How is the Carnival Cruise Ship Disaster Like Some Construction Projects?

cruise shipNow that I have your attention:  Have you followed the “cruise from hell” story, in which Carnival Cruise passengers were forced to make do on a ship with no working power or lavatory facilities for the better part of a week?

Think this has nothing to do with construction projects?

On the contrary, this story serves as a reminder that if something can go wrong, eventually, it WILL go wrong.

No where is this more true than on a construction project.

Read my guest post on today’s Construction Law Musings to find out how you can prepare for the unexpected on your construction projects.  While you are there, browse around and check out the wealth of information on Chris Hill’s Virginia-based construction law blog.

~ Melissa

PS:  New to this blog?  Please sign up for email delivery and your free white paper on 7 Critical Mistakes made by architects & engineers.

Photo:  (c) Roger Wollstadt

Consequential Damages: What are they? Should I waive them? (law note)

A client asked me about a contract he was asked to sign in which consequential damages were being waived.  Consequential damages are those things that cost money which arise indirectly out of a failure of a party on a construction project.   dollar signsThey can include:

  • loss of use
  • loss of rent
  • loss of profit
  • loss of bonding capacity
  • extended overhead
  • extended equipment rental fees
  • increased material costs
  • interest

Note that this is not an exhaustive list, and other consequential damages may be applicable depending on the project.

Often, like my client, you may be asked to waive consequential damages.  This is a double edged sword.  If the waiver is mutual (something on which you should insist), then the provision may save you money in the event your design or services delay the project.  The Owner has agreed that it cannot seek to recover indirect, consequential damages.  On the other hand, if you are the one suing the Owner, it means that there may be costs that you cannot be compensated for if a project goes awry.

The standard industry contracts all have at least some waiver of consequential damages, as noted in this chart.

waiver in form contractsBottom line: waiver of consequentials can be a good thing or a bad thing, but you will not know which when you are signing on the dotted line.

Just make sure that if there is a waiver, that it is mutual on both sides.  Good luck, and “be safe out there

Your turn.  Have you ever waived your right to consequentials?  Horror story to share about paying someone else’s costs?  Share in the comment section.

Dollar Photo (c) sivlen001.
Chart (c) Melissa Brumback Creative Commons License

Research Produces New Standards for Construction (guest post)(& more)

Welcome Back!  The “regular season” of Construction Law in NC blog posts has now officially started.

Recently, I had the privilege of writing on the subject of Private, Single Panel Arbitration on Chris Hill’s blog.  Please read the article if haven’t already. 

The first issue of my brand-spanking new newsletter, The Construction Professional, went out yesterday to those on the email list.  If you want to be one of the cool kids, be sure to sign up now by visiting the right hand side of the blog.  (Or, you can simply shoot me an email at mbrumback at rl-law dot com).

Finally, today’s post is a guest post by Susan Wells.  Susan is a freelance blogger who enjoys writing about automotive and health news, technology, lifestyle and personal finance. She often researches and writes about automobile, property and health insurance, helping consumers find free insurance quotes, and the best protection available. Susan and I welcome your thoughts and comments on this article.

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The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) sits on a 90-acre parcel of land in South Carolina. The research facility is dedicated to advancing building science by evaluating various residential and commercial construction materials and systems.

In layman’s terms, IBHS builds things and then attempts to destroy them by recreating conditions of natural disasters. In a studio-like production, the laboratory builds houses and then submits them to fire, wind, ice and water damage.

The IBHS research center even has a few videos on YouTube that demonstrate the effects of wind damage and fire.

two houses compared in wind damage situation

This destruction is an integral part of the construction industry as insurers work to identify risks and mitigate them through improved materials and structures. IBHS President Julie Rochman explains that the research center allows them to produce controlled experiments that are not being conducted anywhere else in the world. No longer forced to rely on case studies or opinions, the IBHS can record its findings and actively search for (and test) stronger systems.

Engineer Scott Sundberg explains the value of the research center in a single sentence, saying, “One test is worth a thousand expert opinions.”

To those at the IBHC, the information produced by these experiments is essential to advancing a sustainable community. Using hard data and conclusive evidence, such large-scale and detail oriented research allows the insurance and construction markets to focus on effective mitigation techniques. The average consumer will also have more access to product knowledge and has the potential to become more informed about products and strategies that can make their homes and buildings safer.

“Predictability and reliability of building materials and information is extremely important to the sustainability of the community, “says Mississippi Housing Director Gerald Bessey.

“Collectively as we apply these to public policy decisions and as the market place makes market choices. I think the market will react to good information that’s reliable and stable.”

In insurance underwriting laboratories like IBHS, disaster resistant and energy efficient technologies are merging to produce a new definition of sustainability.

Admittedly, there are few market standards for “green” products, and the FTC is actively working to mitigate the damage caused by “greenwashed” products that touted false claims of durability and environmental benefit. For uninformed consumers and construction managers, the wrong green system could put building structure at risk.

Some elements, such as vegetative roofs, can actually serve as fuel for fires or pose a threat under high winds. The IBHS proposes that energy efficiency and structural durability can work in tandem to create a truly sustainable product: one that will be environmentally friendly yet resilient in the face of environmental disasters.

One such recommendation is retrofitting older homes. Owners can replace windows and doors with energy efficient and wind resistant materials and seal energy leaks. Simple weatherization steps can actually help the average homeowner reach a new level of sustainability without rebuilding their home using entirely new green technology.

Interestingly, there are green insurance policies that allow policy holders to rebuild after a disaster using green upgrades. This would allow for recycling of debris, LEED certification as well as coverage for new appliances.

Most insurance policies do not currently consider products like wind-resistant glass to be a green upgrade, but as research begins to define standards of sustainability, it’s only a matter of time before green technologies and resistant materials merge to produce the highest standards of construction.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions?  Drop me an email or leave your musings below.

 

Something to Hang Your Hat On… (Limitation of Liability clauses) (law note)

hat rackIn the past on this blog, I have pointed out the benefits of Limitations of Liability clauses.  These are the clauses that state that the most damages that your Firm can be responsible for is capped at a certain dollar amount or your contracted fee. 

Do you have a limitations of liability clause in your professional services contract?  You should.  Best practice would be to have such a clause that limits damages against you to a set amount.  For example:

Engineer’s liability to Client for any and all injuries, claims, losses, expenses, damages or claim expenses arising out of this agreement, from any cause or causes, shall not exceed the total amount of $50,000 or the amount of Engineer’s fee, whichever is greater.

While best practice is to have such a provision, it is not always enforced.  In a case arising out of the Western District of North Carolina, the court noted that such provisions will not be enforced where the result would be unconscionable and “elicit a profound sense of injustice.” See  Performance Sales & Mktg., LLC v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc.,2010 WL 2294323 (W.D.N.C. June 4, 2010).

What does this mean in practical terms?  It means that you should endeavor to include a limitation of liability clause, but don’t necessarily think that if you have that you’ve capped your risk.  A court can always decide that the clause is unconscionable.  But, such a limitation is one more thing to “hang your hat on” if and when you find yourself staring down the barrel of litigation*.

* If, however, you are facing litigation, make sure you sign up for regular blog updates.  Starting next week, I am writing a new series on the anatomy of a construction lawsuit, so stick around! 

 

Photo:  (c) BabbNet via CC.

Understanding & Modifying Key Construction Contract Terms

As I mentioned, I  was one of three amigos who spoke on a Construction Contract webinar last week.  We had a good turn out and lots of very astute questions during the Q&A portion.  While you will miss all of my witty insightful helpful commentary, you can check out the slides for my portion, on understanding and modifying key terms, here:

Drafting Construction Contracts

My comrades’ presentations can be found by visiting Chris’s blog (for payment provision issues) and Craig’s blog (for damages and dispute resolution issues).  Happy viewing!

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