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Different Site Condition Claims in Construction: Part 1

Jacksonville, Florida, law firm Regan Atwood Managing Partner Jeff Regan explains different site condition claims in construction disputed in Florida by contractors and sub-contractors on a project.

Regan Atwood handles high stakes and complex construction law disputes for clients across the state.

Two Different Site Condition Claims

Different site condition claims include two types:

  • One, that the underground utility contractor is excavating the ground and they encounter that it is different than what’s shown in the plan specifications of sewer borings that were provided by the owner.
  • And the other one would be where the conditions differ from what you would normally expect in that geographical area.

And by way of an example, these different site condition claims are made when you develop a neighborhood and put in the sewers, the underground utilities, the roads, the curves, the sidewalks, things of that nature, which is what an underground utility contractor does.

Sandy Soils Will Support

The contractors will look at sewer borings, and maybe there are only three sewer borings in a 20-acre neighborhood that’s going to be laid out. And they showed that they have predominantly sandy soils.

For an underground utility contractor, that’s good news, because some of these pipes, they’re gravity pipes, it flows downhill, as they say, and the pipe will leave a station that the houses are connected to, or it comes to the station from the houses and it rolls downhill to that station.

Mucky Soils Won’t Support

So the pipes are high up where it leaves the house and that may be 20 feet down to the ground by the time it reaches the collection station, and they’re going to have to excavate through all of that. And sandy soils will typically support gravity pipes, but mucky soils will not.

Soils with what they call a lot of “spines” and organics and rotted trees and plants and things, they will not, and that’ll cause a sag in the gravity line. And it’ll cause it to break, and it’ll cause it to back up.

Over-Excavate and Fill

And so you have to over-excavate, so they call it, dig up until you get through all of that mucky soil. And then you have to bring dump trucks with imported fill, with sands in and then fill it up, okay?

And so, they looked at the borings, there’s three of them. They say they’re all sandy soils. We’re good to go. They price their project out and they get it.

And the borings only went 10 feet deep and they know that they’re going to be digging as deep as 20 feet deep, okay? And they start to hit an area even before they get down to the first 10 feet.

And they find all of this muck out there. Well, the problem is you’ve got a 20-acre site with three borings. Five feet from one boring it might change quite a bit, but you relied on the boring because it was sandy when it turned out that it was sandy in that area, but it wasn’t sandy in the area just immediately adjacent to it, okay?

A Change Order Claim is Needed

So now you’ve got a change order claim where you say the site’s different than what was shown in the borings and the plans and specifications, have to over-excavate and I got to bring in fill materials to stabilize this to hold the lines, or if you don’t want to do that, then we’re not going to have a gravity line.

We’ve got to convert to what’s called a force main where you can actually flush it through with forced water, which requires installation of a lift station, which would cost even more money. So, which way are you going to go? Well, that’s a different type of condition claim, that’s different from what’s shown in the plans, in the specifications, in the borings. So that’s one type.

Please read: Different Site Condition Claims in Construction — Part 2

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