Curtis & Windham Architects, Inc. v. Williams

In Curtis & Windham Architects, Inc. v. Williams, 315 S.W.3d 102 (Tex. App.--Houston 1st Dist. 2010, no pet.), the owners of a residential property hired an architectural firm to provide architectural services in connection with the design, construction, and landscaping of a proposed residence. Id. at 104. When presented with bills that greatly exceeded their expectations, the property owners refused to pay and instructed the architectural firm to stop work on their residence. Id. The architects sued for nonpayment of approximately $47,000. Id. The property owners counterclaimed for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, deceptive trade practices, and unjust enrichment, based primarily on allegations of overbilling. Id. at 105. The property owners did not file a certificate of merit in support of their counterclaim. Id. at 106. The Court noted that "if a plaintiff's claim for damages does not implicate the special knowledge and training of an architect, it cannot be a claim for damages arising out of the provision of professional services." Id. at 108. The Court then concluded that the property owners' causes of action did not implicate a professional architect's "education, training, and experience" in applying "special knowledge or judgment," concluding that the "gist" of the property owners' claims, made in response to the architect's contract claim to recover fees, was that the architects engaged in "pervasive and systemic overbilling." Id. Thus, although the Court also held that the property owners' claims did not implicate a negligent act, error, or omission, the Court based this conclusion in part on the fact that the property owners' counterclaims did not arise out of the provision of professional services. See id.