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

Decker Constr. Co. v. Wesex Corp., No. 2:18-cv-727, 2019 BL 232653 (S.D. Ohio June 24, 2019)

In Decker Construction Co. v. Wesex Corporation, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio declined to dismiss a cause of action for fraudulent misrepresentation against Third-Party Defendant Mark Schrader (“Schrader”), the former Chief Financial Officer of Wesex Corporation (“Wesex”).  Wesex served as the general contractor on a construction project in New Albany, Ohio (the “Project”).  In its claim against Schrader, Third Party Plaintiff CCL Label, Inc. (“CCL”), the construction manager on the Project, alleged that Schrader signed affidavits included in Wesex’s payment applications that falsely certified Wesex’s subcontractors had been paid for their work on the Project.  Schrader sought dismissal on the basis that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over him and that CCL failed to state a claim.

Continue Reading Ohio Federal Court Declines to Dismiss Action Against the Officer of a General Contractor Who Allegedly Submitted False Certifications Regarding Payments Made to Subcontractors With Payment Applications

  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

Winger Contr. Co. v. Cargill, Inc., No. 17-1169, 2019 BL 132092 (Iowa Apr. 12, 2019).

On April 12, 2019, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling which held that, inter alia, the Iowa mechanic’s lien statute would not permit the attachment of mechanic’s liens to the property of a lessor in connection with a contract to supply materials and labor to a lessee.

Continue Reading The Lessor of Two Evils: Iowa Supreme Court Holds That Mechanic’s Liens Will Not Attach to the Property of a Lessor for Work Authorized by a Lessee

James Talcott Construction, Inc. v. United States, No. 14-427 C, 2019 BL 72711, at *1 (Fed. Cl. Mar. 4, 2019)

In May of 2010, the United States, acting through the Department of Defense (the “Government”) awarded a contract to James Talcott Construction, Inc. (“Talcott”) to replace existing housing for military families at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana.  Talcott was required to construct thirteen buildings, each comprising seventy housing units.  Each building was to be constructed with concrete foundations and wood framing, and the project’ design called for wooden floor joists and subfloor decking to be enclosed in crawlspaces.  The contract stated that the “structural drawings and specification represent the finished structure… [but] do not indicate the method of construction.  The contractor will provide all measures necessary to protect the structure during construction.”  The plans and specifications were silent as to ventilation of the crawlspaces.

Continue Reading Court of Federal Claim Rejects Spearin Claim and Holds Contractor Responsible for Failure to Prevent Mold Growth

Hagen Constr. Inc. v. Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., No. JKB-18-1201, 2019 BL 36862 (D. Md. Feb. 04, 2019)

This case arises out of the construction of a pediatric outpatient center in southern New Jersey.  Plaintiff subcontractor Hagen Construction, Inc. (“Hagen”) filed suit in New Jersey state Court against defendant general contractor Whiting-Turner Construction Co. (“W-T”), seeking reimbursement for labor inefficiency costs incurred as a result of W-T’s alleged project mismanagement.  Hagen claimed it incurred additional costs to repeat work and remobilize to multiple areas because it was not afforded unimpeded access or timely supply of necessary materials and information.  Once the case was removed and transferred to Maryland federal Court, W-T moved for partial summary judgment on the portion of Hagen’s breach of contract claim reflecting labor inefficiency costs.
Continue Reading Federal Court in Maryland Holds Subcontractor Waived Right to Bring Labor Inefficiency Claim Despite Voicing ‘Expression[s] of Frustration’ and ‘General Complaints’ of Mismanagement Throughout Project

AWI Sec. & Investigations, Inc. v. Whitestone Constr. Corp., 2018 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 5867 (August 23, 2018)

A subcontractor, AWI Security and Investigations, Inc. (“AWI”), sued a general contractor, Whitestone Construction Corp. (“Whitestone”), for unpaid contract payments for providing security services on four separate construction projects.  A separate prevailing wage action (“Wage Action”) was also filed by AWI employees who worked on the projects, against both AWI and Whitestone.  Whitestone notified AWI that it was invoking the subcontract indemnity provision to withhold funds from AWI pending the outcome of the Wage Action.

Whitestone moved to dismiss AWI’s suit for payment based on a contractual limitations period requiring the suit to be brought within 6 months of: the cause of action accruing; the termination or conclusion of the contract; or the last day AWI performed work at the site, which Whitestone alleged had all occurred.  The court granted Whitestone’s motion to dismiss, finding that AWI had completed its work more than six months prior to filing its lawsuit and that AWI’s suit was barred by the contractual limitations period.  AWI appealed.
Continue Reading New York Appellate Division Holds That Contractor’s Assertion That No Payments Were Due to Subcontractor Until a Separate Prevailing Wage Action Was Resolved Precludes Application of Contractual Limitations Period

Connelly Constr. Corp. v. Travelers Cas. & Surety Co. of Am., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 123009 (E.D. Pa. July 24, 2018).

This post was published in the October 4, 2018 issue of eNews published by National Association of Credit Management (NACM).

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of General Services undertook a project for the construction of a new maximum security prison facility in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.  Walsh Heery Joint Venture (“WHJV”) was the prime contractor and it retained Connelly Construction Corporation as its masonry subcontractor.

The prime contract permitted the Commonwealth to withhold retainage from WHJV until completion of the project.  Similarly, the subcontract permitted WHJV to withhold retainage from Connelly in proportion to the retainage held by the Commonwealth.  The subcontract also included a pay-if-paid clause under which Connelly agreed that it was not entitled to payment unless, as an express condition precedent, WHJV was paid by the Commonwealth.

Completion of the project was delayed for more than two years.  As a result, the Commonwealth continued to withhold retainage from WHJV, and WHJV thus withheld more than $200,000 in retainage from Connelly, long after Connelly completed its scope of work.
Continue Reading Federal Court in Pennsylvania Holds Pay-If-Paid Clause Unenforceable Where Prime Contractor’s Inadvertent Delays Contribute to the Owner’s Withholding of Payment

Peoples Gas Sys. v. Posen Constr., Inc., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106427 (M.D. Fla. June 26, 2018)

In 2009 Posen Construction, Inc. (“Posen”), a road construction contractor, entered into a general contractor agreement with the Lee County Board of County Commissioners for a lane expansion and drainage system project in east Fort Myers, Florida (the “Project”).  Peoples Gas System (“PGS”), an owner of natural gas distribution facilities throughout Florida, maintained gas pipelines underneath the Project site, which required caution when Posen worked around it.  To that end, PGS marked the pipeline with flags, paint, and installed testing stations.

However, during the course of the Project, Posen learned that at certain locations construction would be impossible unless PGS removed portions of the pipeline.  Therefore, in October 2010, Posen submitted a request to Sunshine One, a notification system whereby excavators obtain the location of underground utilities before excavation.  In November 2010, a Posen employee, Mark Santos (“Santos”) was directed to excavate at a location that PGS maintained was not properly marked for the location of the gas pipeline.  Santos struck and ruptured the pipeline and was severely injured as a result.
Continue Reading Contractor Has No Duty to Indemnify Gas Company for Settlement Paid to Injured Employee Under Florida’s Underground Facility and Safety Act

Harakas Constr., Inc. v. Metro Gov’t of Nashville, 2018 Tenn. App. LEXIS 45 (Tenn. App. January 29, 2018)

 BK Partners LLC (“BK”) sought to build a condominium complex in Davidson County.  This required an upgrade to the existing public sewer system.  Therefore BK and the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (“Metro”) entered into an agreement whereby Metro agreed to contribute $200,000 to the cost of the sewer upgrade with BK responsible for the actual construction.  BK hired Harakas Construction, Inc. (“Harakas”) to upgrade the system (the “Project”).  Metro was not a party to that contract (the “Contract”).

Harakas encountered unforeseen soil conditions, which resulted in two change orders that increased the Contract amount.  Under the Contract, Metro was not required to authorize change orders; nevertheless, Metro was involved in the discussions.  Harakas performed the extra work and achieved substantial completion.  However, after a defect was discovered in the upgraded system, Metro refused to fund the Project.  When BK failed to pay Harakas, Harakas sued both Metro and BK.  Against Metro, Harakas claimed promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment.  The trial court granted Metro summary judgment based on sovereign immunity.

Continue Reading Sovereign Immunity Bars Contractor’s Claims for Unjust Enrichment and Promissory Estoppel Against City Government on Semi-Public Project