Can a General Contractor Sue an Architect that was Hired by the Owner?

If an architect and general contractor are both hired by the owner then they do not enter into a contract with one another. They each enter into their own respective contract with the owner. Thus, can the general contractor sue the architect if issues arise on a project?

If a GC sees problems with the plans during the project he or she can first use RFIs (requests for information) and change orders to remedy the issues, thereby avoiding a lawsuit. The GC may, however, want to sue the architect in order to recover damages suffered throughout the project. The architect, conversely, would likely deny liability as they do not have a contract with the GC. In this case, they would advise the GC to take it up with the owner.

Two recent cases reveal that, when it comes to these types of circumstances, different states rule in different ways. In a recent case in New Jersey, the court ruled that the GC could sue the architect. On the other hand, a recent ruling in Texas claimed that the GC could not sue the architect and that any issues should have been addressed in the contract between the owner and the GC.

Take away: The courts rule differently on the issue of whether a GC can sue an architect hired by the owner. Therefore, any decisions made will depend on state laws and the details within the contract between the GC and the owner.

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