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Fourth DCA rules that unlicensed engineer intern not properly subject to claim for professional negligence

On January 4, 2017, in Sunset Beach Investments, LLC v. Kimley-Horn and Associates, LLC (No. 4D15-4425), the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed a lower court ruling dismissing a professional negligence complaint on the basis that that the allegedly negligent unlicensed engineer intern was not a professional under Florida law. The Court noted that while the Florida Supreme Court has imposed a two part test for determining whether the professional negligence statute of limitations applies to a particular vocation -- whether it requires, at a minimum, a four year degree before licensing is possible and whether a state license is required -- this test applies only for statute of limitations purposes. The Court indicated that one source of relevant guidance for determining whether a person is subject to the professional standard of care is whether the Florida Legislature designates members of the vocations as professionals subject to state licensing. The Court noted that in a previous case it had already determined that licensed surveyors should be treated as professionals subject to suit for professional negligence notwithstanding the fact that their profession does not require a four year degree. The Court concluded that at a minimum, the existence of a professional license is a "valid barometer" for determining when a person is classified as a professional, although it is not necessarily dispositive on the issue.