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Cabinetry and Millwork: Poor Design or Poor Workmanship? Who Is to Blame?


As a cabinetry and millwork expert witness, my job is to inspect and evaluate casework, cabinetry, or millwork that has failed or is defective in some way. Many of the previous cases in which I was designated as the cabinetry and millwork expert witness involved analyzing products that no longer exist due to being replaced or destroyed. Tips on commercial millwork.

Architectural elevations (renderings), photographs of the damaged cabinetry, shop drawings, and material samples are frequently available for review. Generally, it is unclear who is responsible for the sustained monetary loss. Therefore, attorneys’ usual course of action is to sue all parties involved in the chain of events, from design to installation.

A cursory inspection frequently reveals fundamental construction flaws that were the fabricators’ and installers’ fault. For example, a cabinet job was not manufactured to meet the client’s needs, whether in form, size, or function. The perfectly built cabinetry was ruined by inexperienced or poor-quality installation. Finishes are frequently the most crucial consideration.

The finished product’s appearance may not be acceptable to the owner or the client. Product misrepresentation, finish samples, and unconfirmed choices are frequently blamed for the dispute. Further disagreements arise over contracted services, promises, and agreements not explicitly stated in the work order or project contract. Sometimes, the client or dissatisfied owner has unrealistic expectations and is unwilling to accept responsibility for their actions.

Resolving the above disputes is generally easier than fixing a severe personal injury case. It is primarily a matter of record keeping, record analysis, and knowledge of industry practices and standards that govern the equitable resolution of these claims.

The stakes in a personal injury claim are usually much higher. Individual responsibility is challenging to quantify and isolate; liability is sometimes shared and commingled. In addition, the size and scope of the project frequently influence the various levels of guilt of the parties involved.

When discussing a central hotel remodel project, such as cabinetry, casework, or millwork, it is usually part of a total design package initiated by that entity’s design and development department. Sometimes in-house designers create designs but are frequently contracted out to an outside designer service. In addition, a designer or architect is usually the lead entity when a new retail outlet, such as a bank or chain store, requires new cabinets.

To develop a standardized franchise concept, architectural and design firms frequently contract conceptual designs to specific trades. For example, in the case of a housing tract or condominium development, architects and designer services typically collaborate on the development of spatial and cosmetic concepts.

In all cases, individual circumstances affect the level of involvement and participation percentage in which an entity claims an interest. For example, an architect’s or designer’s design flaws could be directly linked to product failure. Therefore, a responsible cabinet manufacturer must be capable of interpreting flaws in a design concept and addressing the issue before fabricating these flawed products.

While an architect may be considered the general overseer of a project and thus ultimately responsible for the injury, it has also been established that the ultimate liability for damage may be the responsibility of the last person who touched the product. However, each case is unique.

Six different parties were held responsible in a recent personal injury case in a renovated hotel. Cabinet installers, designers, architects, hotel management, and project managers were all eager to participate in the settlement. However, in another case, which is still ongoing, each contractor and designer involved is attempting to blame everyone but themselves to reduce their involvement and get their companies out of the lawsuit.

It is critical to find a cabinetry expert witness with years of hands-on experience with these projects. There are many variables that only a skilled tradesperson would be aware of, and questions that can be formulated with the assistance of this expert will significantly enhance the perspective that can be developed after accurate and precise questions are answered during your discovery and investigation.

Michael Panish is a construction expert witness, forensic analyst, and consultant. He is a General Building Contractor, Cabinet & Millwork Contractor, Door, Lock & Security Equipment Contractor, Paint & Finish Contractor, and Electrical Contractor in California. Mr. Panish has over 30 years of hands-on construction experience. He has worked on concept designs for hotels, hospitals, chain stores, and franchised retail outlets. In addition, he has worked on cabinet and millwork defect cases nationwide.

He has served as a consultant for both the plaintiff and the defense and has been designated as the lead expert in the field of cabinets and millwork. In addition, Mr. Panish has testified in cases involving most construction trades, doors, locks, automatic doors, cabinetry, and custom casework for construction defects, poor artistry, product liability, and personal injury. Mr. Panish has offices in California and New England and is available for consultation, forensic analysis, inspection, report, and testimony throughout the United States.

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