What Is A Latent Defect?

What is a Latent Defect?

Updated on April 5, 2024

Latent Defect Definition

A latent defect, in legal terms, refers to a fault in a product or property that is not immediately apparent or observable upon reasonable inspection.

These defects can cause harm or damage after a certain period of use, even though they were not visibly present at the time of purchase or initial inspection.

Understanding latent defects involves knowing the types, responsible parties, legal implications, and how to address them.

Types of Latent Defects:

  • Construction Defects: These occur in buildings or structures due to faulty design, materials, or construction methods. Examples include cracks in walls, foundation problems, or plumbing issues.
  • Product Defects: Products can have hidden flaws that make them dangerous or unusable after a period of use. This could include faulty wiring in electronics, hidden weaknesses in machinery, or defects in consumer goods that cause injury.
  • Land Defects: In real estate, latent defects can affect the value or safety of a property. This could include soil contamination, undisclosed easements, or undisclosed structural issues.
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Responsibility for Latent Defects:

Determining responsibility for latent defects can be complex and depends on various factors. In general, the parties that could be held responsible include:

  • Manufacturers: They are responsible for ensuring that products are free from defects that could harm consumers.
  • Contractors and Builders: They are responsible for ensuring that buildings are constructed according to specifications and are free from defects that could affect safety or structural integrity.
  • Sellers and Real Estate Agents: They may be responsible for failing to disclose known latent defects in a property.
  • Inspectors: They may be held responsible for failing to identify latent defects during an inspection, if they were reasonably discoverable.

Proving Latent Defects in Court:

Proving a latent defect in court typically requires evidence that demonstrates the following:

  • Existence of a Defect: Evidence such as expert opinions, product testing, or building inspections can be used to show that a defect exists.
  • Causation: It must be shown that the defect is the direct cause of the harm or damage suffered.
  • Knowledge or Foreseeability: In cases where the defendant is accused of knowing about the defect, evidence such as internal memos, complaints, or previous incidents can be used to establish this.
  • Damages: Evidence of the harm or damage caused by the defect is also necessary.
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Illustrative Example:

Consider a scenario where a homeowner purchases a new house and later discovers that the foundation is faulty, causing cracks in the walls and structural instability.

If it can be proven that the builder used substandard materials or construction methods, leading to the latent defect, the homeowner may have a legal claim against the builder for the cost of repairs and any other damages incurred.

What to Do When Faced with a Latent Defect:

  • Document the Defect: Take photographs or videos of the defect and any resulting damage.
  • Seek Expert Advice: Consult with a relevant expert, such as a building inspector or engineer, to assess the defect and provide a professional opinion.
  • Review Contracts and Warranties: Check for any warranties or guarantees that may cover the defect.
  • Notify Responsible Parties: Inform the manufacturer, builder, seller, or relevant party about the defect in writing, requesting a resolution.
  • Consider Legal Action: If the responsible party does not address the defect or denies liability, you may consider seeking legal advice and pursuing a legal claim.

In conclusion, latent defects can have serious consequences for consumers, property owners, and others.

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Understanding the types of latent defects, who may be responsible, how to prove them in court, and what steps to take when faced with one is crucial for protecting your rights and seeking appropriate remedies.

Latent defects can not only come at a cost of your safety and well being, but it can adversely impact the value of your property.

Consult with an attorney who is familiar with the purchase and sale process, and the niche of non-disclosures. If you find yourself at the mercy of these circumstances, the attorneys at Schorr Law are very familiar with cases like these and are more than willing to help.

Contact our office today to schedule a consultation by calling us at 310-954-1877 or sending us a message here.