Statutory liability of Architects and Engineers to Contractors on State Construction projects (Law note)
As noted in my last post, the state multi-prime bidding statute provides for liability between separate contractors on state projects.
A specific case from the Middle District Court of North Carolina (federal court), interpreting state law, further extended this liability to architects and engineers on state multi-prime projects. RPR & Associates v. O’Brien/Atkins Associates, P.A., 24 F. Supp. 2d 515 (M.D.N.C. 1998).
In that case, which involved the George Watts Hill Alumni Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, the court held that an architect and consulting engineer could be held accountable to contractors who rely on their work on North Carolina construction projects based on the same statute as that imposing liability on multi-prime contractors on one another.
The issue in the RPR case was whether the statute applied to architects and engineers, since they are not “prime contractors” under the North Carolina multi-prime contracting statute. The RPR court held that for purposes of the statute, design professionals were “separate prime contractors” such that they could be sued directly by prime contractors on state jobs.
While this case is now over a decade old, it still surprises many design professionals who incorrectly assume that since they are not one of the enumerated prime contractors that they are not subject to statutory liability to the prime contractors.
In my next and final (for the time being) post on this subject, I will address the application of the statute on subcontractors.