Construction contracts in New York often place the architect or engineer in the additional role of an initial impartial decider as to any disagreement or disputes between the contractor and the owner, in addition to their roles as the design professionals.
Many construction contracts in New York make reference to how or why one or both parties are provided the right to terminate the agreement. One such typical form of termination, ‘Termination for Convenience’, may be provided.
John Caravella, Esq. of The Law Offices of John Caravella, P.C. will be one of three presenters at the Nassau County Bar Association Construction Law Committee’s seminar, next in its series of presentations addressing issues in the field of Construction Law.
On December 18, 2012, at 12:30 pm, the Construction Law Committee in the Founders Room at the Home of the Association, will present Deconstructing the Construction Contract.
Much construction litigation arises from disputes over Scaffold Law liability. Simply, the Scaffold Law makes certain contractors and project owners liable for injuries to workers on construction sites. The Scaffold Law has been criticized for the burdens it imposes on contractors and owners and for allowing workers to collect even if they have ignored safety rules.
Changes are an unavoidable aspect of construction. Although thorough effort and coordination are required in preparing the original project contract, specifications and construction drawings, there will still be changes. This is why owners are provided the right to make changes to the work under a typical contract changes clause.
However, the ability for owner requested changes, even if provided in the contract, are not without limitations, restrictions, and consequences. After all, what purpose would any of the project documents, contracts and drawings serve if they were subject to constant change? What good would the contract serve if the owner could make any change(s) without consequence?
One topic that came up in my practice recently was a contractor’s potential exposure to liability for punitive damages under New York law. As the name suggests, punitive damages are awarded above and beyond their contract or property damages, ‘where the wrong done was aggravated by circumstances of violence, oppression, malice, fraud, … on the part of the defendant, and are intended to address the plaintiff’s mental anguish or other aggravation, to punish the defendant for its behavior.’ Black’s Law Dictionary 390 (6th Ed. 1991).
Indemnification is an important legal concept which impacts nearly all construction contracts. It has several forms and types, but generally amounts to a contract requirement where one party party agrees to restore the other party from any losses. Where an anticipated loss should occur, the damaged party can expect reimbursement for the loss.
Perhaps the most common construction-related dispute is the refusal of a party to make payment to its contractors or subcontractors. While litigation is the traditional avenue for resolving such disputes, methods of alternative dispute resolution such as arbitration and mediation are enjoying growing importance in the field of construction law.
Construction is fraught with countless risks, from weather conditions, labor strikes, material unavailability, subsurface conditions, and inaccurate plans and specifications, among others. Each has the potential to delay the project, cause increased completion costs, and increase the likelihood of disputes, liens, and litigation.
Many contractors and subcontractors go about their work feeling protected from claims for damages because their agreements contain certain exclusions. Some of these agreements will even have language stating ‘Not responsible for [X, Y, and Z]’. But the ruling handed down February 14, 2012, by the Supreme Court, Nassau County serves as a reminder that contractual indemnity provisions are more of a privilege than a right, and are not subject to enforcement automatically.