Category: Design Professionals and Claims

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Think the ADA preempts contractual risk shifting? Not so fast, says the Ninth Circuit.

Rejecting an argument that the ADA preempts all contractual claims for indemnity and contribution, the Ninth Circuit recently upheld a public owner’s right to seek contribution for damages arising out of ADA violations caused by the designer and contractor of a transportation facility. See City of Los Angeles v. AECOM Services, Inc. (here). This decision … Continue Reading

“All Risk” Coverage Is Not Equal to “All Loss” Coverage Under Customary Provisions in California Builder’s Risk Policies

A common insurance question asked by our owner/developer clients when they discover that their completed project has defects is whether their own insurance will cover the cost to fix the defect or any damage from the defect.  While trying hard not to sound like the proverbial lawyer, we often have to say “it depends.”  What … Continue Reading

“Slip Sliding Away”: Recent Washington Court of Appeals Decision Further Erodes Economic Loss Rule and Expands Independent Duty Doctrine Against Design Professionals

On May 3, 2016, Division 2 of the Washington Court of Appeals issued a decision that renders seemingly moribund the economic loss rule and extends the reach of the independent duty doctrine (“IDD”) against design professionals. The case of Pointe at Westport Harbor Homeowners’ Association v. Engineers Northwest, Inc. P.S., 193 Wn. App. 695, — … Continue Reading

Architect Off the Hook for ADA Defects

Continuing a disturbing trend, another recent case finds that an architect is not liable for a design that failed to comply with the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (RA). In Chicago Housing Authority v. DeStefano & Partners, Ltd. (here), an Illinois appellate court followed several other federal and state decisions in holding … Continue Reading

“From, For, and Against”: What’s the Difference?

Indemnity provisions are often among the most negotiated and least understood provisions of commercial contracts, and construction contracts are no exception to this rule. Despite, and perhaps because of, the importance of these clauses, they have evolved into an almost impenetrable jumble of legal terminology. This jumble of words is not, however, without meaning. Although … Continue Reading

Contract Conflict Bears a Cautionary Tale

In the haste to get design and construction moving on real estate projects, one may lose sight of important lien priority issues when negotiating and executing contracts. In my recent article for the Daily Journal of Commerce, I discuss a notable Washington appellate case that addresses a lien priority issue in the context of multiple … Continue Reading

Owners: Watch Out for New Endorsements

The new year brings a reminder that owners need to be careful about changes to their contractors’ and designers’ insurance policies. Many of the most important terms of an insurance policy are in “endorsements” added to the policy. For example, a policy may include an endorsement excluding claims between insured parties (say, a claim by … Continue Reading

Pay Attention to Your Contract Terms and Scope – Recent Washington Supreme Court Decision Reshapes Independent Duty Doctrine

In a recent case, Donatelli v. D.R. Strong Consulting Engineers, Inc., 312 P.3d 620 (Wash. 2013), a sharply divided 5-4 opinion by the Washington Supreme Court provides further evidence that the line between Washington’s “economic loss” rule and “independent duty” doctrine remains quite blurred.  The case arose out of an agreement between property owners, the … Continue Reading

Should Design Professionals in Washington File a Pre-Claim Notice to Protect Lien Rights? Yes!

Washington’s lien laws, like those of other states, set forth pre-claim notice requirements that, if not satisfied, may result in the forfeiture of lien rights. The applicable statute, RCW 60.04.031, presents an interesting array of “if-then” scenarios in which the notice requirements are imposed. Generally, unless falling under one of three exempted categories, RCW 60.04.031 … Continue Reading

Sophisticated Parties? You May Shorten Both the Start and Length of the Statute of Limitations in CA Commercial Construction Contracts

Can parties waive both the commencement and length of the statutory limitation periods for construction defect actions?  Yes, answered the Fourth Appellate District, by allowing the parties to contractually preclude the application of the “delayed discovery” rule that normally triggers the commencement of the limitation time period and affirming case law permitting the shortening of … Continue Reading

Nevada Lenders Beware! Mechanic’s Liens Not Easily Avoided

Following the market crash in 2008-09, the $2.8 billion Fontainebleau development in Las Vegas was halted with 70 percent of the construction completed. Naturally, numerous mechanic’s liens were filed by contractors, subcontractors, professionals and suppliers ("claimants"). In the bankruptcy proceeding, the lenders asserted novel and potentially legally destabilizing theories against the claimants’ rights: a.) the … Continue Reading

You Are a Project Owner or Developer Who Wants to Build a Green Project? So, What Do You Actually Put in Your Contracts?

Despite the explosion of articles, seminars and webinars on green building and development during the last year or so, there is a dearth of information in the development world regarding what project owners and developers who do want to build a green project should actually put in their design and construction contracts. Here is what … Continue Reading

LEED Decertification

If you think LEED certification of a building is a one-time deal, think again. USGBC’s latest version of LEED (version 3) establishes several new changes to LEED certification. Two of those changes are particularly significant. First, USGBC now requires building owners to submit operational performance data on a recurring basis as part of the LEED … Continue Reading
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