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Court: Condo residents can sue for flaws

Architects can be held responsible for flaws, court rules.
Architects can be held responsible for flaws, court rules.
Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user Chris Brown

Residents of the Beacon complex across from San Francisco’s AT&T Park are eligible to sue the building’s architects for design flaws, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today. The alleged flaws in the 595-unit complex include cracks, overheating and other structural defects.

The lawsuit by the Beacon Residential Community Association was bucked by the two architectural firms that designed the complex. They argued that while architects are able to make recommendations to a project’s developer, they hold no legal responsibility to the eventual occupants. This line of reasoning was rejected by the state Supreme Court, which ruled today that residents who are adversely affected by a poorly designed building have the right to sue its designers in addition to its builders.

In the court’s ruling, Justice Goodwin Liu said that a developer who taps an architect “in order to rely on the architect’s specialized training, technical expertise and professional judgment” relies on all of these skills, the Chronicle reported. In addition, Liu asserted that the homeowner “has no architect or professional adviser” and thus must rely on the developer’s skill – as well as that of the architect.

The complex, which opened in July 2005, sits at 250 and 260 King Street in China Basin. Its units sell for between $500,000 and $1 million. In 2008, the homeowners association filed suit, claiming that defective window design and ventilation had caused their units to overheat and make them uninhabitable. In addition, they said that there were structural cracks, water infiltration and various other hazards. That lawsuit is still pending. In 2011, a Superior Court judge dismissed architectural firms HKS Inc. and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill from the case. The firms in total were paid more than $5 million for their work.

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