Construction Litigation

Oregon’s law on statutes of limitation and/or repose periods on construction claims is complex and ever-changing.  A recent Oregon Supreme Court ruling has introduced yet another instance of differing time limits on construction defect claims. In my recent article for the Daily Journal of Commerce, I discuss Schell v. The Schollander Companies, Inc. and

The recent termination of the joint venture of Skanska-Hunt from the Washington State Convention Center project (article here) is a good reminder of the importance of well-written termination clauses in your owner-contractor contracts.  The reasons for termination (or “severance,” a slightly kinder word) can be many, including failure to agree on pricing (the reason

In Shell v. Schollander Companies, Inc., the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed a line of appellate decisions distinguishing between defect claims arising out of construction performed for an owner and defect claims arising out of an owner’s purchase of an existing structure.  In Schollander, the homeowner sought recovery for defects in the construction of

It seems that almost weekly, and certainly monthly, I receive a call or inquiry from colleagues and/or prospective clients as to whether a license is really required if the prospective “contractor” is not actually building anything but is merely facilitating a “deal” or is hiring otherwise qualified and licensed contractors and trades. Virtually every time

On November 9, 2015, Division One of the Court of Appeals affirmed a 2012 King County trial court judgment that joint-venture tunneling contractor Vinci Construction Grands Projets/Parsons RCI/Frontier-Kemper (VPFK) was liable to King County for $144 million in damages and attorney fees.

The case arose from the Brightwater project, a wastewater treatment plant north of Woodinville with a tunnel system that conveys wastewater to the plant and treated water to a marine outfall in Puget Sound. VPFK was awarded a $212 million contract to build two segments of the 13-mile tunnel system. Unfortunately, VPFK’s two tunnel-boring machines broke down several hundred feet beneath Lake Forest Park and Bothell. The machines required extensive repairs that threatened to delay the completion of the overall project.

VPFK repaired one machine and completed one tunnel segment, but King County did not accept the lengthy delay and additional cost proposed for the repair of the second machine. King County hired Jay Dee Coluccio to complete the remaining tunnel segment between Shoreline and Lake Forest Park. The Brightwater project began full operation in late 2012.

King County sued VPFK and its sureties for approximately $156 million, based on its costs arising from project delays and design modifications. VPFK counterclaimed for approximately $70 million, arguing that its delays were excused by differing site conditions and defective project design. King County acknowledged some of VPFK’s claims totaling about $4.7 million.

After a nearly three-month trial, the jury awarded $156 million in damages to King County, offset by $26 million to VPFK for its counterclaims. The court awarded King County its attorney/expert fees in the approximate amount of $14 million, for a net judgment of $144 million.

The trial and appeal involved a number of interesting issues, two of which are summarized here.

It will happen to almost every contractor at some point — an owner or project developer will try to sue you.  Hopefully your insurer agrees you are covered, and you’ve dodged a bullet. But if your insurer tells you that you are not covered, things get sticky.  One common strategy is for the parties to

Subcontractor default is a construction project nightmare that can result in significant additional costs and delay completion of the project. But there are two chief options to protect against such risks — performance bonds and subcontractor default insurance.  In my recent article for the Daily Journal of Commerce, I outline the unique characteristics of

There are inherent risks in proceeding to trial by jury. Juries are often unpredictable, and civil litigation also requires extensive discovery and motions practice, which can delay resolution and increase uncertainty and costs. Arbitration has long been accepted as the answer to these problems. But the changing nature of disputes, increasing costs and inefficiencies have

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

Complex construction projects carry complex problems as they approach completion. In my recent article for the Daily Journal of Commerce, I address 10 potential pitfalls that owners, contractors and design professionals may encounter, and I offer tips to help you prepare for them.

Read the full article here.

“Finishing Strong vs. Finishing Wrong: