Donnelly Construction Co. v. Oberg-Hunt-Gilleland

In Donnelly Construction Co. v. Oberg-Hunt-Gilleland, 139 Ariz. 184, 677 P.2d 1292 (1984) a construction contractor sued a design professional for negligence. The contractor claimed that it had relied upon plans, specifications, and a site plan prepared by the design professional to calculate its bid on a project. The contractor was awarded the project based upon its bid amount. However, once construction began, the contractor discovered that the aforementioned documents contained substantial errors that resulted in increased costs to the contractor. In overturning a dismissal granted by the trial court, the Supreme Court of Arizona found that the absence of a contract between the contractor and the designer did not preclude the contractor's negligence action as privity was not required to maintain an action in tort. Rather, an action in negligence may be maintained upon the plaintiff's showing that the defendant owed a duty to him, that the duty was breached, and that the breach proximately caused an injury which resulted in actual damages. . . . Duty and liability are only imposed where both the plaintiff and the risk are foreseeable to a reasonable person. (Donnelly, 139 Ariz. at 187, 677 P.2d at 1295.) The Court elaborated: "Design professionals have a duty to use ordinary skill, care, and diligence in rendering their professional services. . . . When they are called upon to provide plans and specifications for a particular job, they must use their skill and care to provide plans and specifications which are sufficient and adequate. . . . This duty extends to those with whom the design professional is in privity, . . . and to those with whom he or she is not. . . ." Id. Finally, the Court concluded that it was foreseeable that the contractor, who was "hired to follow the plans and specifications prepared by the design professional, would incur increased costs if those plans and specifications were in error." Donnelly, 139 Ariz. at 187-188, 677 P.2d at 1295-96. In Donnelly Construction Co. v. Oberg/Hunt/Gilleland, the Supreme Court found the trial court's dismissal of a claim for breach of implied warranty of plans and specifications on lack of privity grounds was in error. 139 Ariz. 184, 677 P.2d 1292. The Donnelly Court stated, without elaboration, that "a claim for breach of a common law warranty does not require privity." Donnelly, 139 Ariz. at 189, 677 P.2d at 1297. Finally, the court identified the scope of such a warranty by explaining that design professionals "do not 'warrant' that their work will be 'accurate,' . . . . Rather, . . . they 'warrant' merely that they have exercised their skills with care and diligence and in a reasonable, non-negligent manner." Id.