workmanlike construction at the time of construction.”

QUESTION:  WHO CAN BRING A CLAIM FOR A CONSTRUCTION DEFECT?

ANSWER:  Generally, claims for construction defects can be brought by a property owner, including a subsequent purchaser or association, who seeks to assert a claim for damages against a contractor, subcontractor, supplier, or design professional.

QUESTION:  WHAT ARE THE MAIN TYPES OF DEFECTS?

ANSWER:  There are three main categories of defects:  1) Design defects; 2) Workmanship defects; and 3) Material Defects.

A design defect usually results from a design professional’s failure to produce accurate and well-organized construction documents. Design defects occur by error or omission. 

A defect in workmanship is what most people typically think of when they hear about a construction defect.  These defects occur when a contractor fails to build a structure or a component part of a structure in accordance with the construction documents or applicable construction requirements, such as the building codes. Indeed, workmanship defects can range from simple aesthetic issues to more complex structural integrity problems. 

Lastly, defects that arise due to damaged or inadequate building material are called “material defects”.   In many cases, problems are not discovered until after the materials were incorporated into the project.

Stay tuned for our Q&A series next month where we will address the standard of care, time limitations, and other important information about construction defect litigation in Florida. 

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