A recent case out of Colorado raises a question as to the continued use of the accepted and completed work doctrine and indicates that courts are abandoning the rule in favor of the foreseeability rule. Nebraska courts still apply the accepted and completed work, but change may be afoot. Let’s take a look at these two rules.
Accepted and Completed Work Doctrine
Under the completed and accepted rule, an independent contractor generally owes no duty of care to third parties with respect to the work it has performed, once that work has been completed by the contractor and accepted by the property owner or general contractor. So, once the contractor’s work is accepted, the general contractor or owner becomes answerable for any damages or injuries resulting from the defective or dangerous condition of the work. Some courts have, however, recognized exceptions to the rule, holding that contractors may be still be held liable to third parties where the accepted work was left in a condition that was “imminently dangerous,” had hidden or latent defects that the owner could not discover, or was certain to endanger third persons.
In contrast to the completed and accepted rule, the foreseeability rule provides that a construction contractor is liable for injury or damage to a third person as a result of the condition of its work, even after completion of the work and its acceptance by the owner where it was reasonably foreseeable that third persons would be injured by such work due to the contractor’s negligence or failure to disclose a dangerous condition known to such contractor.
It’s not clear how Nebraska courts will apply the accepted and completed work doctrine in the next case, but it is certainly something to consider. The accepted and completed work doctrine may not always act as a complete bar to claims arising after the work is turned over to the owner.