Why words matter (aka Shakespeare for Architects & Engineers) (Law note)
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
Words do matter. In the context of construction law, there are some words that you should avoid at all costs. Top of the list is the word inspect. If your contract gives you the responsibility of inspecting the contractor’s work, stop. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Inspection (at least to some owners and juries) connotes that a thorough review will be provided, and that every fault will be identified. Instead of Inspection, a better word for your construction contract is Observe. You should not be providing periodic inspection. Instead, provide periodic observation.
Am I nit-picking? Perhaps. But inspect implies a much stronger duty than observe. (Just my personal observation!). There are other words you should also avoid in construction contracts.
Instead of certify, try review
Instead of approving shop drawings, try No exceptions noted
Instead of best (or highest) standards, try meet the professional standard of care
Instead of immediately, try without undue delay
This list is just a sample. There are many other words to be leery of, including guarantee, warrant, insure, and ensure.
In doubt about whether your contract contains dangerous words that may expose you to extra legal liability? Write your contract as if your attorney is looking over your shoulder. Keep in mind, both Romeo and Juliet learned the hard way that words do indeed matter.
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