Villanueva v. Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Inc., ___ So. 3d ___, 40 Fla. L. Weekly D427 (Fla. 5th DCA February 13, 2015)
The county hired an engineer to prepare the plans for a road expansion project. A fatal accident occurred on the road before the project was completed, and a wrongful death action was filed against the engineer and the county. Before the accident occurred, the county submitted its own set of signed and sealed plans that changed the speed limit but not the placement of advance warning signals. The trial court granted summary judgment for the engineer based upon its conclusion that “the relevant portions of the Project were constructed using only the succeeding County plans and not the earlier [engineer’s] plans.” The appellate court reversed because the trial court improperly weighed inconclusive evidence in making its ruling. In addition, the trial court misapplied the law, which does not support the proposition “that a successor engineer’s signing and sealing of design plans places full and exclusive responsibility for the plans on the successor engineer. The trial court erred by ruling that [the county engineer] accepted ultimate liability for the Project when he signed and sealed the County plans.” The appellate court held that the engineer failed to preserve the right to seek affirmance under the doctrine of Slavin v. Kay, 108 So. 2d 462 (Fla. 1958), based upon “the County[‘s] accept[ance of] the completed Project.” Although the engineer raised the Slavin defense in the trial court, the trial court failed to rule upon it, thus “impl[iedly] rul[ing] in favor of [the plaintiff] on the issue,” and the engineer failed to file a notice of cross appeal.
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