images-1Can a qualifying agent be sued for negligence?   Yes, there is authority for arguments to pursue a qualifying agent under a common law theory of negligence


A qualifying agent is not individually liable for breaching its statutory duties set forth in Florida Statutes Chapter 489— Chapter 489 governing qualifying agents for contractors does not create a private civil cause of action against qualifying agents.  See Murthy v. Sinha Corp., 644 So.2d 983 (Fla. 1994).  However, the Florida Supreme Court in Murthy held: “We agree that an owner may recover from a negligent qualifying agent, but only under a common law theory of negligence….” Id. at 986-87.


Further, in Cannon v. Fournier, 57 So.3d 875 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011), discussed here, the Second District Court of Appeal found that a qualifying agent of a general contractor could be liable in a personal injury action for control of the job site and supervision of matters relating to safety.


Finally, the recent decision in Taylor Morrison Services, Inc. v. Ecos, 163 So.3d 1286 (Fla. 2015), dealt with the discrete issue of whether the contractor was licensed as of the date of the contract.   That was it.  In dealing with this discrete issue, the First District noted:


Even though Guy [qualifying agent] was not listed on the permit as the contractor, he was responsible as the primary qualifying agent for all of Appellant’s [contractor] construction projects.  Whether he carried out this responsibility faithfully is a separate question from whether he could be considered a qualifying agent that Appellant…, and one that the trial court did not need to decide.


Taylor Morrison Services, 163 So.3d at 1292, n.6 (noting that while contractor may have had qualifying agent as of the date of the contract to render it a licensed contractor under the law and the discrete issue before the court, this did not eliminate transgressions that may have occurred after the date of the contract). In other words, the Court noted that whether the qualifying agent carried out his responsibilities faithfully was a separate issue not before the court.  


The bottom line is that a qualifying agent is not automatically immune from tort liability.  There is authority to sustain arguments for a common law negligence claim against a qualifying agent for torts committed by the qualifying agent.  But, simply violating certain statutory requirements set out in Chapter 489 should not create a private civil cause of action against a qualifying agent.


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.