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.
To minimize potential legal problems when planning construction, whether the project is a large commercial project, a new residence, or even a renovation to an existing structure, care must be taken to have essential terms included in the contract.
Everyone knows that time is money, and in particular this is true with New York construction contracts. It is also well known that delays are often part of the construction reality, along with change orders and extras. Delays impact owners, contractors and subcontractors.
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).
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.
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.
When a private improvement lien is filed in New York, the entire body of the New York Lien Law is imported which establishes the rules for filing, enforcing (or foreclosing the lien) and for challenging or discharging the lien. There may often be defenses to the lien for the property owner as outlined below. For those seeking to file a valid lien, the below serves as a reminder of common issues to avoid.
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.
The Supreme Court, New York County, recently clarified the impact of contractual language specifying litigation as the forum for resolution in the subcontract, and impact of New York’s Prompt Payment, providing for arbitration of disputes where it applies.
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.