This winter it seems like no one has been able to escape the fury of Mother Nature. As a result, construction projects all over the country are now behind schedule. Because “time is money” for all of the project participants, disputes related to time extensions, liquidated damages, acceleration claims, and other delay damages are expected. In anticipation of these disputes, contractors and owners should review their contracts and consult with an attorney before submitting or responding to a weather related claim.
With its new Standard Construction Contract, issued in December 2013, the City of New York (the “City”) has implemented numerous significant changes as compared with its 2008 standard contract. The most widely discussed change in the City’s standard construction contract is the elimination of an express “no damage for delay” clause. At least ostensibly, the new contract represents a more flexible approach to delay damages by enabling the contractor to recover for delays in factual settings not previously amenable to delay claims. This Alert briefly summarizes some of the new provisions.
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The good news is that public works construction projects for municipalities are projected to remain a major sector of construction activity for the foreseeable future. The not-so-good news is that municipal bankruptcy filings are on the rise, and they are likely to increase. The issues facing parties under contract with a municipality when it files for bankruptcy protection are playing out nationally in places like Stockton, California, and Detroit, Michigan. Construction lawyers now more than ever need to know the risks of a public owner filing for bankruptcy protection before project completion, and what they can do in the event it does so before the project is closed out—thereby jeopardizing the owner’s ability to pay.
Duane Morris’ Construction Group received a preeminent ranking in the U.S. News-Best Lawyers 2014 Best Law Firms results released today: the selection as Law Firm of the Year for Construction Law. Duane Morris is the only firm to ever hold this honor for two consecutive years.
Only one law firm is recognized as the 2014 Law Firm of the Year per practice group. According to U.S. News Best Lawyers, Duane Morris received this designation for Construction Law due to its impressive overall performance.
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The New York City Department of Buildings (“DOB”) recently announced the expansion of its online NYC Development Hub. Introduced by the DOB to facilitate the review and approval process on major construction projects, the Development Hub is a high-tech plan processing center offering faster approvals, fewer office visits to DOB and reduced paper submissions. Since its inception in October 2011, the Hub has approved more than 300 new buildings and major renovation projects.
In the construction industry, the payment application process usually requires contractors and subcontractors to complete a great deal of paperwork. In addition to submitting traditional payment applications that identify the contractor’s or subcontractor’s schedule of values, work completed to date, and balance to finish, contractors and subcontractors may also be required to submit certain lien waivers, certifications, affidavits, and other types of sworn representations. While these additional submissions may seem clerical, or even ceremonial in nature, they can have serious legal ramifications.
In 2008, a crane operator and a construction worker were killed when a construction crane collapsed on the east side of Manhattan. The decedents’ estates brought suit against the project owner, the construction manager and the crane operator. The three construction defendants asserted cross-claims against the City of New York seeking indemnification and contribution on the grounds that the City failed in its duty to keep the construction site safe.
A recent decision of the Supreme Court of the State of New York reminds us of the importance of using consistent terms when drafting a construction contract. In Clinton Assoc. For A Renewed Envt. Inc. v. Monadock Constr. Inc., defendants, pursuant to a contract (the “Contract”), agreed to provide architectural services and contract administration services to plaintiffs.[i] As part of their work, defendants prepared architectural plans, including specifications for the design system and choice of materials for the exterior masonry wall system. The Certificate of Substantial Completion was signed on March 29, 2006 and, at or about that time, the masonry walls began to fail, causing the walls to bulge and take on water. It was determined that the walls could not withstand the weather cycles to which they were exposed. Following Substantial Completion of the project, defendants worked extensively to cure the flaws in the masonry walls by, among other things, creating an alternate design and supervising the corrective work until August 18, 2008, when an Architect’s Certificate approving the repairs was issued.
A recent decision of New York City Office Of Administrative Trials And Hearings (“OATH”) highlights the significance of compliance with each and every provision of a construction contract. Ferreira Construction Co., Inc. v. Dep’t of Transportation, OATH Index No. 1619/12 (Nov. 16, 2012), involved a public contract to reconstruct a pedestrian bridge in Manhattan at East 78th Street and the FDR Drive. The New York City Department of Transportation (“DOT”) contract contained a contractor initiated value engineering change (“CIVEC”) provision that gave the contractor an incentive to propose innovations by allowing for an award to the contractor of 50% of the cost savings if the proposal was accepted by DOT. The dispute concerned the application of the CIVEC clause. The contractor claimed that its accepted proposal under the CIVEC clause saved DOT $252,320.50, and that it was entitled to 50% of the savings of $126,160.25. DOT claimed that the proposal saved the agency only $93,011.50, and that the contractor was entitled to only $46,505.75 additional compensation.
In November 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo formed the NYS 2100 Commission in response to the recent, and extraordinary, weather events experienced in New York State (Super Storm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee). The Commission, consisting of 25 members, is co-chaired by Judith Rodin, President of Rockefeller Foundation, and Felix Rohatyn, former Chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation.