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Common Questions About The Spearin Doctrine Under Florida Construction Law


Construction specifications are extremely complicated and may sometimes change due to worksite conditions, so they are rarely 100 percent perfect. However, the plans prepared by a design professional should at least provide sufficient, accurate detail to accomplish the intended outcome. You might be surprised at how issues can snowball, but the statistics are revealing: Up to 70 percent of all rework necessary to complete construction projects is the result of defective construction design work by architects and engineers.

When construction specifications are the source of a construction defect, liability is a critical issue. The finger often points at the contractors as the parties actually performing the work, but they do so in reliance that the plans are correct. In such a situation, the Spearin Doctrine applies, the name coming from a 1918 US Supreme Court case. There are specific questions that you should trust your Florida defective construction attorney to answer, but some basics are useful.

 What does the Spearin Doctrine say? In its findings on the case, the US Supreme Court determined that there is an implied warranty when a design professional submits construction contract specifications. Even if the language does not specifically state it, the architect or engineer warrants that:

  • The plans are accurate; and,
  • Following the specifications will lead to a suitable end result.

The contractor may raise the Spearin Doctrine as a defense if the property owner later claims a defect, but contractors can also use the law to enforce their rights. A party who incurs additional time or cost could assert that insufficient specs were the reason for losses. 

Does the rule apply to all specifications? There are two types of plans in a construction project:

  1. Prescriptive specs include exacting requirements for materials and how the work is to be done.
  2. When the owner only provides details on what the final result should look like, contractors are working from performance specs.

The Spearin Doctrine only applies to prescriptive specifications, and the reason is logical: Contractors have limited discretion with these plans and are not making project-related decisions because the details are already established.

 How do I prove a claim? If you are a contractor who suffered losses because of defective contract specifications, you must show that you reasonably relied upon the plans in performing work. To meet the reasonableness standard, a contractor must review the specs for any glaring errors; when grave mistakes are not obvious, you properly relied upon them.

In addition, you must have actually sustained losses to succeed in a Spearin Doctrine claim. In enforcing your rights as a contractor, you can claim amounts for legal costs.

 Consult with a Jupiter, FL Defective Construction Lawyer About Options

These answers to questions about the Spearin Doctrine help you understand the legal background, though many additional details may impact your circumstances. To learn more about design professional liability for construction defects, please call Linkhorst Law Firm, P.A. Individuals in Palm Beach County and throughout South Florida can call 561-626-8880 or check out our website to set up a consultation.



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