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Whatever it Takes? School District of Philadelphia Sues Dozens of its Architecture and Design Professionals

Daniel E. Fierstein
Lane F. Kelman
Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC - Philadelphia Office

September 11, 2013

Previously published on September 6, 2013

As schools across the country open, most people in the Delaware Valley are well aware of the School District of Philadelphia’s financial woes. As the School District considers measures to help close its massive budget deficit, it has recently begun to take legal action that is particularly interesting.

The Lawsuits

About one month ago, the School District sued more than twenty design professionals that it enlisted for various school improvements as part of the District’s Capital Improvement Program. The goal? To recoup approximately $2 million in damages related to alleged deficiencies in the drawings and specifications for the various school improvement projects.

At this stage in the litigation, there is very little information available, as only Writs of Summons were filed. But, it is believed that the School District’s claims may arise out of a number of change orders issued to prime contractors on the projects in question. In theory, if the change orders were issued because of errors and omissions and not scope changes, design professionals may be liable.

The Upshot

Given the severe budgetary woes, it is not difficult to fathom why people may draw a connection between the School District’s shortfall and its recent litigation activity. Motive aside, this series of lawsuits is likely to affect the manner in which future School District contracts are drafted and administered. Though the implications remain to be seen, for future projects, it would not be surprising to see more tightly and thoroughly drafted contract documents and a more stringent change order process. It will also be interesting to see whether the litigation has a chilling effect and dissuades professionals or contractors from working for the School District in the future.

We will continue to monitor these cases and the potential implications for construction work administered by the City of Philadelphia, its agencies, authorities and departments.


The views expressed in this document are solely the views of the author and not Martindale-Hubbell. This document is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for consultation with a licensed legal professional in a particular case or circumstance.

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