Usually, the defendants in an automobile accident case are other drivers, but sometimes negligence in the design of the road caused or contributed to the accident. In a recent case, the Fifth District considered whether an engineering firm could be held liable for a road design when the county had a subsequent set of plans that were signed by another engineer.
Villanueva v. Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Inc. arose after a fatal accident at a rural intersection. The location of the accident was a part of a county road expansion project. The county had contracted with the defendant for the project’s engineering design services.
The deceased man’s personal representative filed suit against the engineering company and the county, alleging that the placement of advance warning signs for the intersection was negligence. The defendant engineering firm moved for summary judgment, arguing that its plans had not been used for construction of the signs, that the county had assumed full liability for the project when it signed and sealed a later set of plans, and that the county assumed full liability for patent defects by accepting the finished project.