Surprisingly, one of the my most popular posts was about creating joint ventures to bid on public projects. Since I wrote that post, it has become more and more common for construction companies to team up to bid on public projects.

When forming a joint venture, it very important to have a written joint-venture agreement between the contractors teaming up to bid on a project. Here are five provisions that should be included in every construction joint-venture agreement.

Continue Reading Five Provisions to Include in a Construction Joint-Venture Agreement

There are two types of differing site condition claims–Type I and Type II claims. Generally, a contractor may make a Type I differing site condition claim where the contractor encounters a subsurface or latent physical condition at the project site that differs materially from the conditions indicated in the parties’ contract.

Under a Type II claim, a contractor may assert a DSC claim where there are unknown and unusual physical conditions at the project site that differ materially from those ordinarily encountered and generally recognized as inherent in work of the character provided for in the parties’ contract.

Both Type I and Type II DSC claims can be difficult to prove. Last week, after having a seven-day trial, a federal court rejected a subcontractor’s $2.4 million DSC claim in Phillips & Jordan, Inc. v. United States.

Continue Reading Federal Court Rejects Subcontractor’s $2.4 Million Differing Site Condition Claim

Two contract provisions that are frequently litigated in construction disputes are no-damages-for-delay and liquidated damages clauses. A no-damages-for-delay clause typically provides that if there is a delay caused by the owner or others, the contractor will not be entitled to any additional compensation for that delay. It is a clause that project owners love because it limits their liability for delays on the project.

Similarly, a liquidated damages clause is an owner-preferred contract provision that usually sets a fixed amount for which the contractor is liable to the owner if the project is not finished on time. Often, the amount is set as a certain sum of money per day the project is late (e.g., $1,000 per day). The Florida Second District Court of Appeal recently addressed both those provisions in an opinion it issued in January 2022.

Continue Reading Florida Court Finds No-Damages-for-Delay and Liquidated Damages Clauses Unenforceable

Payment bonds protect subcontractors, sub-subcontractors, and others who provide labor and materials for a public project. Subcontractors and others who want to make a payment bond claim must follow the legally-required steps. The required steps depend on the type of project (e.g., federal and state government projects) and the role of the company making the claim (e.g., subcontractor, sub-subcontractor, supplier to sub-subcontractor, etc.). If you do not follow the steps by the required deadlines, you may lose your payment bond rights.

This post provides a high-level overview of the steps that must be taken to perfect a payment bond claim on most Florida state and federal public projects.

Continue Reading How to Make a Payment Bond Claim on a Public Project

When unanticipated conditions impact a contractor’s ability to perform its work as efficiently as expected, the contractor may consider pursuing a lost productivity or inefficiency claim. There are many ways to price or calculate a contractor’s inefficiency claim damages, some of which can be quite “creative.” Despite the temptation to calculate inefficiency damages in a manner that will create the biggest claim possible, contractors are best served to make their claims as accurate as possible. That is especially true when a contractor must submit its claim to a government owner such as the federal government. In a very recent case, Lodge Construction, Inc. v. United States, the contractor learned its lesson the hard way regarding the submission of inflated inefficiency claims to the government.

In Lodge, the United States Army Corps of Engineers awarded a project to a contractor to rehabilitate a levee in South Florida, which was part of the Corps’ overall “Everglades Update” restoration mission. During construction, the contractor’s cofferdam breached in two sections, flooding the project site. Later, the contractor submitted several claims to the government for three alleged conditions that impacted the contractor’s performance, including constructive changes to the contract specifications and a differing site condition. The contracting officer denied those claims, and the contractor appealed the decisions by filing lawsuits with the United States Court of Federal Claims. Those lawsuits were consolidated, and a five-day bench trial was held regarding the contractor’s claims.

After the trial, the court issued a 46-page opinion in which the court essentially threw out the contractor’s nearly $4 million in collective inefficiency claims against the federal government, because the court found the contractor’s claims were fraudulent. In particular, the court concluded that the contractor’s claims were fraudulent in at least four ways:

Continue Reading How NOT to Price an Inefficiency Claim

Many construction payment disputes come down to one key question—who is responsible for extra costs incurred while building a project? Parties frequently have competing breach-of-contract actions that focus on who is liable. But a recent federal court case shows that you should not give short shrift to the damages that flow from the alleged breach.

In Barlovento, LLC v. AUI, Inc., Civ. No. 18-1112 GJF/JHR, 2021 WL 3879072 (D.N.M. Aug. 31, 2021), the United States Air Force awarded a general contractor a $5.5 million contract to renovate a taxiway at a military base. The general contractor then subcontracted the removal and replacement of the taxiway pavement and base course. This required the subcontractor to place three layers – subgrade, base course, and concrete.

The subcontractor fell behind in its performance of the work, and ultimately, the general contractor held a meeting with the subcontractor and a potential replacement subcontractor that would perform almost all the remaining work. At that meeting, the general contractor announced that it would take the concrete paving work away from the subcontractor. Despite the decision to de-scope the original subcontractor, the general contractor ended up terminating the subcontractor for default.

Continue Reading General Contractor Awarded $22,000 of Its $1.3 Million Claim Against a Subcontractor

In Cano, Inc. v. Judet, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal recently reaffirmed that when a contractor breaches a contract and the owner sues for breach of contract, the owner has three options for calculating its damages as follows:

  1. the owner may obtain the difference between the contract price and the additional money the owner spent to complete the project; or
  2. the owner can seek the difference between the value the construction would have had if completed and the value of the construction that had been performed before the contractor was terminated; or
  3. the owner can treat the contract as void and seek damages that will restore the owner to the position it was in before entering into the contract.

Courts refer to the first two options as the benefit-of-the-bargain remedy, which is intended to put the non-breaching party in the position it would have been in had the contract been completely performed.

Continue Reading Project Owner Damages When the Contractor Breaches a Construction Contract

Resolving construction disputes through arbitration may be preferable under certain circumstances. I won’t go into the pros and cons of arbitration versus litigation, but one of the negatives of arbitrating a dispute is that the parties have to pay for the arbitrator(s) time. For larger construction disputes, the cost for the arbitrators is relatively small compared to the amount in dispute. And frequently, the extra cost to have arbitrators with significant construction experience is worth it for larger disputes. But for smaller disputes, the extra cost can be hard to justify and may discourage claimants from prosecuting their claim. In those situations, it may be smart to strike out any provision in a contract requiring the arbitration of disputes between the parties.

Continue Reading If You Don’t Want Arbitration, Make That Clear in Your Contract!

If you are a construction contractor on a federal government project that is default terminated, do not forget that you only have, at most, one year to appeal the termination.

Under the Federal Acquisition Regulations, the federal government, through its contracting officer, may terminate a construction contract for default. Frequently, the terminated contractor does not agree with the CO’s decision to terminate the contract, and the contractor will want to appeal the CO’s decision.

Continue Reading Contractor’s Appeal of Default Termination Dismissed as Time-Barred

One common request that I get from my contractor clients is to determine whether a client has a legitimate claim for additional time and money due to impacts arising out of a project. While each situation is unique, there are typically four steps a contractor should take to evaluate a potential claim or dispute:

Continue Reading Four Steps for Evaluating Construction Claims on Public Projects