24.5.2017

Supervisor’s responsibility in construction enterprise

In law or legal praxis there is no exact determination what will be supervisor’s responsibility in construction enterprise. To what extent the supervisor will be responsible for mistakes done by others and how supervisor’s own failures affect when determining his responsibilities? There might also be difficulties in setting the possible maximum to liability for damages.

Although supervisor’s responsibility would have been restricted for example to correspond the supervision fee in supervising agreement, it’s possible to find exceptions for that from legal praxis. In these cases there have been lifted up supervisor’s aggravated defects in supervising tasks. For example in the year 2011 Helsinki Court of Appeal stated that supervisor’s responsibility is not limited to supervising fee if supervisor’s actions will be gross negligent.

The Court of Appeal’s latest decision considers a facade renovation of a housing company in Järvenpää. In this case the supervisor did not pay any attention even to the aggravated defects of the constructor. Supervisor’s action was so gross that not even the maximum set for compensation could be applied, and the supervisor had joint responsibility with the constructor.

Furthermore the Court of Appeal highlighted in its decision that the supervisor did not even acquire proper contract documents. The housing company was totally entitled to trust, that a company, which practises extensive consultation, has qualified supervisors who attend the best interests of the customer.

But to what extent has the negligence of the supervisor to do with the construction faults the way, he could be liable for damages? In construction business generally and in the Court of Appeal’s decision it is stated that the supervisor must pay attention especially to covered structures like air conditioning and building technics.

If supervisor will not intervene in constructor’s clear faults and negligence, he has joint responsibility with the constructor for the damages. It is quite common, however, that the constructor has been declared bankrupt and thus the supervisor alone is liable for damages.

It would be good to get a fresh ruling from the Supreme Court about supervisor’s responsibilities. The Supreme Court could regulate supervisor’s responsibilities and liability for damages.

This kind of ruling might also have significance to the direction, in which construction business is going to be developed in future.

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