In Re: Northwest 15th Street Associates, Debtor, 435 B.R. 288 (E.D.Pa. 2010)

Architect retained ownership of plans it prepared until it was paid for its services.

The owner/developer of a property had a contract to build a new Family Courthouse in Philadelphia. The owner paid the architect for its original plans. After governmental review, revisions were made, and a revised set of plans were prepared. The architect invoiced the owner. In the interim, the owner filed for bankruptcy. The Family Court claimed ownership of the revised plans and the right to use them. The architect contested, claiming it owned the plans. The Bankruptcy Court ruled that the architect retained ownership of the revised plans. The contract between the owner and the architect had conflicting terms, which the court ruled were ambiguous, thus, requiring the court to enforce the doctrine of "contra proferentem" against the owner as the drafter of the contract. The bankruptcy court enjoined the Family Court from using the revised plans unless and until the architect was paid for its services for the revisions.

Case Law Alert - 1st Qtr 2011