The Tom Brady decision was not the only important decision issued last week. Attached is a slip opinion of an SJC decision that will help define the role of a construction manager at risk (CMAR) on construction projects in Massachusetts. The “Spearin Doctrine” is the well-established rule that an owner impliedly warrants to a contractor that architectural plans are sufficient, so that a contractor need only build correctly what is contained in the plans. In a nutshell, the Superior Court found this doctrine was limited to the traditional design-bid-build context and that because Gilbane, as CMAR, was involved to some extent with project design it therefore shared responsibility for errors and omissions in the design. The local construction bar was surprised by this decision, and the consensus was it would be reversed to some degree on appeal. It was. The SJC held that the Spearin Doctrine does in fact apply in a CMAR context. However, the SJC noted that the scope of the implied warranty may be less in the CMAR context, and that the greater the CMAR’s design responsibilities, the greater the CMAR’s burden will be to show its reliance on a defective design was reasonable.
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