Litigation

Claims against RIDOT – Important Judicial Decisions in 2019

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The Rhode Island Superior Court came down with a few interesting decisions this year concerning Rhode Island General Law Section 37-13.1-1.  That statute deals with actions against the State of Rhode Island on Highway and Public Works contracts.  The statute provides in part:

  • 37-13.1-1. Suits allowed – Jurisdiction – Statute of limitations – Procedure.   (a) Any person, firm, or corporation which is awarded a contract subsequent to July 1, 1977, with the state of Rhode Island, acting through any of its departments, commissions, or other agencies, for the design, construction, repair, or alteration of any state highway, bridge, or public works other than those contracts which are covered by the public works arbitration act may, in the event of any disputed claims under the contract, bring an action against the state of Rhode Island in the superior court for Providence county for the purpose of having the claims determined, provided notice of the general nature of the claims shall have been given

Condominium Mechanic’s Liens

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Mechanic’s lien claims are complex in that each state’s statutes differ dramatically.  There are certain unique issues when a contractor seeks to commence a mechanic’s lien proceeding for improvements made to a condominium.

What did you improve?

When assessing your rights under the applicable mechanic’s lien statute, focus on the property that you improved.  You are only entitled to lien the property interests for which you made an improvement.

For condominiums, there are common areas and units.  The common areas are owned by the condominium trust/association and the units are owned by the individual owners.  This year, I commenced a mechanic’s lien action on behalf of a subcontractor against a new, 10-unit condominium in Rhode Island.  My client performed improvements to the entire building — both common areas and in the units.  The general contractor was hired by the developer of the condominium. By the time final payments were not released some of the units were transferred to

The Intersection of Workers’ Compensation Immunity and Contractual Indemnity

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The workers’ compensation statute in many states provides that the workers’ compensation benefits received by an injured employee is the employee’s exclusive remedy.  The benefits are paid based on a no-fault basis and the injured employee is barred from bringing a lawsuit against his or her employer.  The degree in which the exclusive remedy provision applies varies in different jurisdictions.  An ABA 50-State Survey on the exclusive remedy provisions can be found by clicking HERE.

In many construction contracts, a contractor indemnifies an owner for personal injury and property damage caused by the contractor’s negligence.

Here is the fact scenario:  A contractor’s employee gets injured on a jobsite.  The employee receives workers’ compensation benefits but has incurred additional damages beyond those benefits.  The contractor employee cannot bring a lawsuit against the his employer based on the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy provision, but the employee may bring a lawsuit against the owner for the personal injury damages.  Owner

Clawback Agreements – Friend or Foe?

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As construction attorneys, we are no strangers to voluminous productions of client documents and communications, both in electronic and hardcopy formats, during discovery. Even with proper safeguards in place during document review, there exists the possibility that some privileged material may accidentally slip over to an opposing party.  Production of such material to a third party, especially an adversary, runs the risk of waiving attorney-client privilege or attorney work product privilege.

Rule 502(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence creates somewhat of a safety net for inadvertent disclosures, but requires compliance with a number of steps. Fed. R. Evid. 502(b) (“disclosure does not operate as a waiver in a federal or state proceeding if: (1) the disclosure is inadvertent; (2) the holder of the privilege or protection took reasonable steps to prevent disclosure; and (3) the holder promptly took reasonable steps to rectify the error, including (if applicable) following Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 (b)(5)(B) [concerning inadvertent production of trial preparation materials].”) Note also that

Taking an Out of State Deposition in Rhode Island Just Got Easier!

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On July 15, 2019, the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act (the “Uniform Act”) was enacted in Rhode Island. R.I. Gen. Laws 9-18.1-1 et seq.  It will simplify the process of taking a deposition in Rhode Island for actions pending outside Rhode Island.  In enacting this legislation, Rhode Island joins 33 other states in adopting the uniform legislation.

Fact Scenario

You have a construction litigation matter pending in Vermont, but the architect of the project is from Rhode Island.  You want to take the architect’s deposition.  How do you go about taking the architect’s deposition?

Process Pursuant to the Previous Statute

The Vermont counsel wishing to take the deposition must provide a commission or some instruction from the Vermont trial court granting permission to take the out of state deposition.  Vermont counsel then had to retain local counsel licensed to practice in Rhode Island to commence a miscellaneous

Corporate Deposition — Multiple Witnesses At the Same Time?

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A few years ago, I represented a process piping subcontractor in a claim against the general contractor and the owner of a coal fired power plant in Massachusetts.  While the case was unique and interesting in a number of ways, some of which may be the subject of future posts, one aspect that was new for me was taking a Rule 30(b)(6) corporate deposition of two individuals at the same time.

Rule 30(b)(6) depositions are depositions of a corporation or other business entity.  It is the corporation that is testifying.  These depositions can be helpful to obtain testimony of the corporation that will be binding on the corporation at the time of trial.  They also impose an obligation to prepare and educate the individuals who testify on behalf of the corporation — to learn what information the “corporation knows” which is often beyond one person’s personal knowledge.  The corporation designates individuals to testify for the corporation on a list of topics provided by the party noticing

An Easy Way to Preserve Your Mechanic’s Lien Rights in Rhode Island

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A mechanic’s lien right is a powerful remedy to secure a contractor’s right to payment.  Each jurisdiction’s mechanic’s lien statute is unique and most states strictly interpret/enforce the statutes.  For multi-jurisdictional contractors, a common practice in New England, mechanic’s liens are a double-edged sword because they provide substantial leverage, but they are often costly and cumbersome to perfect.  In the Solid Foundation blog, we will post regularly on issues relating to mechanic’s liens statutes throughout New England.  As a start, we have put together this post that zeroes in on one fundamental requirement to preserve a general contractor’s mechanic’s lien in Rhode Island – the Notice of Possible Mechanic’s Lien pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-28-4.1.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS POST?

  • Contractors who perform work in Rhode Island for Owners.
  • Owners

WHAT A CONTRACTOR NEEDS TO DO TO PRESERVE ITS MECHANIC’S LIEN?

If

Practical Tips on Working with Former Employees Who Are Key Witnesses

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Suppose you are in-house counsel for a construction company.  Your Guaranteed Maximum Price (“GMP”) is blown and the Owner has refused to execute any change orders during the Project. You know you are heading towards a claim.  Within one week of substantial completion being achieved, the project manager that has managed the entire job gives his notice explaining he is leaving to work for a competitor.  What do you do next?  What could you have done to plan for this?  In this post, I outline practical measures you can take when faced with this challenging, complex, and yet very common scenario.

Planning Measures

The best time to deal with the issue of former employees is before the employee is hired.  Important provisions to be considered in employment policies and agreements include:

  • Confidentiality and Protection of Company Trade Secrets. An employer, particularly in the competitive market of the construction industry, has a strong and