What is Construction Litigation?
Regan Atwood P.A. attorneys Rebecca A. Ross, F. Eugene Atwood, Jeffrey C. Regan, and Charles “Chad” Walker, Jr., are Florida Bar Board Certified in Construction Law. Together, the Regan Atwood Construction Law experts address the question: What is Construction Litigation?
Partner, Attorney F. Eugene Atwood
“I love construction litigation,” Gene said. “It’s something that is new every time you do it. You don’t know how it’s going to start, and you certainly don’t know how it will end. You meet interesting people. They have intriguing problems. The problems can be quite complex.”
Construction Litigation Contract Dispute
“I had one public client come to me, it was on a contract dispute,” Gene said. “Some of their utilities had been damaged during a directional bore under a river, and that ended up in litigation that had the defense begin with defending claims that were in excess of eight figures and ended up with them collecting from an insurance company on a bad faith claim.
“The circuit that got us there saw a period of time where I was attempting to get a court to require the production of an agreement that the contractor had claimed was confidential. We were able to obtain the document and discover what was a relationship between an insurer and their insured who also happened to be the insurer through an additional insured provision of my public identity.
“And at the end of the day, the claims were from the contractor were resolved in my client’s favor and it changed position, became the plaintiff and chased the insurance company for the fees that had been extended and successfully obtained those fees.
“All through that, relationships I had with the other companies that were involved and the subcontractors who were involved, the attorneys that were involved on the defense side, they and head house counsel for the public entity, all of those relationships were very friendly. They were collegial, but they were informative.”
Partner, Attorney Rebecca A. Ross
Rebecca said that the way she would talk about construction law or construction litigation is that it could be anything involving the construction industry.
Commercial, Industrial, Residential, Government Construction Disputes
“And that could be commercial construction, industrial construction, residential construction, and even roads and bridges,” Rebecca said. “Really there are disputes that come up all the time on construction projects. Sometimes they come up in the beginning of a project, sometimes they come up in the middle, and sometimes, years later.”
There Are Many Kinds of Construction Issues
“It could be any kind of issue,” Rebecca said. “It could be a breach of contract type of claim, it could be a dispute about a change on the project, which is called a change order claim.
“There could be delay issues on the project or multiple different sources of delay and there’s a dispute about who’s responsible for that delay. And oftentimes there’s a liquidated damages clause in a contract. And so there might be disagreement among the parties as to who’s responsible for those liquidated damages.
“There can be payment issues such as lien claims or bond claims on a project. You could have a subcontractor, for example, on a commercial project that just goes bankrupt or otherwise defaults on its obligations. And so really, the practice of construction law is really anything involving a construction project and those types of disputes that can happen.
“And oftentimes there are defect issues. It could be design defects or construction defects. And again, these can happen during the process of construction or sometimes they’re discovered years later. There could be both a design defect and a construction defect at the same time or a disagreement as to what’s really going on. Maybe there’s a leak issue or cracking or something along those lines and so construction litigation really is involving trying to help clients resolve those types of disputes.”
Managing Partner, Attorney Jeffrey C. Regan
Jeff explains that construction law involves both the transactional and litigation practice in the areas of construction projects.
“It’s not something that the average layperson would understand as a specialty, but it’s recognized as a specialty by the Florida Bar who provides a board certification in construction law,” Jeff said. “I am one of the inaugural class members for board certified lawyers in Florida in construction law.”
Transactional Construction Project Law and Construction Litigation
“Construction law involves on the transactional side, the drafting of contracts to construct anything from a simple family residence to a multimillion-dollar industrial project,” Jeff said. “It involves not just drafting the contracts but involves negotiations, understanding the building codes and the nuances that have to be considered within that and understanding how to allocate risks within the construction contract among the different contracting parties.
Resolving Construction Disputes
“On the litigation side, construction law involves resolving disputes before a tribunal, whether that’s a state or federal court or in a private arbitration panel if so chosen by the parties. The number of disputes in construction litigation is varied. The saying that time is money is very true in the construction practice because one of the big areas of litigation involves delay on projects.”
“If an owner is delayed, they may be losing potential rent on their property,” Jeff said. “If the contractor is delayed, that contractor is incurring additional general conditions by having its forces on the job for an extended period of time. That type of construction litigation involves an understanding of critical path methodology as to how projects are actually structured and scheduled for performance.”
Partner, Attorney Charles “Chad” Walker, Jr.
Chad explains that what a lot of people don’t realize about construction law is that a construction law practice can focus on specific areas.
Lien and Bond Claims, Construction Defect Claims
“You might have a construction attorney who focuses predominantly on lien and bond claims, or they might focus on the defense of construction defect claims,” Chad said. “Or they may focus on licensure issues or bid protests. Some construction law attorneys primarily represent architects and engineers.”
Regan Atwood Handles a Range of Construction Law Cases
“Our team of construction law specialists has a much wider focus in terms of hitting on all of those areas,” Chad said. “Our construction specialists have experience with lean and bond disputes, with complex delay claims, experience on both public and private projects, experience in state and federal courts. We represent general contractors and trade contractors on complex non-payment issues, delay issues or defective work issues that arise during the construction of a project. We represent owners on construction defect claims, water intrusion type claims that arise on larger multifamily projects.”
Construction Plaintiffs and Construction Defendants Represented
“We represent site development contractors and design-build contractors on claims against public authorities arising out of roadways and bridges and vertical construction projects for public entities,” Chad said. “And so we have a very broad construction law practice. So what construction law means for us, is really any number of different things that arise out of a construction project, including at the very beginning of a relationship on a project where construction documents are being drafted, assisting clients with the drafting and negotiation of contract terms on both public and private projects.”
Regan Atwood P.A. is based in Jacksonville with offices in Orlando. The firm handles complex, high stakes construction litigation, business litigation, and real estate litigation cases in state and federal courts as well as representing clients in arbitrations.