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The Slavin Defense’s Application to a Contractor’s Claims Against Its Subcontractors

Oftentimes, subcontractors raise the so-called Slavin Doctrine as an affirmative defense to third-party indemnity claims brought by general contractors in construction defect matters. Under the Slavin Doctrine, a contractor cannot be held liable for injuries sustained by third parties when the injuries occur after the contractor completed its work, the owner of the property accepted the contractor’s work, and the defects causing the injury were patent.1 Typically, subcontractors argue the Slavin Doctrine excuses a defective construction claim if the evidence concludes 1) a third party claims injury or damages after the work is complete, 2) the property owner accepted the contractor’s work, and 3) the defect causing the injury was apparent, or patent. For example, the Slavin Defense might be raised by a general contractor in response to a condominium association’s claim that the windows suffer from condensation and require repair or replacement, if it can be shown the developer accepted the windows and approved their installation, the contractor completed the work, and the condensation issue is apparent. However, oftentimes subcontractors, too, assert the defense against the general contractor that is seeking indemnity due to an owner’s claims of defective construction, arguing the elements of the defense are met and, therefore, the subcontractor is absolved of the claims brought by the general contractor.

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