You Break It, You Fix It. But Do You Have To Make It Better?

Written By: Randy J. Heller


If a contractor accidentally drills into a gas line, causing it to leak, it is not much of a stretch to expect it to be responsible for the cost to repair the broken segment. But suppose in the process of restoring the gas, it is determined that the gas line does not pass the pressure test required by code. Is the contractor liable for bringing the entire line into code compliance? Or is that the responsibility of the building whose 60-year old valves are no longer up to the task?
The building argued that it would not have been in the position of having to replace the valves had the contractor not drilled into the line. The contractor did not dispute its obligation to indemnify the building for the damaged pipe but argued that it should not be responsible for making the gas line better than it was at the time the contractor broke it.
The appellate court held for the contractor. The court stated that the problem with the gas line resulted from the age of the valves, which were the building’s responsibility to maintain and repair as part of the building’s standard equipment. The contractor may have furnished the occasion for the system to be revealed to be inadequate. But that did not mean that it became liable for the cost to make it code compliant.

about the authors

Randy J. Heller


For over forty years, Mr. Heller has specialized in construction law and litigation, representing some of the largest and most successful contractors in the nation.

View Profile