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!

Explaining Negligence in the Construction Industry (Guest post)

Today, a guest post by Anne Roberts.  Anne Roberts is a freelance writer. She writes blog posts, how-to articles, SEO copies, and many other types of content for several websites. Anne is currently a web content writer for personal injury attorneys.  (But we like her anyway!!)

Explaining Negligence in the Construction Industry

The construction world can be regarded as one of the most dangerous industries to work in. Because of the inherent hazards that come with working on a construction or repair project, both construction professionals and laborers uphold certain standards to ensure a safe working environment.

Contractors, surveyors, engineers, project managers to employers–all have a duty of care to observe. They make sure that assessments of risks involved in any facet of construction are made. Laborers, on the other hand, benefit from the assessments by exercising preventive measures.

Still, accidents happen.


Some of the most common accidents that occur in construction sites involve six-feet-or-more falls from ladders or stairs. Other accidents are caused by the failure to implement safety precautions, such as improper building of scaffolding, use of dangerous tools and unsafe machinery, and other hazardous issues.  Without proper implementation of safety precautions, working on an elevated surface may result to debilitating injuries and even death.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it has been estimated that fatal accidents involving construction workers accounted for 15 percent of all job-related deaths in the U.S.  Such injuries or deaths may not have happened if a certain construction or repair project employed safety rules or standards of care. Such occurrence is categorized as construction negligence.

Determining Liability 

When a serious accident happens, usually all parties involved are brought into the litigation, as cross-allegations of construction safety issues, construction defects, and construction administration/observation/inspection issues.  In North Carolina, an employee cannot sue his employer for a workplace accident (but instead seek a workers’ compensation recovery).  The employee can, however, bring a negligence action against any/all (other) responsible third parties.  [Editor’s Note: The parties may have rights to recover against each other if one is actively negligent and one is only passively negligent.  Otherwise, joint & several liability applies.]

To establish negligence, the injured party must prove the following four factors:

  1. The construction professionals involved have a duty of care;
  2. They breached or violated that duty of care;
  3. The breach of duty of care resulted to an injury; and
  4. The injury was the result of the construction professionals’ negligence.

[Editor’s Note:  The injured party also must not have been contributorily negligent.]

Other than in a construction or repair project site, construction negligence also happens on highway construction and post-construction efforts. Unsafe conditions during roadwork can be considered negligence, especially if workers, as well as motorists, consequently sustained certain injuries.

Even a complete building can be a source of negligence, in which the contractor or subcontractor failed to adhere to building codes. Construction defects, such as low structural integrity of the building, mechanical and electrical failure, and low-quality finishes, may lead to injuries and deaths.

Melissa again:  Thanks Anne for your post!       Readers:  Watch this space– I’m planning on posting an infographic tomorrow that will show construction accidents & related statistics.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, please leave any questions or thoughts in the comment section, below.

 Photo of workers on bamboo scaffolding (c) Terrance TS Tam.




7 Critical Mistakes that Engineers & Architects Make that Sabotage their Projects

7 critical mistakes engineers & architects makeA lawsuit could cost your company thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of dollars.  You will spend more time with your lawyer than you’d like– time you’d otherwise be able to spend on your business.  Sound fun?  Of course not. 

What can you do to lessen your risks of a lawsuit? 

Take a few minutes right now to download my free 6 page white paper entitled 7 Critical Mistakes that Engineers & Architects make that Sabatoge their Projects & Invite Litigation.  If you know what these critical, yet common, mistakes are, you can take steps to minimize your risk of being sued. 

Check it out by going to the right hand side of the blog’s main page and submitting a request for your free copy today.

Developers Rejoice Over Impact Fees Decision (news note)

Today I’m unveiling a new column here at Construction Law in North Carolina called “News Notes”.  News notes will be postings of current news items relating to the design (and construction) community.  [This means that sometimes I must be a tad drier than my usual festive self.  Consider yourself warned.]  If you have an idea for a News Note, drop me a line.

Much to the delight of developers and realtors across the state, the North Carolina Supreme Court recently affirmed a decision which struck down local school impact fees. The fees had been assessed to fund construction of new schools in the Cary portion of the Wake County schools to help with the Town ofCary’s  rapid growth.

Impact fees are usually enacted by local boards and town councils as Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances (APFO).  In 1999, the Town of Cary began assessing school impact fees on developers in certain portions of the town which faced overcrowding.  The revenue brought in by the fees was earmarked to pay for expansion of existing school facilities.  Notably, the Town of Cary has no separate school system from the rest of Wake County, and did not have the legal authority to control the provision of school facilities within the district. 

Last month, the state Supreme Court, in a tight 3-3 tie decision (with one abstention) left the Court of Appeals decision in place, rejecting the Town’s attempt to collect school facilities fees and declaring the fees illegal.  [As an aside, my firm represented another developer who intervened in the lawsuit; however, the facts were somewhat different and we were not involved in this appeal.]

The Cary case is not the first time the issue has arisen in the state.  Currituck County once proposed a similar APFO to fund school construction during the real estate boom as out-of-state residents from Virginia crossed into North Carolina in an attempt to flee the taxes and dismal school system in Chesapeake,Virginia.

The Currituck proposal was widely criticized by both local and state homebuilder’s associations. Across North Carolina, homebuilders and realtor groups worked together to stop attempts at passing such impact fees. These organizations have run into problems as cash-strapped local governments see impact fees as one method of paying for increasingly expensive public school construction.

The theory is that developers of new homes pass the impact fees along to new home buyers by raising the price of homes or lots. Existing residents are spared the tax increases caused by a rapid influx of new residents with school-aged children. Thus, the people responsible for the increased strain on the school system – the new residents – bear the burden of the tax increase.


Over the past decade, Durham, Union County, and Cabarrus County have instituted similar impact fees. All three such attempts were disallowed by various courts. Thus far, virtually all attempts at imposing such fees have been struck down, although there appears to be wiggle room in the case law. For example, impact fees collected for improvements that directly run to the property (such as water or sewer lines) are typically allowed. Additionally, other municipal governments impose fees related to schools that have not (yet) been decided in the state court system, and those may be broad enough to pass judicial scrutiny.

In this case, Cary’s ordinance assessed residential developments a mitigation fee if they did not first obtain a certificate from Wake County certifying classroom availability. Over $4 million was ultimately collected since the ordinance was first passed in 1999. Cary is now faced with the prospect of returning these fees, plus over $300,000 in attorney fees awarded to the developers who filed suit.  Ouch!!!

Comments or questions?  Post in the comment section, below.

Photo (c) Ivy Dawned via Creative Commons license.

Irene Damages Main Roadway on Outer Banks (pictures & data)

Hurricane Irene brought untold damage to much of the Eastern Seaboard over the weekend.

Our own Outer Banks, often a magnet for Hurricanes and nicknamed “Hurricane Harbor”, was hit once again.  Irene opened up two new (temporarily, at least) inlets and will require significant repairs to NC Route 12, the main transportation route on the Outer Banks.  Transportation engineers will be working on Rte 12 for some time.

A picture of one of the new inlets is below:

Hurricane Irene road damage on outer banks of NC

This picture comes from Western Carolina University’s Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines.  You can find much more information about the damages on various portions of the Outer Banks, and see other interesting pictures, by downloading the full report here: Update on Outer Banks after Irene.

PS:  I’m still receiving some great feedback and comments on my “Tell me what to write challenge” so I will extend the challenge through the weekend.  Those that got their suggestions in by the original deadline will get their names in the hat twice, but all ya need is one, as they say!  Keep ’em comin’.