Architects, Engineers, and Design Professionals

Good legal representation, as with good design, is rooted in an understanding of your client’s needs, including their programmatic requirements, budget, and schedule. Only with this understanding can an attorney — or a design professional — formulate a proper plan. This begins with assessing immediate needs and anticipating risks; it involves the crafting of contracts, policies, procedures, and other documents for any eventuality; it calls for planning and executing strong defenses in the event of litigation — and it always requires service on time and within a budget.

Our attorneys like to think in these terms — perhaps because so many of them have a passion for design and construction, fostered over the course of long and successful relationships with clients in those fields. And our track record shows that that mentality works. With a culture committed to professionalism, collaboration, and vigorous defense, we’ve counseled clients through all types of design and construction claims and concerns, and have even helped rewrite the law at the appellate level in favor of the design professional community.

We counsel and defend clients including:

  • Architects
  • Engineers
  • Land surveyors
  • Energy firms
  • Environmental engineers and consultants
  • Professional liability insurers

Whether you’re planning for a project, preparing a proposal, negotiating a contract with an owner, hitting a snag during construction, or facing claims long after completing a job, we have the knowledge and experience to help.

Protecting Your Profession

According to a popular story, when a prospective client visited one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses and noted that the roof was leaking, the owner replied, “That’s what happens when you leave a work of art out in the rain.”

Unfortunately, clients of today’s design professionals are less forgiving. They often seek to hold the design professional to a standard of perfection rather than reasonable professional care. Litigation over damages, delays, payments, selection of materials, environmental issues, intellectual property rights, or other client complaints could lead to lengthy and unforeseen expenses, prematurely end important projects, and do irreparable damage to a firm’s reputation or an individual’s career. At the same time, the development of new technologies and design alternatives, increasingly frequent movement of insurance carriers among industries and types of projects, and complications arising out of contractor-led design-build and other project delivery methods all burden any infant project with dozens of potential risks.

We understand those pressing concerns, because we’re committed to your industry and profession. Our team includes leaders and members in these and other organizations:

  • American College of Coverage and Extracontractual Coverage (ACCEC)
  • American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC)
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA)
  • Construction Specifications Institute (CSI)
  • Defense Research Institute (DRI), including a former National Chair of the Construction Law Committee
  • Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC)
  • Professional Women in Construction (PWC), including a Board of Directors member
  • Various state and regional development associations and committees
Comprehensive Defense for Design Professionals

When design error or construction phase service claims arise, we bring extensive experience protecting clients against claims involving issues and allegations including:

  • Design defects and omissions
  • Negligent provision of construction phase services including submittal and payment application review
  • Delay claims
  • Faulty or defective material specification
  • Indemnification and contribution
  • Professional negligence

We have advised and represented clients in design-build and design-bid-build matters, in traditional projects and ones involving unusual complications and emerging technologies and risks. We’ve successfully litigated multimillion-dollar, high-exposure matters as well as sensitive but “smaller” dollar-number matters in which the greatest risks pertained to a client’s reputation and ability to continue working.

In all cases, we follow Louis Sullivan’s old adage that form fits function. We don’t offer cookie-cutter solutions, and we eschew expensive and inefficient “Big Law” litigation tactics. Instead, we build each strategy, each defense, and each document to suit our client’s immediate and long-term needs, rooted in an understanding of and respect for the work that they do. Simply put, we help our clients manage the risks associated with practicing in a rapidly changing marketplace where not only designs, but also contractual requirements, delivery methods, and insurance coverages are constantly evolving.

Experienced Representation for Environmental Engineers and Consultants

Many of our attorneys have rich experience in environmental matters, and have earned Goldberg Segalla a reputation as home to thought-leaders in environmental law and case law, environmental regulatory matters, environmental catastrophe response, and the legal and practical concerns of professionals in fields including renewable and nonrenewable energy.

We are equipped to counsel and defend clients in matters including:   

  • Regulatory compliance and self-auditing
  • Permit applications
  • Environmental strategy development, proactive measures to minimize liability, and preemptive solutions to changing laws
  • Preparing for and responding to government inspections and enforcement actions
  • Zoning and land use issues
  • Emerging environmental, liability, and coverage issues for an array of industries connected with hydrofracking
  • Environmental aspects of transactions, including environmental review, due diligence, and commercial loan closings
  • Waste management issues and hazardous waste remediation, including community outreach to landowners
  • Spill or accident remediation and cost-recovery litigation
  • Litigation to defend against the full range of environmental claims

Our experience includes matters involving the full range of applicable federal and state agencies and regulations, including: 

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  • Clean Air and Clean Water Acts
  • Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plans (SPCC) for oil spills
  • State environmental protection agencies, laws, and regulations

Several members of our team have background experience in environmental science, meteorology, consulting, wastewater treatment, and other disciplines, providing increased efficiency and greater understanding of the technical and scientific challenges facing our clients. 

Cyber Liability and Emerging Risks

Aside from leaks, quips, and clean horizontal lines, we also remember Wright for predicting the needs and desires of the people who would use his buildings many years in the future. In fact, he said that only a person who “can think ten years ahead” deserves to be called an architect.

Since Wright’s day, design professionals have been at the forefront of emerging technologies, including data storage and access, unmanned aerial systems (drones), renewable energy sources, and design software. As such, architects, engineers, land surveyors, and construction professionals have been exposed to some of the first lawsuits arising from these evolving technologies and evolving laws.

The number-one emerging risk for design and construction professionals is cyber liability, including the protection and management of electronic data. Design professionals now routinely command vast amounts of confidential electronic client data and bear the responsibility to limit access to and ensure the security of that information, creating a growing risk of exposure for lost or stolen information. At the same time, design professionals are often expected to share their work product freely with a large project team, in the name of efficiency and collaboration, often in an electronic form easily misread or manipulated, creating confusion and the opportunity for error.

Drones, nanotechnology, emerging environmental concerns, and new design and construction techniques also pose risks. As architects, engineers, land surveyors, and other design professionals push out into new practice areas, dealing with new conditions, structures, and technologies, we help them look ahead and move forward with confidence. Our clients are pioneers and innovators in their fields — which means we have to keep ahead of the latest case law and regulatory developments, anticipating risks before our clients begin a project and, in the event of litigation, trying and winning cases of first impression.

Many of our attorneys have become thought-leaders on issues including:

  • Cyber liability and data breaches
  • Internet publishing and intellectual property
  • Emerging technologies, including nanotechnology and 3-D printing
  • Integration of unmanned aerial systems (drones) into project management
  • Environmental engineering and renewable energy
  • Design-build project delivery

We’re also able to keep our clients continually up-to-date with in-depth analysis of industry trends, frequent seminars and presentations, and alerts about important developments.

Proactive Counsel from Conception to Completion

We are professional liability counselors and litigators with a passion for architecture, engineering, and design — but we’re also a team of construction litigators, insurance litigators, business and transactional counselors, and appellate practitioners. We apply to every matter our deep understanding of each client’s business, values, and objectives, providing proactive, risk-minimizing counsel throughout all phases of a project — from initial conception and design all the way through completion and beyond. We seek to minimize expenses and exposure, protect our clients’ reputations, and look beyond individual matters to the “big picture” of each client’s legal needs.

Because of the collaborative culture of our firm we’re also well-equipped to offer cost-effective solutions to other problems our clients face, beyond professional liability matters — including employment and labor concerns, regulatory compliance, leasing and zoning, intellectual property and internet publishing, environmental and toxic torts, government and partnership issues, and other transactional needs. When design professionals choose us, you’re tapping in to a dynamic network of accomplished, trial-tested attorneys, and can count on the full range of our firm’s experience.

Representative Matters
  • Representation of an architect in a claim brought by a senior living condominium association in New Jersey. The plaintiff alleged that the 714 units and the clubhouse were leaking and were otherwise designed and constructed improperly. More than 50 co-defendants asserted cross-claims asserting that same allegation. Our client was responsible for drafting the construction documents and there was an issue of fact as to whether the architect also had or otherwise performed construction administration services. We achieved a settlement on behalf of the client for less than 10 percent of the plaintiff’s initial demand from our client, amounting to approximately 1 percent of the value of all claims alleged.
  • Representation of a geo-environmental engineer in a construction defect claim involving the new construction of a high school in New Jersey. The plaintiff claimed that our client negligently performed its services and failed to detect hazardous materials in the soil, resulting in millions of dollars of actual damages and delay costs. On behalf of our client we reinstituted the application of the economic loss doctrine in the state of New Jersey and following our successful motion for dismissal of the case against our client at the trial level and a lengthy appeal, the client decided to settle the case for $125,000 to avoid further business interruption, negative publicity, and litigation costs.
  • Representation of an architect alleged to have negligently designed and negligently performed construction administration services on a newly built library on eastern Long Island. After demonstrating that the water infiltration and damage to the library was a construction error, the case settled for pennies on the dollar at binding arbitration.
  • Representation of an engineer alleged to have negligently accounted for roof loads on a newly constructed commercial space in New York. We successfully moved to have all claims and cross-claims against our client dismissed.
  • Representation of an architect and his firm in a suit alleging design defects causing damaging leaks at a major religious pilgrimage site attracting thousands of visitors from around the globe each year. The alleged design defect occurred during a $6 million renovation of the site; alleged damages exceeded $1 million, according to the plaintiff’s expert witness. That witness, however, was also the plaintiff’s architectural consultant on the project, and approved the alleged design defect.
  • Representation of design professionals in multiple personal injury matters.