Contractor sued engineer for damages it claimed it sustained as a result of negligent design that the engineer prepared for a project owner. Although an engineering firm could owe a duty to reasonably draft and interpret project specifications and it could be foreseeable that the contractor who was bound to follow the specifications could be harmed by the firm’s negligence in drafting and interpreting the specifications, the issue of liability comes down to whether the engineer violated the standard of care. As explained by the court, even the contractor’s expert witness acknowledged that “no set of documents are perfect, nor are field conditions exactly as described in those documents.”   While the contractor’s evidence established that errors existed in the project and bid documents, it didn’t demonstrate a genuine, material issue for trial concerning whether errors constituted a breach of the applicable standard of care. For that reason, the court granted the engineer summary judgment which was affirmed on appeal. Domson, Inc. v. Kadrmas Lee & Jackson, Inc., 918 N.W. 2d 396 (South Dakota 2018).

About the author: Article written by J. Kent Holland, Jr., a construction lawyer located in Tysons Corner, Virginia, with a national practice (formerly with Wickwire Gavin, P.C. and now with Construction Risk Counsel, PLLC) representing design professionals, contractors and project owners.  He is founder and president of a consulting firm, ConstructionRisk, LLC, providing consulting services to owners, design professionals, contractors and attorneys on construction projects.  He is publisher of Report and may be reached at or by calling 703-623-1932.  This article is published in Report, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Jan 2019).

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