As expected, in light of the Bilt-Rite case, it has almost become the norm for contractors to name architects and engineers as defendants in lawsuits, in addition to naming the owner.
This has led to a number of interesting issues as Pennsylvania trial courts have wrestled with the import of the Bilt-Rite, ruling including:
- Does the Bilt-Rite case mean that a contractor may now sue a design professional for negligence/malpractice, as opposed only to negligent misrepresentation as permitted in Bilt-Rite? No, according to a federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
- Can one contractor now sue another contractor for misrepresentation on a project? No, according to a Philadelphia trial court, dismissing a plumber's claim against a concrete supplier.
- Does the contractor need an expert to prove its claim of misrepresentation against an architect? No, according to a Lancaster trial court.
For their part, construction professionals -- architects, engineers and construction managers -- in conjunction with their insurance carriers, have been increasing coverages and, most notably, working to attempt to limit exposure by way of express disclaimers and other contractual language included in the contract documents.
The only thing that is for sure in the wake of the Bilt-Rite case, however, is that the nature of the relationship between contractors and construction professionals will continue to change as the law develops, and the stakeholders in the construction process take steps to meet these changes and protect their interests.