Third DCA Addresses the Slavin DoctrineMay 19, 2020 | Category: Firm News
Today, the Third District Court of Appeal, addressed the “Slavin Doctrine,” which discharges a contractor of liability to third parties upon 1) completion by the contractor of their work duties; 2) acceptance of the contractor’s work by the owner; and 3) a showing that the defect that caused the injury is patent.
In Melitina Valiente, etc, v. R.J. Behar & Co., Inc, et al, Case Nos. 3D15-1049, 3D14-2635 & 3D14-3058, the Third DCA reviewed the lower court’s rulings granting summary judgment in favor of the designer, general contractor and landscaper based on the Slavin Doctrine. The purported defect in this case, which involved a fatal car accident, was the planting of five-foot shrubs in the swale area of the intersection that allegedly blocked the view of passing motorists. The defendants alleged that they completed their work and the City accepted the roadway project more than two years before the subject car accident.
The Third DCA explained the reasoning of the Slavin Doctrine as a presumption that the owner had conducted a “reasonably careful inspection” of the contractor’s work prior to accepting it as completed and that the owner of its work accepted the project as complete while adopting the defects and negligence of the contractor’s work as his own. The Court embarked on a lengthy analysis of the test for “patency” of a defect, which is whether or not the dangerousness of the condition was obvious had the owner exercised reasonable care, and not whether or not the condition was merely obvious to the owner. The Court was careful to note that the test for patency relates to what the owner “could have discovered” and not what the owner actually discovered, had the owner performed a reasonably careful inspection. In Valiente, the Court found that a reasonable inspection by the owner, the City in this case, would have revealed that five-foot shrubs in the intersection was a patent defect. Thus, the Third DCA upheld the lower court’s ruling, granting summary judgment for the defendants.