In a recent case, the District Court of Appeal for the Fourth District was called upon to determine whether a company that negligently designed a traffic signal, thereby causing a man’s death, could rely upon the 1959 case of Slavin v. Kay, which held that a contractor is not liable for patent defects after acceptance of a construction project by the owner.
Facts of the Case
In the case of McIntosh v. Progressive Design and Engineering, Inc., the plaintiff’s father was killed in an automobile accident. According to the plaintiff, the accident happened because the father was relying on a traffic signal that indicated it was safe for him to exit a mobile home park, even though a truck was approaching from a cross-street. The plaintiff sued the company that designed the traffic signals for the intersection, alleging that it had negligently designed the signals in a manner that caused his father to overlook the traffic control signal meant for the mobile home park and, instead, rely on a signal that was meant for traffic farther down the street.
At trial, the plaintiff was able to show that the City of Pembroke Pines had asked the Florida Department of Transportation (“FDOT”) to install the traffic signals in question, that FDOT had hired an engineering firm who had, in turn, hired the defendant design company to design the traffic signals, and that an FDOT employee had made a comment during the review process to the effect that a special signal might be necessary to make sure drivers did not see the wrong signal indication.
Both parties sought a directed verdict. The plaintiff argued that the county had not accepted the project as required by Slavin because the burn-in period had not ended. In contrast, the design company asserted that defects were either known or could be reasonably discovered prior to the accident and that the project was, in fact, completed and accepted under the Slavin doctrine. The trial court denied both motions. The case was sent to the jury, who returned a verdict finding the design company was negligent in its traffic signal design and that such negligence was the legal cause of the plaintiff’s father’s death but that the negligent design was accepted and discoverable by FDOT with the exercise of reasonable care. Accordingly, the trial court entered judgment in the design company’s favor.
The Appellate Court’s Decision
The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s order. Upon consideration, the appellate court affirmed, holding that the trial court was correct in its decision to send the case to the jury for determination as to whether the defect was patent and whether the project was accepted. The court noted that there were issues of fact that prevented the trial court from ruling for either side as a matter of law and that the jury’s verdict, being supported by the evidence, was not to be disturbed.
Speak with a Fort Lauderdale Accident Lawyer
Some car accident cases are fairly straightforward, but others can involve multiple parties and claims. It pays to speak to a hard-working attorney who can help you sort through the details of your case. To schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated South Florida car wreck attorneys, call the law firm of Cohn & Smith at (954)431-8100. We have helped many Floridians seek fair and adequate compensation for injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents, and we look forward to serving you. We represent clients throughout South Florida, including Pembroke Pines and North Dade County.
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