Proven Advocacy by One of the Top Construction Law Firms in Washington
Construction claims are a reality of the business. Dunn & Black, P.S. provides front-end analysis to minimize disputes, solutions for conflicts arising mid-stream, and post-project resolution of claims both in and out of court.
Our experience in representing clients in diverse geographic areas such as Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, and internationally provides our lawyers with the unique background necessary to provide our clients with critical advice on claims avoidance. We aim to avoid the cost and domino effect of a collapsed deal, work stoppage or full-blown litigation. Yet, when necessary, we are prepared to aggressively protect your rights to pursue or defend against any claims which may arise in litigation, arbitration or other alternative dispute resolution process. Our lawyers have successfully litigated and arbitrated complex construction disputes involving hospitals, schools, dams, military installations, mines, pipeline projects, and commercial projects located throughout the United States and internationally.
Reviewing Contracts for Potential Disputes
With more than 25 years of experience in construction claims, our attorneys have the practiced eye to spot potential conflicts and exposures and address them in construction contract negotiations and review.
We are adept at forging realistic solutions to conflicts that threaten to disrupt the project or leave our client on the hook for unforeseen costs. Our lawyers can intervene swiftly to mediate disputes or negotiate a workable compromise before a formal claim is filed, or to get the case before a judge who can break the impasse.
Post-Completion Claims Analysis and Litigation
In court, our experience in construction claims increases the odds of a positive ruling or “equitable adjustment” in our client’s favor. But, prior to instituting litigation, we sit down with clients for an in-depth discussion of cost-effectiveness, likelihood of success, and the ramifications (win or lose) of arbitration or litigation.
Dunn & Black, P.S. routinely advises and represents clients in disputes over:
- Bid Disputes
- Project delays
- Acceleration or compression of the schedule
- Cost overruns
- Change orders and extra work
- Construction defect claims
- Insurance coverage disputes
- Disruption and loss of labor productivity
- Differing site conditions
- Defective design or construction
- Unacceptable workmanship or substituted materials
- Termination and default
- Non-payment (mechanics’ liens and payment bond claims)
Common Issues in Contract Claim Disputes
Often, contract claim disputes involve some common concepts such as:
Breach of contract
A breach of contract is when there is a failure to perform according to the terms of the contract. Typical breaches involve disputes over interpretation of contract terms. Differing interpretation by each party are often caused by ambiguities when the contract terms do not clearly define each party’s obligations or discrepancies and conflicts within the contract documents.
When any of the parties involved in a contract have failed to perform.
Owner’s right to eject a contractor from the job. In addition to removing the contractor from the jobsite, the owner may take possession of the unfinished work and of all the contractor’s tools, construction equipment, and machinery at the site. The owner may use or authorize third party contractors to use the tools for completing the project. When this happens, the owner and any replacement contractors may not be liable to the terminated contractor for the cost or value of any property or equipment used in the course of the project completion.
Payment disputes are often the result of other factors such as scope of work, value of work, extra work, change orders, or even under-funded or poorly managed projects. In some states, there are specific laws that prohibit any type of pay-if-paid contract provisions.
When the jobsite conditions have changed since the contract was awarded.
Differing site conditions
Actual site conditions are not the same as described at the time the contract was awarded. Similar to changed conditions with the exception that nothing may have changed, and it is often the obligation of the contractor to confirm site conditions prior to entering into a contract, despite how the jobsite is described in the plans and specifications.
Extra work is work that the contract does not specify. It can be difficult to decide whether work performed was part of the contract or completely separate tasks. There are often specific procedures in contracts that must be followed in order to receive credit for extra work.
Change orders are common in construction, and there are usually specific procedures in contracts that must be followed in order to receive credit for change order work.
Scope of work
Disputes specifically related to the ambiguities or discrepancies found in contract terms and conditions related to the tasks contracted for.
Most often appear in public works contracting bids. Typical disputes arise from bidding errors, lack of responsiveness, responsibility, and second low bidder. There are specific procedures that must be followed. In public works projects, it may require filing suit as part of the bid protest process.
The additional costs to a party when a project experiences unexpected delays. The difficulty is in proving who actually caused the delay, whether the delay was on the critical path, and how much it actually cost the affected parties.
When work is not performed to trade standards, there is a cost associated with bringing the work up to trade standards and repairing any other damage caused by the defect.
Insurance coverage claims
Carriers often deny coverage for construction defects which requires knowledgeable representation to acquire insurance coverage for property damage and resultant losses.
In most cases, by the time a claim on the bond is considered, the project is in serious trouble. We hope projects will go without a hitch, but sometimes things go wrong. That is one of the reasons owners bond their projects – to have someone to turn to when the contractor gets into trouble. The other reason is to have an independent third party, a surety, verify that the contractor is, in fact, qualified to perform the job. The surety evaluates the ability of the prospective contractor to confirm if they are able to complete the project. This is a guarantee to the owner that the project will be completed.
See our Representative Work page for examples of our construction claim litigation experience.
Contact Dunn & Black, a firm that knows the construction industry and provides reliable, responsive counsel.