The Texas Legislature has just sent Senate Bill 219 (“S.B. 219”) to the Governor for signature; if this legislation is signed by the Governor, it will further erode the Texas legal doctrine that makes the contractor the warrantor of owner-furnished plans and specifications unless the prime contract specifically places this burden on the owner.
49 states follow what is known as the Spearin doctrine (named after the U.S. Supreme Court case of United States v. Spearin) in which owners warrant the accuracy and sufficiency of owner-furnished plans and specifications. Texas, on the other hand, follows the Texas Supreme Court created Lonergan doctrine, which has been an unfortunate presence in Texas construction law since 1907. In its “purest form,” as stated by the Texas Supreme Court, the Lonergan doctrine prevents a contractor from successfully asserting a claim for “breach of contract based on defective plans and specifications” unless the contract contains language that “shows an intent to shift the burden of risk to the owner.” Essentially, this then translates into the contractor warranting the sufficiency and accuracy of owner-furnished plans and specifications, unless the contract between them expressly places this burden on the owner. Over the years some Texas courts of appeal had ameliorated this harsh doctrine, but in 2012, the Texas Supreme Court indicated Lonergan was still the law in Texas, in the case of El Paso v. Mastec. In 2019, the Texas Legislature took the first step toward hopefully abrogating the Lonergan doctrine by implementing a new Chapter 473 to the Texas Transportation Code with respect to certain projects undertaken by the Texas Department of Transportation, and Texas political subdivisions acting under the authority of Chapters 284, 366, 370 or 431 of the Transportation Code, adopting, as it were, the Spearin Doctrine in these limited, transportation projects. Now, the legislature has further chipped away at the Lonergan doctrine with the passage of S.B. 219.
Reprinted courtesy of Paulo Flores, Peckar & Abramson, P.C., Timothy D. Matheny, Peckar & Abramson, P.C. and Jackson Mabry, Peckar & Abramson, P.C.
Mr. Flores may be contacted at PFlores@Pecklaw.com
Mr. Matheny may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Mabry may be contacted at email@example.com