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Stephen has experience representing owners, EPC contractors, equipment manufacturers, general contractors, design professionals, and building product suppliers in disputes arising from a wide array of construction projects, including power plants, water and wastewater treatment plants, pipelines, dams, and commercial buildings.

D.A. Nolt, Inc. v. The Philadelphia Municipal Authority, 2020 BL 199761 (E.D. Pa. May 28, 2020)

The Philadelphia Municipal Authority (the “Authority”) contracted D.A. Nolt, Inc. (Nolt) to renovate a building that would serve as the City’s new police headquarters. After Nolt had performed a portion of the renovation work, the Authority cancelled the project. Nolt sued the Authority, alleging that the Authority owed it $2.5 million for work performed before the project was cancelled. The Authority denied that payment was due, claiming that Nolt had delayed the project by 255 days and that a $10,000 per day liquidated damages provision in the contract thus offset Nolt’s claim.

Nolt moved for summary judgment on the Authority’s liquidated damages counterclaim. It argued that the provision was unenforceable because the $10,000 per day amount was not a reasonable forecast or approximation of the loss the Authority expected to suffer in the event of delay. Nolt cited testimony from the Project Director for the City’s Department of Public Property, who was responsible for finalizing the Authority’s contract with Nolt. The Director testified that he did not estimate the anticipated harm that might occur in the event of a delay in Nolt’s work. Rather, he determined that $10,000 per day was reasonable because prior City projects of a similar scope and magnitude included $10,000 per day liquidated damages provisions. The Director was not personally involved in the analysis which the City had undertaken on the referenced prior projects, and he did not personally analyze any of the calculations or estimates that the City completed for those prior projects.
Continue Reading Federal Court in PA Finds Liquidated Damages Provision Unenforceable Where the Per Day Liquidated Damage Amount Was Copied from Contracts for Prior Unrelated Projects Rather than a Project-Specific Forecast of Likely Damages

  1. Lost profits, not part of unpaid contract balance, may be recoverable as consequential damages in contract claim, but cannot be included in lien. TSP Services Inc. v. National-Standard, LLC, 2019 BL 340267 (Mich. Ct. App. Sept. 10, 2019)

National-Standard, LLC contracted TSP Services, Inc. for asbestos abatement, demolition, restoration, and disposal of scrap steel

Gindel v. Centex Homes, 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 13019 (Fla. 4th DCA Sept. 12, 2018)

 A group of townhome owners (the “Homeowners”) sued the contractor and a subcontractor (collectively, “Contractor”) who built their townhomes, alleging that Contractor performed defective work.  Contractor had completed construction and conveyed the townhomes to the Homeowners on March 31, 2004.  The Homeowners did not discover the alleged defect until years later.  On February 6, 2014, nearly ten years after Contractor completed the work, the Homeowners notified Contractor of the claimed construction defect.  The Homeowners provided that notice in accordance with Florida’s construction defect statute (Fla. Stat. §§ 558.003; 558.004) that requires pre-suit notice of construction defect claims.  The Homeowners completed the statutory pre-suit procedure and filed their lawsuit on May 2, 2014, more than ten years after taking possession of the townhomes.

Contractor argued that Florida’s ten-year statute of repose barred the lawsuit.  While acknowledging that they filed their lawsuit beyond the ten-year period, the Homeowners stressed that the claims were timely because the action truly had commenced within the ten year period when they submitted the pre-suit notice of claim.  The trial court agreed with Contractor and entered summary judgment in its favor.  The Homeowners appealed.
Continue Reading Submission of Pre-Suit Claim Notice Required by Construction Defect Statute Timely ‘Commences the Action’ Within the Meaning of the Florida Statute of Repose

G4S Tech. LLC v. Mass. Tech. Park Corp., 2018 Mass. Lexis 357 (June 13, 2018)

A state development agency (the “Agency”), received state and federal funding to build a 1,200-mile fiber optic network.  It contracted with G4S Technology LLC (“G4S”) for the project under a $45.5 million design-build agreement.  As a result of project delays – the cause of which the parties disputed – G4S achieved final completion of the work more than one year after the contractual deadline.  Shortly after completion, the Agency issued a notice of withholding, claiming a right to withhold $4 million from G4S to compensate the Agency for delays and expenses incurred as a result of G4S’s alleged failures to perform.

G4S sued the Agency in Massachusetts Superior Court, asserting claims for breach of contract and quantum meruit.  It sought release of the contract balance plus an equitable adjustment of the contract price and deadlines.  In discovery, the Agency learned that G4S had repeatedly submitted inaccurate progress payment applications during the project, which falsely represented that G4S had timely paid its subcontractors.  The Agency cited this evidence in support of a motion for summary judgment, arguing that G4S’s conduct barred its right to recover money owed to it under the contract and under a theory of quantum meruit.  The Superior Court granted the motion, and G4S appealed.
Continue Reading A Contractor That Intentionally and Materially Breaches Its Contract Is Not Precluded From Recovery Under Quantum Meruit; Massachusetts Supreme Court Overrules Century-Old Precedent Strictly Barring Such Relief

City of Whiting v. Whitney, Bailey, Cox & Magnani, LLC, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44943 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 20, 2018)

The City of Whiting, Indiana (the “City”) undertook a 26-acre lakefront development project.  It hired an engineering firm to serve as the consultant for the project.  The consultant subcontracted with a subconsultant for marine engineering services, including design of a rock revetment on the lakefront for shoreline protection.  According to the City, the revetment failed on three occasions, resulting in damage to the City’s property at the project site, including a walking path, landscaping and existing trees, a gazebo, and an existing Gun Club structure, which the City had planned to convert to a restaurant.

After accepting assignment of the consultant’s contract with the subconsultant, the City filed a six-count complaint and alleged that the subconsultant’s negligent revetment design caused damage to the City’s property.  The subconsultant moved for summary judgment on the City’s negligence claim, arguing that the economic loss rule precluded liability against it in tort.  The court noted that Indiana’s economic loss rule bars tort liability when there is damage only to the product contracted for itself, but that the rule does not preclude tort liability if there is personal injury or damage to “other property.”


Continue Reading A Project Consisting of Several Component Projects Is a Single Project or “Product Purchased by the Owner” Within the Meaning of the Indiana Economic Loss Rule; Only Damage to Pre-Exiting Property at the Site May Be Subject to Recovery in Negligence

Smith Jamison Constr. v. Apac-Atlantic, Inc., 2018 N.C. App. LEXIS 132 (N.C. Ct. App. Feb. 6, 2018)

General contractor APAC-Atlantic (“APAC”) hired Smith Jamison Construction (“Jamison”) as a subcontractor to perform concrete work on a highway project.  The APAC-Jamison subcontract included an agreement that the parties would arbitrate all claims arising out of or relating to their subcontract.  Jamison alleged that APAC later sought to have Jamison further subcontract the concrete work to Yates Construction Company (“Yates”).  According to Jamison, APAC terminated the subcontract when Jamison refused to subcontract with Yates.

Jamison sued APAC and Yates in state court, alleging that APAC had breached its subcontract with Jamison and that Yates had committed fraudulent misrepresentation, tortious interference, civil conspiracy, and violations of the North Carolina unfair and deceptive trade practices statute.  Both APAC and Yates sought to compel arbitration of the claims Jamison asserted against them.  The court ordered arbitration of Jamison’s claims against APAC based on the arbitration agreement in their subcontract.  The court denied Yates’s attempt to compel arbitration.  Like APAC, Yates also based its argument on the arbitration agreement in the subcontract between Jamison and APAC – a contract to which Yates was not a party.  Yates appealed.


Continue Reading Can a Nonsignatory to an Arbitration Agreement Compel Arbitration by Estoppel? North Carolina Court of Appeals Says Yes — But Not in This Particular Case

Addison Ins. Co. v. 4000 Island Blvd. Condo. Ass’n, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 26870 (11th Cir. Dec. 28, 2017)

The owner of a high-rise condominium building in Florida hired a contractor to replace the building’s concrete balcony railings with new railings featuring aluminum and glass.  The contractor on the project, Poma Construction (“Poma”), entered into a subcontract with Windsor Metal Specialties (“Windsor”), under which Windsor agreed to paint the new aluminum railings.

Two years after the work was completed, the owner sued Poma and Windsor in Florida state court, alleging that the railings were defective and required replacement.  In addition to replacing the railing system, the owner alleged that Windsor’s defective paint finish damaged other surrounding property, including railing post pockets and the concrete balcony slabs.

Windsor submitted the claim to its liability carrier, Addison Insurance Company (“Addison”).  Addison then filed a declaratory judgment action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, seeking a declaration that it had no duty to defend Windsor in the owner’s underlying lawsuit.  Windsor’s policy provided a defense against claims alleging that an “occurrence” caused “property damage.”  But the policy excluded claims alleging damage to Windsor’s own work product or to the particular part of a property on which Windsor performed its work.  Addison had invoked that exclusion, arguing that the owner merely alleged damage to Windsor’s own work and/or the part of the property on which Windsor performed its work, i.e. the balcony.  The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Windsor, and Addison appealed.


Continue Reading Applying Florida’s “Eight Corners Rule,” Eleventh Circuit Finds that Insurer Has a Duty to Defend Claim That Insured’s Faulty Paint Work on Balcony Railings Caused Damage to Adjacent Balcony Slabs

Developers Sur. & Indem. Co. v. Carothers Constr., Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111021 (D.S.C. July 18, 2017); Developers Sur. & Indem. Co. v. Carothers Constr., Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135948 (D. Kan. Aug. 24, 2017)

Two recent decisions from United States District Courts for the District of South Carolina and the District of Kansas, respectively, reached opposite conclusions when presented with the same issue:  Is a surety bound to arbitrate claims against it when the surety’s bond incorporates its principal’s contract by reference, and the principal’s contract contains an agreement to arbitrate disputes.  The District of South Carolina, applying South Carolina law, held that a surety is bound by the arbitration agreement in the incorporated contract, while the District of Kansas held that a surety is not so bound.

These cases both arise from an arbitration demand filed by the general contractor, Carothers Construction, Inc. (“Carothers”) against the surety, Developers Surety and Indemnity Company (“DSI”).  DSI issued performance and payment bonds on behalf of subcontractors Liberty Enterprises Specialty Contractor (“Liberty”) and Seven Hills Construction, LLC (“Seven Hills”) in favor of Carothers for their work on Projects located in South Carolina and Kansas, respectively.  Each subcontractor defaulted on its contractual obligations.  Carothers initiated arbitration against DSI regarding both Projects.  According to Carothers, the bonds incorporated by reference the subcontracts’ mandatory arbitration clauses and thus, DSI was subject to binding arbitration.  In declaratory judgment actions before Federal District Courts in South Carolina and Kansas, DSI asked the courts to declare that the arbitration clause did not bind it to arbitrate Carothers’ claims.  Each court reached the directly opposite conclusion.  This article discusses the decision reached by each court in turn.


Continue Reading When Surety Bond Incorporates the Subcontract by Reference, Is the Subcontract’s Arbitration Clause Also Incorporated? Federal Court in South Carolina Says Yes; Federal Court in Kansas Says No — In Two Matters Involving the Same Parties

Allied World Specialty Ins. Co. v. Abat Lerew Constr., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61794 (D. Neb. Apr. 24, 2017)

 Abat Lerew Construction (“ALC”) entered into multiple construction projects which required it to obtain surety bonds guaranteeing its performance. ALC obtained the bonds from Allied World Specialty Insurance Company (“Allied”) and also entered into an indemnity agreement with Allied.  In that agreement ALC agreed to indemnify and hold Allied harmless from and against all liability and to deposit with Allied collateral in an amount determined by Allied to be sufficient to cover liability for any claims under the bonds.

During ALC’s performance of the bonded contracts, Allied received claims on the bonds in excess of $300,000. Invoking the terms of its indemnity agreement with ALC, Allied demanded that ALC post collateral security in the amount of $400,000 to cover liability for the claims.  ALC refused and Allied commenced an action seeking equitable relief requiring ALC to deposit the demanded collateral security.  Upon commencement of the litigation, Allied asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction requiring ALC to post the $400,000 security and restraining ALC from transferring assets.


Continue Reading Federal Court in Nebraska Denies Surety’s Request for Preliminary Injunction Requiring Principal to Post Collateral Security, Finding No Irreparable Harm Absent Proof That Principal Was Insolvent or Secreting Assets

Int’l Fidelity Ins. Co. v. Americaribe-Moriarty JV, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 3628 (11th Cir. Feb. 28, 2017)

Americaribe-Moriarty Joint Venture (“Americaribe”) entered into a subcontract with Certified Pool Mechanics I, Inc. (“CPM”) for construction of a pool in a mixed-use development that Americaribe was building in Miami, Florida. CPM provided a performance bond, issued by International Fidelity Insurance Company and Allegheny Casualty Company (collectively, “Fidelity”) as security for performance of the pool subcontract.  According to Americaribe, CPM failed to perform its obligations under the pool subcontract.  As a result, Americaribe terminated CPM, made a claim on the performance bond, and contemporaneously hired a replacement contractor (“Dillon”) to complete CPM’s scope of work.

In the event of default by CPM, the subcontract required three days’ written notice before undertaking completion of CPM’s work. The bond incorporated the subcontract by reference and also required a further, but undefined, period of time after CPM’s termination during which Fidelity could evaluate options for responding to CPM’s alleged default.  In the event that Fidelity did not conduct such an evaluation with reasonable promptness, Americaribe could declare a default by Fidelity upon seven days’ written notice.  Although Americaribe provided the written notices of default, it proceeded to complete CPM’s work with Dillon before the notice periods expired.


Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Affirms Decision Under Florida Law Barring Contractor’s Performance Bond Claim for Failure to Comply With Notice Provisions in the Bond and in the Subcontract