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Montville Township Board of Education v. Nam Kim Park Architects, P.C.

A-4219-02T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

ARCHITECTS—An architect is not the guarantor of its project cost estimates in the absence of a provision in the contract.

A board of education hired an architect. One of the architect’s responsibilities “was to prepare a cost estimate for a project in anticipation of the Board submitting the matter to the voters for a bond referendum approval.” Neither the architect’s proposal nor the contract required the architect to guarantee the cost estimates. “Indeed, the contract language expressly disclaimed such an intent.” The architect estimated the project at one price, and the voters approved the referendum based on that figure. The board of education then changed the scope of the project, adding items and thus increasing the cost. The bids were about thirty percent higher than the estimate. “Although the architect was not guaranteeing his estimate and was only required to re-bid the project once, the project was actually re-bid three times and the architect gave suggestions to eliminate some of the added items.” The board would not eliminate any items, some of which were described by the Court as “gingerbread” type items. The board of education sued the architect, alleging that the architect had breached the contract by providing an inaccurate construction cost estimate. The jury found in favor of the architect and the Appellate Division upheld the award, pointing out that “the architect [was] obviously not a guarantor of an estimate.”

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