Taylor v. DeLosso

319 N.J. Super. 174, 725 A.2d 51 (App. Div. 1999)
  • Opinion Date: March 9, 1999

ARCHITECTS; SURVEYS; LIABILITY—Where a contract between an owner and its architect requires the owner to furnish a survey, the architect may rely on the survey in preparing plans and has no duty to check the survey’s accuracy.

A property owner purchased a building for the purpose of operating a beauty salon and guest house. It obtained a professional land survey. That survey located a thirty-inch diameter maple tree on the site. The property owner then contacted an architect to prepare a full site plan. The contract between the owner and the architect required the owner to furnish a legal description and a certified land survey, showing, among other things, the location of the improvements and trees. The agreement further stated that the “Architect shall be entitled to rely upon the accuracy and completeness” of the survey. The contract generally tracked a clause in American Institute of Architects Standard Form Agreement B-141. When it was discovered that the architect’s site plan prepared in accordance with the survey was in error because the tree was actually located on a proposed driveway, the owner changed architects and incurred a substantial additional cost for its project. In the owner’s suit against the original architect to recover its extra costs and lost profits, the lower court, accepting testimony from an expert witness, determined that the architect had breached the accepted standard of care in the architectural community. The Appellate Division disagreed. It held that the “reliance” provisions in form B-141 and in the written agreement between the owner and the architect gave the architect an unqualified right to rely on the owner-furnished survey in preparing the site plan. As such, it had no duty to make a site inspection to check the accuracy of the physical features contained in the survey.