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Insurance Defense and Construction Law: Who is to Blame for Water Damage?

Water damage to properties can cause a soggy array of legal issues.

Water intrusion is a common problem that develops into lawsuits because of the costs and damages that can occur.  Water damage is one of the easiest ways to compromise the integrity of a structure, frequently causing decay and rot to supporting materials. It can also ruin expensive electrical equipment, personal property and perhaps personal injury due to mold.

There are many parties that may be held liable for water damage to properties; design professionals, material manufacturers, general contractors, subcontractors, inspectors, professional consultants, building management, and in some cases neighbors or previous owners.

A building’s envelope is made up of materials specifically designed to prevent water intrusion such as shingles, caulking, siding, veneers, gutters, sealants, gaskets and insulation.  The envelope materials should protect a building from natural water damage caused by heavy rainfall and flash flooding.  However, even the most well constructed building is not exempt from careless grounds’ keeping.

General contractors and subcontractors are primary targets for water damage lawsuits because it is easy for the other parties involved to allege improper installation.  Although, there are a variety of other people who may actually be liable for water damage.

An architect may choose the wrong type of material for the structure.  A manufacturer may have provided faulty materials.  An inspector may claim their inspection was exterior and not interior.  A building manager may have failed to remedy water damage on behalf of the tenants.  A previous owner or tenant may not have disclosed water damage.

However, careless grounds’ keeping is possibly the most common cause of water intrusion and damages.  Examples can include leaving an outer waterline on over winter that freezes and bursts, forgetting to shut off or cap off a hose, leaving a sprinkler running too long or even performing landscaping maintenance in such a way that it causes water damage.

General contractors are frequently blamed mistakenly for problems they did not create. It is extremely important for general contractors to keep detailed records of work completed in order to demonstrate that jobs were completed appropriately. Otherwise, they may be caught soaking up the bills for the negligence of others.

For more information please contact Art Caltrider at Bodie.