Category: Construction Contracts

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Surety Bonds vs. Subcontractor Default Insurance

If a contractor cannot meet deadlines on a construction project or a subcontractor pulls out of a new project bid in order to pursue a more attractive opportunity, the project owner and/or prime contractor face potentially significant damages, which can include corrective work, costs of completion or substitute performance, and delay. In my latest column … Continue Reading

Construction Contract Termination Provisions: Recent Washington Case Examines Parties’ Rights

The importance of carefully drafting, and following, a construction contract’s termination provisions was made clear for project owners and contractors by a recent Washington Supreme Court decision, Conway Construction Co. v. City of Puyallup. The city contracted with Conway to build a major roadway, but when the city lost confidence in Conway’s work, it issued the … Continue Reading

A Key Battleground: Material Price Escalations and Supply Chain Disruptions

At the forefront of concerns for those in the construction industry is the escalation in material prices and disruptions to supply chains that were in large part a byproduct of the pandemic. Project owners and contractors want to understand their rights with regard to these risks and also how the risks should be apportioned. In … Continue Reading

Don’t Be Late! (But Assume That Your Construction Project May Be)

Today, the construction industry faces a myriad of challenges – as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, rapidly increasing construction material costs, labor and material shortages, and a hot housing market are potential obstacles for project owners and contractors that, despite their best efforts and intentions, could prevent them from completing their construction projects on time. … Continue Reading

Pandemic Creates Cause to Rethink Overlooked Contract Provisions

The construction industry has proved adaptable over the course of the pandemic — owners and general and trade contractors have worked closely to ensure that work continued, while keeping workers safe and complying with the various government-ordered and -recommended practices intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. By now, most owners and contractors are well … Continue Reading

Strategic Tips That Parties Should Consider When Mediating Disputes

Nearly all construction industry standard form contracts require mediation as part of their dispute resolution provisions. Often confused with arbitration, mediation is a negotiation facilitated by a neutral third party. Unlike arbitration — a proceeding like a trial — mediation does not result in a final binding decision. And the mediator typically does not have … Continue Reading

When to Have the Hard Talk About Setting Liquidated Damages

In my latest column for the Daily Journal of Commerce, I look at the concept of liquidated damages – in my experience one of the top five heavily negotiated (and litigated) clauses in a construction contract. Because a project owner’s potential delay damages are often difficult to determine with certainty at the beginning of a … Continue Reading

Allocate Payments Clearly to Minimize Construction Disputes

In an ideal world, a contractor performs a portion of the work on a project as provided for in a construction contract, the owner pays the contractor an installment payment for that portion of the work, and the parties continue similarly until the work is finished. However, many factors can upset the equation – changes … Continue Reading

When to Prepare for Project Disputes? Always.

Originally published as an Op-Ed in the Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce on June 19, 2020. Whether you are an owner, contractor, or design professional, construction disputes are, unfortunately, inevitable.  Below are some tips to avoid potential pitfalls and help resolve disputes as efficiently as possible, whether before or after formal litigation (or arbitration) commences. … Continue Reading

Registration Now Open for the WSBA Construction Section’s Annual CLE Seminar (Via Webinar on June 12, 2020, on Alternative Procurement and Coronavirus Impacts)

The Construction Section of the Washington State Bar Association, in partnership with Stoel Rives, will present its annual full day seminar (via webinar) on June 12.  Co-chaired by Bart Reed (Partner at Stoel Rives), Brett Hill (Partner at Ahlers, Cressman & Sleight), and Ron English (Retired General Counsel of the Seattle Public Schools), the webinar will … Continue Reading

Construction Alert: Washington Court of Appeals’ Conway Opinion Provides New Guidance Regarding a Right to Cure, a Set-Off, and Recovery of Attorney Fees

In Conway Construction Company v. City of Puyallup, No. 80649-1-1 (May 4, 2020), the Washington Court of Appeals, Division 1, adopted Oregon’s Shelter Products, Inc. v. Steelwood Construction, Inc., precluding certain claims for defects in termination cases and limiting the justification for termination to those listed in the termination notice.  It also held that Washington’s … Continue Reading

Design-Build Lite – Construction Contracts with D-B Components

For most in the industry, when we think about a standard construction contract, we envision the construction documents being drafted by the architect and other design consultants.  We tend to view the project as design-price-build, unless an alternative procurement mechanism has been selected such as design-build.  Consistent with this design-price-build model, the contractor’s review of … Continue Reading

Jane (or John) Hancock 2.0: Utilizing E-Signatures in the Construction Industry

In our increasingly electronic age, parties signing a construction contract, invoice, change order or other documents are as likely to do so by clicking on an “I agree” checkbox or inserting a digital signature, or e-signature, as they are to put pen to paper. In my first article for the Daily Journal of Commerce, I … Continue Reading

Your Contract Might Not Be Ironclad: A Primer on Waiver-by-Conduct

Parties involved in a construction project can expect to spend much energy and effort to finalize the terms and conditions of a contract. Although those terms usually carry great weight in any contract dispute, of equal or greater importance can be the parties’ actions and course of dealing during construction. A lack of strict adherence … Continue Reading

Recession Warnings Pile Up: Harbinger of Liens?

Some economic indicators point to a recession in the not-too-distant future, and parties involved in construction projects should take steps to avoid (or perfect) liens and protect their rights if there is a downturn. The complexities of Oregon’s lien laws are best negotiated with the assistance of experienced counsel. In my inaugural article for the … Continue Reading

Commercial Lease Improvements

On December 13, 2019, I will be giving a presentation on construction-related topics arising from commercial lease improvements.  The presentation is part of a two-day seminar on Advanced Commercial Real Estate Leases, co-chaired by my colleague, John A. Fandel, and hosted by Law Seminars International.  Topic will include insurance coverage, mechanic’s liens, scheduling, indemnity, safety, … Continue Reading

Upcoming Seminar on Public Works

My partner Colm Nelson and I are on the panel of a seminar on June 5 sponsored by the Seminar Group.  The program is called “Bidding Public Works & Construction Contracts.”  There is still time to sign up at the Seminar Group website.  Colm is talking about insurance.  For my presentation, I took the opportunity … Continue Reading

Reimagining the Dispute Resolution Provision in Construction and Design Contracts

In construction projects, experienced owners, contractors, or designers know that disputes will almost invariably arise — even when the parties have the best of intentions. And they understand that detailed contract provisions to resolve those disputes can have major benefits if they are properly drafted to suit the project, parties, and types of dispute most … Continue Reading

Reminder of January 1, 2019 Mandatory New Notice Requirement by CA Residential Solar Contractors

In 2017, the California Legislature passed a bill that resulted in Business and Professions Code (BPC) section 7169, which ultimately would require Home Improvement Contractors, which include contractors that install solar systems on residences, to issue specific disclosures to any residential consumers who may want to purchase, finance or lease, and install a solar system on … Continue Reading

“Is Mike M. Johnson Here to Stay?”—Recent Washington Supreme Court Case Upholds Contractual Waiver of Claims Provision

In Nova Contracting, Inc. v. City of Olympia, No. 94711-2 (Wash. Sept. 29, 2018), the Washington Supreme Court, sitting en banc, ruled in favor of a municipality on the issue of whether the general contractor complied with a contract’s notice of claim provision.  Relying on Mike M. Johnson, Inc. v. Spokane County, 150 Wn.2d 375, … Continue Reading

Developers and Builders Gain Time from Permit Expiration in California with AB 2913

After decades of dealing with a hodgepodge of local adoption (or not) of administrative codes relating to building permit extensions, California Governor Brown’s September 21, 2018 signature on AB 2913 is a welcome addition of at least six months to the existing statutory commencement of work period. AB 2913 allows a uniform 12-month period across … Continue Reading

The Owner’s Guide to Negotiating Construction Contracts During Volatile Trade Negotiations

President Trump’s new tariffs and ongoing trade negotiations concerning building commodities like steel, aluminum, and lumber have resulted in uncertain market conditions for those in the construction industry, making it nearly impossible for owners, developers, contractors, and suppliers to accurately analyze and allocate risks during construction contract negotiations. In my latest article for the Daily … Continue Reading

Legislative Update: House Bill 4154

In February 2018, the Oregon Legislature attempted to push through House Bill 4154, which would have made a general contractor liable for unpaid wages, including benefit payments and contributions, of an employee of a subcontractor at any tier, after that employee files a wage claim and the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries … Continue Reading
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