A common misconception by many government officials is that a design-builder is always responsible for every design error or omission on a design-build project. This article examines the actual liability standard applied by the courts and boards of contract appeals when a design defect arises on a federal design-build project.
Background: Design-Build Contracts and the Spearin Doctrine
Design-build contracts combine the design and construction elements of a construction project into one contract. Design-build contracts often include two types of specifications: design and performance. Design specifications may set forth various parameters, such as precise measurements, tolerances, and materials. In doing so, the specifications create a fixed “roadmap” governing a contractor’s performance of the project. Performance specifications, on the other hand, set forth “operational characteristics” to achieve a particular objective or standard, but generally leave the details to the contractor.
Reprinted courtesy of Dirk Haire, Fox Rothschild LLP, Adam Hamilton, Fox Rothschild LLP and Dana Molinari, Fox Rothschild LLP
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