- In the event of a construction disaster, everyone involved in the construction process may be held liable – the designer, the contractor, and the developer.
- It is solely the developer that can be held accountable to the buyers of the residential premises; the buyers are entitled to request compensation from the developer if the building is not completed and put into use within a specified period of time.
- However, if the building is not completed and put into use due to force majeure circumstances, the developer shall not bear any contractual consequences.
Half of the newly built residential building in Bielsko-Biała has collapsed. The building, like the other two residential buildings built by the same developer, was an open shell planned to be completed and put into use next spring. So far, the reasons for the collapse are unknown. Pursuant to the law, there are many entities involved in the construction of the building who can be held liable for its collapse.
– The responsibility for the collapse can be borne by everyone involved in the construction process, i.e. the designer, the site manager, the general contractor or the company performing construction works, the developer, and others. A construction disaster may result from design faults, misperformed construction works, but also from external factors, e.g. force majeure occurrences or explosion of a high-pressure gas cylinder. Therefore, the number of people responsible for the collapse can be significant – says Jacek Kosiński of the law firm Jacek Kosiński Advocates and Legal Advisers.
Force majeure exempts the developer from liability
Liability towards the buyers of the residential premises of the collapsed building shall be borne by the developer as well as other people and companies which are in a way ‘hidden’ behind the developer. In accordance with the Civil Code, the developer is responsible for the actions and omissions of these entities, as for its own actions and omissions.
– Developer is obliged to hand over the residential premises to the buyer within a specified period of time. If one fails to do so, contractual consequences will be drawn. The only case the developer will not incur contractual consequences is when a construction disaster occurs only as a result of a force majeure circumstance, as contractual consequences are usually based on fault. And force majeure by its very nature is not caused by the fault of one of the parties – says Jacek Kosiński of the law firm Jacek Kosiński Advocates and Legal Advisers.
The law does not precisely define force majeure events but it is assumed that these are external factors which cannot be predicted and which are beyond one’s reasonable control. These include primarily acts of nature of a catastrophic character and extraordinary occurrences, such as war or riots. Contracts often include the ‘force majeure’ clause, under which the party will not be held liable in the event of damage.