Architects in New York can be found liable for damages in various situations, depending on who claims damage, and the basis of the claim itself. For example, where an owner has a direct contract with the architect, the owner could bring forth a simple claim based on the contract or a claim based on a tort action. Such a tort action, based on negligence, is a claim for malpractice.
Are contractors responsible for the impacts of their work on neighboring residents? Oftentimes, they are. This is especially true in densely populated urban areas where literally hundreds of people could be affected by a project only fifty feet away. Some of the principles in these cases are outlined below.
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.
For New York Architects, Landscape Architects, Engineers, and Land Surveyors, exposure to liability on their completed projects may extend long beyond the completion of the project itself. Exactly how long design professionals can be ‘on the hook’ for claims has been a bit of a moving target in New York, with changes and proposed additional changes to this timeframe.
Under New York construction law, much emphasis is placed on the “improvement” of real property (real estate). Indeed reference to improvements are often found in New York construction contracts, and establishing an improvement is required for a contractor to establish a valid lien on a privately owned project. But what specifically are the ins and outs?
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).
Any property owner considering construction work will want reassurance that the work will be done well, and will be free of defects for a specified time frame. Many contractors even include a warranty clause in their contract. Such warranties (also called guarantees) require the contractor to correct any defects through additional work on the project over the specified time. What are some of the specific factors within Construction Warranties?
Warranties under New York law may be found where they are expressly given, as in the example of the contractor above; but may also be implied through the conduct of the parties, or by operation of the law. For example, if the contractor agreement did not contain any warranty clause, the owner would be able to bring a legal action against the contractor for breach of warranty or contract within six years of project substantial completion under the New York Uniform Commercial Code. Many property owners may be surprised to learn that they may actually be better protected with no warranty provision in the agreement, over one that states coverage for a shorter time frame.
In a recent client conference, I was asked, “So what is arbitration, anyhow?” In the context of a construction claim or in seeking to prevent such a claim, there are several significant advantages that arbitration can provide in lieu of litigation. In today’s challenging business environment, this signifies awareness of the various options available that could make an important impact on your business’ circumstance.
Briefly stated, arbitration is a private, informal process by which all parties agree, in writing, to submit their dispute to one or more impartial persons authorized to resolve the controversy by rendering a final and binding award.[i] What makes this process unique is the ability, with some advance consideration, to customize and tailor the dispute resolution process to suit the needs of the company.
Despite much construction litigation, New York courts who govern Long Island construction law are agreed that an unlicensed home improvement contractor cannot recover against consumers. That has not, however, stopped unlicensed contractors from arguing exceptions to that rule. A recent court victory by John Caravella, Esq. confirms that courts remain unwilling to accept excuses from unlicensed contractors.
In Orefice v. Guma Development, homeowners sued an unlicensed contractor for defective construction. Notably, the local municipal code requires that any person doing business as a contractor be licensed by the municipality. A corporation does not require its own license if a licensed contractor is employed by the firm as a supervisor.
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.