No Duty Owed By Architect To Adjacent Property Owner Under Louisiana Law

Case:   N. Clark, L.L.C. v. Chisesi
             Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal
             Civil Action No. 2016-CA-0599

Plaintiff property owners filed suit against the architect who designed houses built on neighboring property, alleging the acts and omissions of the architect in designing the houses resulted in damage to their property. Among other things, plaintiffs alleged the houses were designed without gutter cans or drains and with side projections too close to the boundary line that were draining onto plaintiffs’ property. The plaintiffs argued an adjoining property owner “always has a duty to the neighboring property owner under tort law and [thus] so does the adjoining property owners’ architect.” Rejecting the argument, the district court granted the defendant architect’s exception of no cause of action concluding the architect owed no duty concerning the design of neighboring property.

On appeal, the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed. Noting the plaintiffs lacked privity of contract with the architect, the Court initially observed plaintiffs had no contractual claim. The Court then held plaintiffs had no negligence claim, as the architect owed no duty to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs had no law – statutory, jurisprudential, or arising from general fault principles – that supported their claim. The Court dismissed case law relied upon by plaintiffs finding it distinguishable because it permitted a subcontractor – not a neighboring property owner – to assert a cause of action in tort against an architect. The Court further found plaintiffs’ claims against the architect for professional negligence (malpractice) in the form of defective design of the neighboring houses failed to state a cause of action.

In sum, the Court agreed with the trial court that no duty was owed by the architect for the design of the property next door. Because plaintiffs’ Petition failed to state a cause of action, there could be no right of action and the plaintiffs’ claim against the architect was properly dismissed.

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