New York’s State Legislature has just passed a bill that would require a no-prejudice standard be applied in determining the application of notice provisions in public construction contracts. 
The bill amended current statutes  so as to require that unless the public owner can show they have suffered material prejudice as a result of a contractor’s (or/and subcontractor’s) failure to provide timely notice, rights are not barred. If the required notice is received more than 180 days after the time required under the contract, the burden to establish no-prejudice shifts to the contractor/subcontractor.
The Legislature Memo prepared to explain and support the bill referred to current notice provisions as one-sided and unfair “gotcha” provisions. The Memo further contended that some public owners were getting “free work” when contractors or subcontractors are barred from pursuing claims due to non-compliant notices.
Another significant element of the bill appears in the definitional section where it is provided that a “public owner’s actual knowledge of the events in question shall preclude a claim of material prejudice due to any lack of notice.” Some city and state contracts often specifically provide that actual knowledge cannot relieve contractors of the strict requirements of the notice provisions.
The bill will not become effective, however, until 180 days after it is signed by the Governor and becomes law and then only as to contracts awarded after that date.
The text of the bill is here .
1. The bill is A10136 and S6906 which passed on June 18, 2016.
2. The bill amends the Public Authorities Law, the General Municipal Law, the Public Service Law and the State Finance Law.
On December 17, 2014, New York Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill to amend the New York Public Authorities Law, in relation to contractual claims and actions against the New York City School Construction Authority (“SCA”). The amendment adds an additional sentence to §1744(2) of the Public Authorities Law to provide that in the case of an action or special proceeding for monies due arising out of contract, accrual of such claim shall be deemed to have occurred as of the date payment for the amount claimed was denied.
Public Authorities Law §1744(2) is problematical to contractors engaged on SCA projects due to the three-month filing period from the “accrual of claims.” Courts have interpreted the three-month period to commence when the contractor’s damages are “ascertainable,” and “ascertainable” has been interpreted to mean “once the work is substantially completed or a detailed invoice of the work performed is submitted.” See C.S.A. Constr. Corp. v. NYC School Constr. Auth., 5 N.Y.3d 189, 800 N.Y.S.2d 123 (2005).
The failure to have a clear and precise point that determines when a claim accrues has led many contractors to lose a claim before it was denied by the SCA, or even before a contractor knew that the SCA disputed its claim. The purpose of the amendment is to establish an unambiguous point in time for the filing of a notice of claim against the SCA. Accordingly, the amendment establishes the accrual of a claim for notice of claim purposes as the point at which the claim is denied. The amendment will prevent the unintentional and unfair waiver of claims, and will reduce paperwork for both the SCA and its contractors.
The statute as amended brings §1744 of the NY Public Authorities Law into conformity with the similar notice of claim provisions of §3813 of the NY Education Law. Under §3813 of the Education law, the accrual date on any action or proceeding against a school district arising out of a contract shall be the date when payment was denied.
The amendment is effective only for SCA contracts signed on or after Dec 17, 2014. The text of NY Public Authorities Law § 1744(2) as amended can be seen here.
Notice of claim requirements in construction contracts are standard and often the cause of bad news to contractors pursuing claims for additional costs. However, these clauses can be, though not always, two-way streets. As a reminder to owners that notice of claim requirements under the AIA General Conditions apply equally to owners as to contractors, a trial court in New York recently dismissed a claim for defective work against a plumbing contractor because it was not the subject of a previous notice of claim.
Continue reading Owner’s Claim For Defective Work Tripped Up By AIA’s Notice Of Claim Requirement