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

N. Plains Res. Council v. United States Army Corps of Eng’rs, No. 4:19-cv-00044-BMM, 2020 BL 35412 (9th Cir. May 14, 2020)

Oil and gas pipeline construction may no longer proceed under Nationwide Water Permit 12 (NWP 12). The Ninth Circuit, by way of a two-judge panel, denied challenges to a district court decision vacating NWP 12 and enjoining the United States Army Corps (Army Corps) from authorizing oil and gas pipeline construction projects pursuant to NWP 12. The Order, which was issued without an opinion, has national effect and set a briefing schedule for reconsideration of a motion for an administrative stay. N. Plains Res. Council v. United States Army Corps of Eng’rs, No. 4:19-cv-00044-BMM.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Orders Enjoinment of Oil and Gas Line Construction Proceeding Under Nationwide Water Permit 12

On April 17, the California Court of Appeal decided Crosno Construction, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty & Surety Company of America,1 effectively narrowing the scope of enforceable “pay-when-paid” provisions in construction subcontracts to the extent the subcontractor seeks recovery against a general contractor’s payment bond surety. Although the Crosno case involved a public works project, the rationale and holding should apply with equal force to private works projects. Basing the bulk of its decision on the Wm. R. Clarke Corp. v. Safeco Insurance Co.2 case, the court found that an open-ended “pay-when-paid” provision in a subcontract is not enforceable against a subcontractor that seeks to recover on a public works payment bond claim. This article discusses the Crosno decision and the implications for contractors on both sides of the contract moving forward.
Continue Reading California Appeals Court Provides Guidance on ‘Pay-When-Paid’ Provisions in Construction Subcontracts

On April 20, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf amended his March 19, 2020 Order titled, “Regarding the Closure of All Businesses That Are Not Life Sustaining.” Under the previous order, construction was permitted to continue only if the business qualified as “life-sustaining” and was performing emergency repairs or if the business obtained a waiver.

The amended order paves the way for construction projects to start again throughout the Commonwealth. On April 23, Gov. Wolf announced that statewide construction can commence on May 1, 2020 and provided additional information related to the amended order in an accompanying document titled “Guidance for Businesses in the Construction Industry Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency.” Gov. Wolf specified that the amended order applies to “all businesses in the construction industry in the Commonwealth, including those in new construction, renovation, and repair[.]” Prior to May 1, all construction industry businesses must continue to follow existing guidelines. A full list of businesses that may maintain in-person operations before May 1 can be found here.
Continue Reading Pennsylvania Governor Paves Way to Reopen Construction on May 1

Much has been written about whether and how COVID-19 qualifies as a force majeure event, and some additional information can be found here. But typical force majeure provisions entitle contractors to only schedule relief. While force majeure clauses may limit exposure to liquidated or consequential damages for delays, contractors who incur increased costs resulting from COVID-19 related delays should carefully evaluate the entirety of their contractual rights to not only an extension of time, but also recover prolongation costs. To assist in this endeavor, this article looks beyond force majeure to other potentially relevant contractual provisions. Potential remedies under the various contractual clauses discussed below will depend on the specific contractual language and project-specific facts.
Continue Reading COVID-19 and the Construction Industry: Looking Beyond Force Majeure to Recover Time and Costs for Delay

COVID-19 has created a severe disruption to the construction industry. Certain jurisdictions, including Boston, San Francisco and Pennsylvania, have placed restrictions on construction projects deemed “nonessential” and require waivers for certain projects to continue. Owners, contractors, suppliers and others may currently have more questions than answers. This article addresses some important concerns, and provides links to additional resources that more specifically address these concerns.
Continue Reading COVID-19 and the Construction Industry: Important Considerations

This article was originally published in the April 2020 issue of ConsensusDocs Construction Law. It is republished here with permission.

State and local governments throughout the country continue to issue orders in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Many states have ordered the shutdown of all businesses, with various exceptions such as businesses that are “essential” and/or “life-sustaining.” Each jurisdiction has provided a list and/or guidance on what kinds of businesses must close and what can remain open. Pepper Hamilton continues to monitor these orders and update its “COVID-19 – State Business Impact Tracker” map, an interactive tool that shows shutdown orders by state.

Whether construction projects can continue is an ever-changing issue. In some jurisdictions, such as Boston, all construction projects were shut down. In other locations, whether construction can continue may depend on the county, or even city, where the project is located and/or the type of project. However, those supplying labor, materials and/or equipment to construction projects should closely monitor how their projects are being impacted, including whether and when to exercise statutory remedies available, e.g., ‘ lien, stop payment notice and/or bond rights. In many states, the statutory deadlines to assert these rights are triggered by “completion” of a project.
Continue Reading Continuous Cessation of Labor on Construction Projects Can Trigger Statutory Remedy Deadlines

This article was originally published on December 3, 2019 on ConsensusDocs. It is reprinted here with permission.

Construction contracts often include a “no damage for delay” clause that denies a contractor the right to recover delay-related costs and limits the contractor’s remedy to an extension of time for noncontractor-caused delays to a project’s completion date. Depending on the nature of the delay and the jurisdiction where the project is located, the contractual prohibition against delay damages may well be enforceable. This article will explore whether an enforceable no-damage-for-delay clause is also a bar to recovery of “acceleration” damages, i.e., the costs incurred by the contractor in its attempt to overcome delays to the project’s completion date.

Continue Reading Does a No-Damage-for-Delay Clause Also Preclude Acceleration Damages?

Chinese Hosp. Ass’n v. Jacobs Eng’g Grp., Inc., 2019 BL 330340, 2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 03, 2019)

This case arises out of the alleged breach of contract and defective design for the construction of a new hospital in San Francisco.  During construction, property owner and plaintiff Chinese Hospital Association (“Chinese Hospital”) became aware of alleged defects involving the designs provided by its subcontractor, architect-defendant Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. (“Jacobs”).  Chinese Hospital terminated its contract with Jacobs for convenience mid-construction.

Continue Reading Owner Did Not Waive Right to Damages by Terminating Design Contract for Convenience

Precision Hydraulic Cylinders, Inc. v. Manufacturing. Technology, Inc., No. 7:18-CV-203-FL, 2019 BL 344743, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 156670 (E.D.N.C. Sept. 13, 2019)

Precision Hydraulic Cylinders, Inc. (“Precision”) issued a series of purchase orders to Manufacturing Technology, Inc. (“MTI”) to weld steel components together to create hydraulic cylinders. MTI agreed to develop welds for Precision’s small and large cylinders under two separate purchase orders.

Continue Reading North Carolina Federal District Court Dismisses Tort Claims Based on Same Duty and Breach Alleged in Plaintiff’s Contract Claims