Contractors: Its Time to Send Your COVID-19 Notice

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The day-to-day professional and personal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is substantial.  The global event will have dozens of common legal implications that we will address in this blog over the coming days, but for now I wanted to start with the basic starting point for any event of delay and/or additional cost on a construction project — THE NOTICE! 

The time is now to send your notice.  

This is not an adversarial notice.  Your contracting party will understand the impacts experienced and should appreciate the proactive approach in communicating the COVID-19 impacts.  If discussions have occurred between with your contracting party, I would still send a formal notice as to avoid further legal defenses down the line.  Also, providing the formal notice creates a structure that is helpful in creating a productive communication pathway regarding the delays/costs incurred and ways to mitigate them.

No matter what the legal theory, the COVID-19

City of Boston’s Press Release on Suspending Construction in Boston Effective March 17th

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Below is the City of Boston’s Press Release suspending all regular activity at construction sites in Boston as of today – March 17, 2020.  Sites need to be made safe by March 23, 2020.  Policy will be revisited in two weeks.

CONSTRUCTION SITES

Effective tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, the City is suspending all regular activity at construction sites in Boston. Employers should maintain the necessary crews to keep their sites safe and secure, keep any materials from blowing away, and prevent trespassing. This work needs to be completed in the next week, by Monday, March 23, 2020. After sites have been secured, skeleton crews will be permitted for the remainder of this suspension to ensure safety. The only work that will be permitted moving forward will be emergency work, which will need to be approved by the City of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department.

That essential work includes:

  • emergency utility, road or building work, such as

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

Regulations Alert ! Rhode Island Contractors, Home Inspectors, & More

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On December 19, 2019, the Rhode Island Contractors Registration and Licensing Board’s (“CRLB”) revised regulations for contractors and new regulations home inspectors, well drillers/pump installers/water-filtration contractors, and commercial roofers will go live.  Here’s a link to the Regulations.  

For the commercial roofers, home inspectors, and well drillers/pump installers/water-filtration contractors, the new regulations create a licensing regime pursuant the Rhode Island statutes.  See R.I. Gen. Laws 5-65.1- 1 et seq. (home inspectors); R.I. Gen. Laws 5-65.2- 1 et seq. (well drillers et al); R.I. Gen. Laws 5-73-1 et seq (commercial roofers).  Previously the licensing requirements were in place by statute but lacked the necessary procedural and enforcement mechanisms.  Now, the CRLB regulations present application requirements including a licensing examination, certain standards of practice and performance, and continuing education requirements to maintain the license going forward.  Each professional will be required to apply and become licensed with the CRLB by or before April 1, 2020 when the

Pierce Atwood Attorneys Attend Construction Industry Dispute Resolution Meeting in Washington, DC

Last week, John Bulman and I attended the National Construction Dispute Resolution Committee’s (NCDRC) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. The NCDRC is an advisory committee formed by the American Arbitration Association (AAA) to engage in discussion with a wide variety of construction industry associations about the AAA Rules and dispute resolution processes generally. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) graciously hosted the meeting at its offices.

Representatives from the following organizations were present:

ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Fall Meeting Explores Inclusion, Diversity, and Professionalism in the Construction and Legal Industries

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I was fortunate to attend the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s fall meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from October 23 – 25, 2019.   The program titled Building a Better Construction Industry through Inclusion, Diversity, and Professionalism was a first for both the Forum on Construction Law and the ABA.  Never before had any ABA group dedicated an entire meeting to the topics of inclusion, diversity, and professionalism.  The following ABA diversity commissions and coalitions co-sponsored the event: the Commission on Women in the Profession, the Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice, the Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities, the Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the Commission on Disability Rights, and the Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline.

The speakers in the nine plenary sessions provided a wealth of information, insight, and practical tips to both lawyers and construction professionals alike.  Here are some of the highlights:

Diversity and Inclusion Problems Can

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

50-State Surveys on Architectural and Engineering Issues

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Each jurisdiction has unique requirements for design professionals.  Whereas many architects and engineers practice in multiple states, keeping track of these requirements is important.

Along with other Pierce Atwood attorneys, I contributed to two very helpful 50-State surveys published by the Division 3 (Design) of the ABA Forum on Construction Law.  Links to these surveys is below:

50-State Survey of Firm Licensure Requirements for Architectural and Engineering Firms. 

We contributed to the Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island sections of this survey.  In Maine, a license may only be issued to an individual — a firm may not be licensed.  There is no requirement for A/E firms in Massachusetts to register the entity, but such entities will be required to present specific information regarding persons performing professional services with the Secretary of State.  Yet, in Rhode Island, a certificate of authorization must be obtained by A/E firms to practice architecture or engineering.   There are also detailed corporate ownership composition and control

An Investigation in Sheep’s Clothing: Multilateral Development Bank “Audits”

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Enforcement actions against international construction companies have been on the rise in recent years, culminating in the headline-grabbing $3.5 billion joint U.S./Brazilian action against Odebrecht S.A. in late December 2016.  Less prominently, however, enforcement actions against construction companies by the multilateral development banks (“MDBs” – such as the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) have also risen sharply, and in many cases have been putting companies out of business.  Here are some basics you should know in case you ever get a letter from an MDB saying you are about to be “audited.” 

It’s Not an Audit
The letter a company will receive launching this kind of investigation will usually say that the integrity office (as the enforcement arms are generally known) is conducting an “audit” of a particular project.  This is unlike any audit you have ever experienced – because it is actually a full-blown investigation that in many ways resembles an investigation by