Construction Law Overview
Whether we are talking about an initial bidding process or negotiating contracts with the federal government, construction law is a vast area of legal jurisprudence that encompasses many areas. With robust activity in all regions and property types throughout the U.S., it is no wonder this is a growing area of the law. In addition to litigation over contracts, construction law also covers workplace injuries such as fatalities, work-related injuries, or illnesses. Below you will find a useful overview on construction law, the various types of disputes that can arise, a more in-depth look at construction defects, and more.
Types of Construction Disputes
Construction projects are a set of contracts and legal obligations and can be broken down into three main categories: buildings (residential and non-residential), infrastructure (roadways, bridges, highways, etc.) and industrial. The main players are usually the owner, contractors, sub-contractors, and sometimes the government depending on the type of project involved. Typical areas of dispute include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Disputes over the scope of work or plans and specifications (usually over the interpretation of work plans/specifications of work to be performed)
- Scope of work between contractor and subcontractor (failing to properly document in detail the plans applicable to that scope of subcontractor’s work)
- Subcontractor substitution (typically arises in public sector construction process)
- Construction defects (allegations of negligence or breach of contract)
What is a Mechanic’s Lien?
As an example, a wealthy golf club owner fails to pay his contractors the agreed upon contract price, thereby “stiffing” the worker. What remedy does the contractor have in this situation? If a contractor, subcontractor, or supplier fails to be paid as required under the contract, that person can get a mechanic’s lien against the property: a legal claim against property that has been remodeled or improved to recover the monies owed. In cases involving public sector projects, a subcontractor would need to follow the injury claim process implemented by the government to recover. Speak to a local attorney to learn more.
Construction Defect Causes of Action: In-Depth
As mentioned above, construction defects are an often-litigated area of construction law. This includes breach of contract, breach of warranty, strict liability, and negligence. A typical breach of contract situation might involve a completed home construction project that doesn’t live up to the standards that both the homeowner and contractor agreed upon. A breach of warranty action is similar, but here the contractor has given the owner a specific, time-sensitive warranty (such as a year) against a defect. If that defect arises, the homeowner may be able to bring a lawsuit against the contractor.
In a strict liability action, the contractor is held liable, despite who was negligent. For instance, let’s say the contractor installed top-of-the-line granite counter tops, but within six months the granite begins to have unsightly blotches, the contractor may be held strictly liable for the damages, depending on state law.
Finally, there is a negligence cause of action that may be available to the homeowner in certain circumstances. Let’s imagine that the contractor hires a subcontractor to do plumbing work in the back of the house. The subcontractor plumbers have to dig a hole in the ground but fail to put the cement back over the hole when complete. If the homeowner, any of her family members, or invited guests falls in the hole and injures themselves, the contractor may be held liable for negligence.
Construction Law Overview: Related Resources
- Ten Things to Think About Before Signing a Construction Contract
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- How to File a Construction Injury Claim
Get More Information on Construction Law Disputes
If you are involved in a construction-related dispute, you may want to seek legal advice to learn about your options. No matter if it is a dispute over materials used in your bathroom remodel or if you are a contractor yourself and are having problems with the federal, state, or local government, having a strong legal advocate on your side can make all the difference. Consider speaking with a qualified construction law attorney to learn more or learn about state-specific answers on our construction litigation legal answers page.