Waking the Dead: How to Subrogate a Zombie Defect Building Failure

Zombie defect building failures are becoming increasingly common risk management concerns.

There’s a new edge in risk management concerns for the building industry, says Florida-based Liberty Building Forensics Group® (LBFG), a leading building forensics firm that has solved some of the world’s largest and most complex building moisture and mold problems.

Buildings with hidden flaws are experiencing acute massive failure that results in extensive moisture and mold damage. These failures, termed “zombie defect failures”, are often discovered only after several years and a major event like a renovation or sale occurs. Examples include incompatible products and HVAC piping failures.

Complex mechanical building systems may take years to build but only seconds to fail.

Donald B. Snell, P.E.

“We’re not talking about chronic problems here,” said LBFG’s Donald B. Snell, P.E. “These are acute building failures requiring unique skill and vast experience in how building systems interact. Complex mechanical building systems may take years to build but only seconds to fail.”

The building owners may get paid easily from their insurance companies after a failure occurs, but subrogation of the case by the insurance company often becomes a complicated, prolonged mess. This means the insurance company takes on the owners’ rights, assuming the difficult role of tracking down all players involved leading up to the building failure and proportioning costs to the various (often elusive) responsible parties. Failures usually happen at the intersection of scopes of work, meaning more than one party is to blame, and that is when having the necessary skill and expertise comes into play.

Responsible parties make many excuses as to why they should not be responsible. These range from “you bought the building as is, so it’s not my problem”, to “their product was not compatible with ours”, “the other guy’s work failed, not mine”, “we met code so don’t blame us”, and “my work was first, not my issue”.

LBFG brings expertise in deconstructing complex, moisture-related subrogation claims (especially those related to massive moisture damage) and apportioning consequential damages to the appropriate parties. Our experts look into the nuances of what causes such failures to gain a heightened awareness of how to prevent them in the future.

LBFG’s experience includes over 30 years of successfully assisting the Disney Corporation in completing over 500 highly complex construction projects worldwide; as well as successfully resolving the largest moisture/mold problem in the last 20 years and recovering $60MM+ in repair costs for the Hilton Hawaiian Village.