This section is from the book "Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building", by James C. et al. Also available from Amazon: Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry And Building.
It has already been stated that an architect impliedly represents himself to be possessed of the skill and knowledge possessed by the average architect in that locality. If in fact he does not possess such skill and knowledge, and loss results to his employer because of the lack of such skill and judgment, the architect is liable to his employer for such loss. For a similar reason and in a similar way the architect is liable for damage resulting; from his failure to use care, diligence and judgment in the performance of his duties. The mere fact, however, that the plans, structure, or work are not absolutely accurate or successful does not make the architect liable to the owner for damage resulting therefrom, for the architect does not guarantee absolute accuracy, perfection, or success. It is only when such inaccuracy or failure is caused by the failure on the part of the architect to have and to exercise the skill, knowledge, or judgment he represents himself as having, that the architect is liable. The damage for which the architect may become liable by reason of his failure to possess or to use the usual skill, etc., may be for the increased cost of the building due to remedying his mistakes, or it may be for damage directly caused by the defects in other ways. The fact that the owner was present while the work was being performed does not excuse any neglect on the part of the architect. The owner has a right to rery on the architect's professional knowledge and skill; and if he is so negligent as to allow a building or a part of it to be constructed in a dangerous or doubtful manner, he is not excused from the liability incurred by such neglect by the fact that such construction was permitted at the request of tin-owner. Only a valid specific agreement between the architect and the owner to the effect that the owner would hold the architect excused from any liability to him arising from such dangerous or doubtful construction, would relieve the architect of liability to the owner. It is needless to remark that such an agreement would be an extremely dangerous one for an owner to make.
"Where an architect undertakes to superintend construction he is liable to the owner for any damage resulting from material variation from the plans and specifications, on the part of the contractor, from poor construction, or the use of poor material, if an architect using the ordinary care and skill usually bestowed by architects acting in such a capacity, would have prevented the improper work, or detected it in time to have it remedied. Under this rule an architect is held not to be liable for all the minor details of the work, as in one case for the failure of the builder to mortise joints with pegs where the joints were in the roof of the porch.
Where an architect acts as superintendent of construction, he is not, of course, liable for loss arising solely from the neg-ligence or incapacity of the contractor, unless the architect is himself in fault, for he would be answerable for the fault of an-another only on the ground of agency, and the contractor is not the architect's agent. Wherever the duties of an architect are en-larged by a special agency in any case, he is liable for failure of skill. care, or fidelity in such enlarged duties. The fact that the contractor also is liable for damages resulting from poor construction does not relieve the architect from liability arising from his own neglect, nor does it necessarily give the architect the right to reimbursement from the contractor. They may both be liable for the full amount of the damage, and the owner may elect whether to sue the architect or the contractor or both together.
If the architect on his own responsibility, without authority from the owner or without claiming to act as his agent, orders extra work, he is personally liable for such work.
If an architect is negligent in his duties, and as a result an accident occurs in a building after completion, by which some stranger suffers damage, the architect would probably never be held liable to the stranger. The architect's sole legal duty in the premises seems to be toward the owner, to whom only he is liable for failure to do proper work.
On the other hand, an architect may in the course of his work come under legal duties to others than the contractor and owner, the breach of which may render him legally liable. For instance, an architect, having general charge and direction of the work, adopted a method of construction which did not provide adequate support, a defect which resulted in injury to a workman, and the architect was held liable to the injured man. The distinction between the cases is that in making plans for a building the architect is in effect an independent contractor whose sole duty is to his employer. In the latter case, however, the architect was acting as the owner's agent in superintending construction, and as agent was charged with his principal's duty to provide safe ways and works for those engaged in the construction. It would extend this article too far to consider all the duties which the owner may owe to third parties, and which, in special cases where the architect acts as agent for the owner, may affect the architect himself. Suffice it to say that where one undertakes to act as agent it is incumbent upon him to act with regard to the rights of third parties against his principal in the premises. The express direction of his principal will not excuse the agent for so acting in his agency as to cause legal injury to third parties.
A word should be added under this heading about the possibility of liability for the acts of others. Where some assistant causes damage by his negligence or wrongdoing, if he can be shown to be the agent of the architect, the latter is liable, according to the general rule of agency.
It has been held that an architect is liable to the contractor if the architect fraudulently refuses to give a certificate to the contractor. But a refusal to grant a certificate where one is due, which arises only from a lack of care or skill, does not render the architect liable to the contractor. If the architect's fraud is in collusion with the owner, then both may be sued together by the contractor, or either may be sued separately.
An architect, acting as a public official as, for instance, city architect, will, of course, be in a different position from an architect in private practice. An architect employed in a public capacity for a regular salary is probably not liable for lack of skill or care. It would be beyond the scope of this article to consider in any detail the positions into which, as a public officer, an architect might come. Upon undertaking such work, a man will, of course, consider the nature and responsibilities of the office.