Acceptance Doctrine: General Contractors and Subcontractors

Construction and breach of contract litigation can be complex because of the number of parties and the confluence of differing legal relationships in a given dispute. For example, a general contractor and subcontractor will have differing legal responsibilities to each other versus the underlying land/property owner. There are specific legal theories and defenses that can tremendously impact the outcome of a case.

The acceptance doctrine, for instance, comes into play when a subcontractor completes work on a project, or portion of a project, and relinquishes control to the general contractor. In such a situation, the general contractor assumes responsibility for any defects in the work and “relieves the subcontractor of liability as to a third person.” Weber v. McBride & Son Contracting, Co., 182 S.W.2d 643, 644 (Mo. Ct. App. 2005).

Acceptance of a subcontractor’s work is proven either by an overt act or practical acceptance through the general contractor’s control or use of the property. Roskowske v. Iron Mountain Forge Corp., 897 S.W.2d 67, 71 (Mo. Ct. App. 1995). The acceptance need not be formal. Id.

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