Claims against architects: the lowdown on protecting your profession

Architects are relied upon in many construction projects, from drawing up initial plans to build a structure, specifying materials to use and overseeing the overall project to its completion. Yet it’s often one single person carrying this responsibility, and mistakes can always happen.

Architect, Basia Lejonvarn, was sued £265,000 by her own friends when her advice—free of charge—saw her client’s project go wrong. In 2003, a firm of architects was found liable for contributory negligence after a curry factory was set ablaze by fat from a pan.

The legal stuff

Whilst these instances were firsts of their respective types, they set precedents which sided with the client, not the architect. When mounting a legal claim against an architect, prosecutors look primarily for three parts;

  • The architect owed the client a duty of care
  • The architect breached this duty of care
  • This breach caused the client a financial loss

Whilst the breach can sometimes be blatantly obvious, it can also be complex and drawn-out, leading to hefty legal fees. As ever, architects are extremely diligent in what they do and their undertaking of it, but with so much to get wrong, avoiding errors might well be considered a regular duty of your role.

Acts, omissions and errors

Such errors could be found in poor design or planning, the use of unsuitable materials, a failure to recognise relevant regulations or planning permission, a failure to keep within a specified budget, or even the breach of health and safety regulations.

As any architects will know, these types of breaches not only impact your client’s project, but can tarnish any professional respect you have gathered which could ultimately affect your whole profession.

Historical cases

Even the most skilful of architects have found themselves facing legal action for work they carried out. Frank Gehry, Pritzker Prize winner and architect of the MIT’s State Center in Massachusetts, faced a lawsuit after it leaked and grew mould due to sealant failure. Cornell University sued the architecture firm which designed the Johnson Museum Center, citing serious issues with humidity in the building which compromised the safety of the artwork held there.

Some of these cases stretched into the millions of pounds, so how do architects defend themselves?

Professional indemnity insurance protects professionals like architects from negligent behaviour, actions, omissions and genuine errors. Though just a few decades ago, legal cases seldom sided with the client, more and more architects find themselves facing legal action, and so more and more opt to take out professional indemnity before they take on any work.

At EIC Insurance, we can equip you with a liability insurance designed around you. We’ll consider the work you carry out, where and how you carry it out, who helps you and much more to ensure you never find yourself up against it should an incident occur.

For more information or for a quick quote, just give us a call on 01442 286910 or email us