Last month, two Houston homeowners sued the builders of their home for more than $1 million alleging that poor quality construction caused serious safety hazards, according to the Southeast Texas Record. The plaintiffs reportedly claimed that the defendants engaged in fraud, breached their contract, failed to provide an agreed-upon warranty, misrepresented the nature of the construction work and failed to build the house according to proper standards, among other things.
It is unknown what the outcome of that case will be, but it is an example of the type of construction, design or structural defect lawsuit a Texas construction professional can face in the course of doing business.
Seek experienced legal counsel
When a Texas construction company, contractor, subcontractor, architect, building material supplier, designer, engineer, individual worker or other construction professional faces such a lawsuit, it is important to seek legal representation immediately to build a vigorous defense, including launching an investigation on behalf of the defendant to gather and preserve crucial evidence related to the allegations.
An experienced construction lawyer will help the client sort through the claims against it, deal with opposing parties and insurance companies, and decide on a strategy for responding. A wide variety of complex claims and corresponding laws could be implicated and experienced legal counsel will help the construction client understand what is at stake. Options for responding to the suit range from negotiation toward settlement, to fighting for early dismissal or summary judgment, to strong advocacy in the courtroom, if it comes to trial.
Potential construction, design or structural defect claims
Construction-defect suits could be brought under a couple of Texas laws. First, the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices or DTPA is a broad consumer protection law that applies to some construction projects. Under this law, the plaintiff could allege any of several unlawful acts:
- An "unconscionable action" that took advantage of the consumer's lack of knowledge to a "grossly unfair degree"
- Misrepresentation of the quality or newness of building materials
- Breach of express warranty
- Breach of implied warranty such as for good workmanship or habitability
- And others
Another Texas law that could be involved in a construction-defect suit by a homeowner or subsequent buyer is the Residential Construction Liability Act or RCLA. The RCLA protects homeowners against defective design, construction or repair in new construction as well as in later alterations or repairs. Significantly, the law does not create liability for normal wear and tear, for the negligence of another contractor or for failure to reasonably maintain the structure.
Other kinds of claims and legal issues that could arise in a suit for construction defects include breach of contract, breach of warranty, failure to pull permits or comply with building codes, fraud, noncompliance with environmental or zoning laws, negligence, use of defective building materials and more.
This only introduces a broad and complicated area of Texas law. Any construction professional facing such legal claims should seek legal advice immediately