White paper explains contractor liability for noncompliant-cable installation

Law firm's document says contractors don't necessarily have to know the cable is noncompliant in order to be found negligent.

A white paper commissioned by the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association (CCCA) and authored by the law firm Crowell Moring looks at the potential liability and other legal claims that can be made against a contractor if the contractor installs cable that does not comply with the National Electrical Code.

The paper begins by recalling the CCCA's testing of some cable from offshore manufacturers, and finding that many of the tested cables did not comply with fire-performance specifications. The paper then discusses the potential liability that an installer of such cables can face in certain jurisdictions. Crowell Moring examined applicable laws in the states of Connecticut, Florida and Virignia. Each state has incorporated the NEC into its building code as the rule of law. Therefore, a violation of that code is a violation of state law. The paper describes the potential fines a contractor faces, as well as potential length of incarceration, if the contractor is found to be guilty of violating the respective state's building code. Crowell Moring explains, "Any installed cable that fails to meet the NEC standards, whether known, apparent, or not, opens a contractor up to penalties for those failures."

Then the paper discusses the potential for a contractor facing liability for damages in civil lawsuits. This portion of the paper focuses on three types of civil claims: negligence, fraud, and breach of contract and warranty. Key quotes from the paper concerning each type of claim are listed here.

Negligence: "A contractor need not have actual knowledge that cable is noncompliant to be found negligent."

Fraud: "If a contractor had actual knowledge that it installed noncompliant CMR or CMP cable but represented to a customer that the cable complied with the NEC or applicable building code, that could be enough to show fraud."

Breach of contract and warranty: "Unlike tort claims, such as negligence and fraud, breach of contract and warranty claims do not require a claimant to be independently damaged -- all that is needed is evidence that noncompliant cable has been installed that violates the terms of a valid contract or warranty."

You can download the paper directly from the CCCA website here.

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