The economic loss doctrine prevents a plaintiff from recovering purely economic losses via a tort action (i.e., a negligence claim) in the absence of personal injury or damage to “other property.” One court has described the economic loss doctrine as “prohibit[ing] plaintiffs from recovering in tort economic losses to which their entitlement flows only from a contract.” Duquesne Light Co. v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 66 F.3d 604, 618 (3d Cir. 1995). In other words, a plaintiff should be limited to a contract claim “when loss of the benefit of a bargain is the plaintiff’s sole loss.” Id.
To illustrate, if a property owner hires a contractor to build a wall, which subsequently collapses due to the contractor’s negligence in constructing the wall, the property owner cannot sue the contractor for negligence. The property owner’s redress is confined to the terms of the contract. Given that the wall collapsed, it is likely that the contractor breached the contract with the property owner, who presumably bargained for a wall that should not collapse. Since nothing other than the wall was damaged, and no one was injured, however, the property owner’s relief is restricted to what was specifically bargained for – the wall. Thus, the property owner will only be able to recover the cost of the wall, or the cost of repairing the wall (i.e., he should only get what he bargained for: a wall).
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