Like the strings of a marionette puppet, after the completion of a New York construction project, there are various legal theories that serve as ties between the builder and the owner. For the builder, the sooner these lingering ties can be removed the less exposure they face for claims of defects. For the owners, the longer they are able to establish these connections, the longer they may have legal recourse against the builder for defects.
Many homeowners who consult with me regarding construction disputes are not only financially damaged but emotionally distressed, and understandably so. Our homes are not only our biggest financial investments but our sanctuaries, and misconduct by unscrupulous contractors that damages those sanctuaries makes us feel that we have no place of safety and, in some instances, makes us worry that we may be homeless altogether. Thus, the question is often posed to me whether homeowners can collect damages for emotional distress that results from construction contract disputes, in addition to their economic damages.
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.
CAN I BE SUED FOR VIOLATING THE BUILDING CODE?
CLAIMS AGAINST CONTRACTORS AND ARCHITECTS FOR CODE VIOLATIONS
In my construction law practice, I’m often confronted with instances of building code violations and questions of whether building code violations should subject a contractor or architect to liability.
In a nutshell, the “economic loss rule” is a rule that courts use to prevent a plaintiff from against a defendant for a tort (usually negligence) when the essence of the claim is for failure to live up to the terms of a contract.
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.
Can homeowners be held responsible for injuries that may occur to contractors while work is being done on their property? Many homeowners love new home face-lifts, but did they ever think what a dangerous home improvement job consisted of? Well, what happens if a contractor is injured while working? Who is responsible for their medical costs?
With respect to homeowner liability for contractor injuries in New York, homeowners of one or two family dwellings are exempt from liability from any contractor injuries suffered while work was performed on their property under labor law § 240 & § 241, unless he or she has directed or controlled the work being performed.
Under New York State Law §§ 240 and 241 a homeowner can be found liable for any resulting contractor injuries only if their contractor can show the homeowner provided specific instruction as to how work is to be performed or the homeowner provided certain tools or equipment to be used.
Although, incidental homeowner interactions are not sufficient to invoke homeowner liability for injuries, a showing of directing the actual work performance is necessary.
New York construction law allows for the pursuit and collection of damages for delay, depending on the underlying project facts and contract terms. Where these delay claims are available, courts in New York recognize 7 major categories of delay, which may establish claims for compensation.
Owners of New York based construction businesses are more likely to be mindful of construction law issues relating to contract performance and defective work. Many however are unaware they are also under increasing risks of liability in compliance with newly enacted requirements under New York Employment and Labor Laws.
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.