By Michael L. Chartan, partner in the Duane Morris LLP New York office
Effective December 1, 2015, the Commercial Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York amended its rules. First, home improvement construction contract disputes (one to four family homes or individual units in any residential building including cooperatives and condominiums ) will not be heard by the Commercial Division irrespective of the dispute involving $500,000 or more. Second, the Commercial Division will hear, pursuant to article 75 of New York’s Civil Practice Law and Rules, applications to stay or compel arbitration and to affirm or disaffirm awards and injunctive relief irrespective of the $500,000 monetary threshold provided the arbitration agreement requires the arbitration to be heard outside the United States.
The impact of these amendments will be to eliminate access to the Commercial Division for owners and contractors among others where the dispute involves a home improvement contract. At the same time, the Commercial Division will open its doors to arbitration proceedings conducted outside the United States thereby affording parties access to a specialized court in Manhattan. Parties are still free to agree in their arbitration agreements where issues related to arbitration will be heard. If the parties provide for these issues to be heard in New York County, then the Commercial Division will be available to them.
To read the full text of the Administrative Order, please visit the New York Courts website.
By Michael L. Chartan, partner in the Construction Group in Duane Morris’ New York office
Construction contracts in New York and in other states frequently include provisions that bar recovery of damages for delay and require extra work to be authorized in writing. These types of provisions are enforceable. Exceptions exist that will permit recovery of delay damages and for extra work in the face of these exculpatory provisions. In Bricklayers Ins. & Welfare Fund v. Minhas Gen. Contrs. Co., LLC, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151965, Judge Frederic Block sitting in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, denied summary judgment finding triable issues of material fact. Subcontractors and general contractors have limited leverage to remove these types of provisions from the contract. Nonetheless, review of project records by a knowledgeable attorney may well reveal facts to overcome these provisions.
Duane Morris partner Richard Lowe will be presenting at the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Litigation’s Regional CLE Workshop, titled “Yes, You Can Try a Construction Case: Planning and Handling a Construction Trial From Voir Dire to Closing Arguments,” which will be held on Wednesday, September 9, 2015, in New York City. Mr. Lowe will participate in a panel discussion on “Wrapping It Up; Closing Arguments and Effective Use of Jury Instructions in a Construction Case” from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
For more information about the CLE workshop, please visit the event page on the Duane Morris website.