unknownIn construction defect lawsuits, third-party (or fourth-party) claims are routine to flow-down liability downstream.  Right, a general contractor sued by an owner will want to flow-down its liability to the subcontractors.  And, subcontractors will want to flow down their liability to sub-subcontractors and suppliers.   Common, and appropriate, flow-down claims are indemnification and contribution claims


In an appellate opinion with little factual discussion, Gozzo Development, Inc. v. Esker, 2016 WL 2908442 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016), the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of subcontractors dismissing the contractor’s indemnification and contribution claims.  The owner sued the contractor for a violation of building code (and corresponding defects and damage) and the contractor, in turn, sued subcontractors for indemnification and contribution.  The contractor was seeking indemnity for the statutory building code violations as well as contractual breaches that caused the construction defects and damage. 


On appeal, the Fourth District reversed the trial court’s summary judgment as to the indemnification claim, but affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the contribution claim (as Florida abolished joint and several liability in negligence-based actions):


Further, as appellant [contractor] sought indemnity for violations of both statutory and non-statutory building standards, it was error to grant summary judgment on the indemnity claim under a provision that applies only to statutory liability. The statutory building code does not preclude liability for violating a contractual duty to adhere to local building standards.

However, we affirm the trial court’s summary judgment on the contribution claim, as appellant’s right to contribution had not arisen by the effective date of the revised statute barring joint and several liability.

Gozzo Development, 2016 WL at *1. 


It is important to understand the manner in which liability is flowed downstream (passed-through) in construction defect lawsuits.  It is generally this reason why construction defect lawsuits contain many parties, from the general contractor hired by the owner to the subcontractors, sub-subcontractors, and suppliers implicated by the defective work.   These articles on indemnification (common law and contractual) and contribution explain these very important flow-down claims in more detail. 


Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.



arbitration[1]The recent case of Pulte Home Corp. v. Bay at Cypress Creek Homeowner’s Association, Inc., 38 Fla. L. Weekly D1705a (Fla. 2d DCA 2012) involves a dispute by a homeowner’s association against its developer / homebuilder. In this case, the association sued the developer / homebuilder for building code violations under Florida Statute s. 553.84. The association did this in order to try to circumvent an arbitration provision in the developer / homebuilder’s limited warranty given in favor of initial purchasers. The developer / homebuilder moved to compel arbitration which was denied by the trial court. On appeal, the Second District Court of appeals reversed the trial court finding that statutory claims were covered by the arbitration provision.


The issue to remember is that deference is given to arbitration provisions and that statutory claims, breach of contract claims, warranty claims, and tort claims are all claims that may be submitted to arbitration pursuant to an arbitration provision. In Pulte Home, the association, for strategic reasons, did not want to arbitrate and tried to pursue a claim that did not subject it to arbitration.  Although the Second District did not recite the arbitration provision in the opinion, the Court maintained that the agreement to arbitrate in the limited warranty given to initial purchasers covered statutory claims.


Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.