Even though a general contractor (GC) may be diligent in exercising their work, situations may happen beyond their control. This is what happened at a South Central US Children’s Hospital when a patient contracted a fatal infection after an organ transplant surgery. As a result, the contractor was sued by the patient’s family on allegations that the standard of care was not followed by permitting construction dust and debris to enter the hospital where the patient was located.

As an expert for the defendant in the case, I would like to share several insights on a  general contractor’s standard of care:


First: I learned that a history of twenty years of reportedly meeting and exceeding the standard of care for healthcare general construction at the same hospital does not preclude a general contractor from getting sued in a negligent death claim.

Second: GC settlements during mediation can often be driven by public opinion and long standing client relationships especially in tragic patient fatalities, despite gaps and unsubstantiated bases of opinion in plaintiff expert arguments.  

Third: Healthcare is one of the least frequent project types in which construction defect claims are reported.

For those GC healthcare CEO’s, executive directors, business and corporate strategists here are four things to consider when faced with your next negligent healthcare construction claim:

First, be mindful of what a General Contractors Fundamental Standard of Care includes.  Learning, skill, and care ordinarily possessed by the GC in practicing measures in the same or similar locality and under similar circumstances to execute the work in accordance with the Contract, Drawings, Specifications and in accordance with codes, industry standards and best practice and keep land and project in a reasonably safe and sightly condition as work progresses. It is also important to use reasonable diligence and best judgment in achieving the hospital’s Contract requirements while working towards accomplishing the purpose for which they were hired.

Second, seek to better understand expert witness standards (rules of evidence), including where nonscientific evidence is not admissible in the state in which you are performing construction work (also known as the Daubert Standard). Currently, 76 percent of states in the US are Daubert states.

Third, seek to better understand how patient-centric the hospital is in which you are working. This includes the new addition and the existing 25-year-old bed tower wing for design, installation and operational focus on indoor air quality (IAQ), infection risk control, contamination control, room pressurization and sound control. Note: The largest issue in hospitals is infection control. A challenge is always trying to keep the environment clean, especially during construction.

Fourth, contaminants that enter the patient area are not necessarily from hospital construction. Be aware of contaminants from project surroundings. Also, be aware that the general population and the goods they carry in and out of the hospital can be spore carriers.  

Don Snell

Mr. Snell has over 25 years of experience with HVAC systems, including their design, cost analysis, nuances, and potential risks that often lead to failures. In cases where HVAC failure can lead to catastrophic moisture and mold intrusion, Mr. Snell is the first call for many building owners, building managers, attorneys, and insurance companies seeking to determine the issues surrounding these highly complex building failures. In fact, it was once said about Mr. Snell, “Anyone can tell you that there is an HVAC problem, but if you want to solve the reason for your HVAC problem, call Donald Snell of Liberty Building Forensics Group.”

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