Engineers Awarded Summary Judgment After Court Finds No Duty To Protect Plaintiff From Alleged Damages

Practice Area(s): Construction

Lawyer(s): Michael D. Hutchens Elizabeth S. Poeschl

Office(s): Minneapolis

Date: Nov 1 2016

Engineer did not breach professional duties or contract

Plaintiff is the owner and operator of a growing brewery business which, among other things, alleged that engineer had caused a $12M business income loss and more than $4M in building repair costs. Plaintiff alleged that its brewery building was severely damaged by vibrations associated with the construction of a new building which was constructed several feet away from Plaintiff’s property. Defendant engineer designed the deep foundation support structure for the new building. Plaintiff claimed that Defendant engineer breached its standard of care by (1) designing a foundation system which created excessive vibrations; (2) failing to monitor the contractor’s vibrations; (3) failing to protect Plaintiff’s building from damage during the construction efforts, and (4) failing to ensure that the contractor was using the proper means and methods when installing the deep foundation support. Under Minnesota law, an engineer’s contract defines its duties. The engineer is only responsible for performing the scope of duties defined in its contract document. Here, Defendant’s contract did not include the duty to protect Plaintiff’s building from damage, to monitor vibrations, or to determine the contractor’s means and methods. Defendant brought a motion for summary judgment seeking the dismissal of all claims because Defendant did not have the contractual obligation to perform the duties which Plaintiff alleges Defendant breached. The Court granted Defendant’s motion, dismissing it from the case.

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