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Florida Construction Law Blog

Pedestrian bridge collapse causes probed

Even before the dust had settled on the wreckage of the collapsed Florida International University (FIU) pedestrian bridge, fingers were being pointed at those who allegedly may have some responsibility in the disaster that has thus far killed six people.

The newly-installed span was erected over the eight traffic lanes below on Saturday, March 10. Weighing 950 tons, the structure cost over $19 million to build and was still under construction at the time of the collapse.

Are you liable for all construction defects?

It's a contractor's nightmare — being sued for construction defects on a project your company completed. But are you the liable party?

Most claims of construction defects involve allegations of negligence, strict liability or breach of warranty or contract.

Construction agreements involve good faith and fair deals

When dealing with construction contracts, it's vital to get the language correct to avoid unnecessary and costly litigation.

Contracts provide protection and shouldn't be used as swords, but as shields. When one party overzealously or aggressively uses contracts to gain unfair advantage over another party, it's a violation of both fair dealing and good faith. Those two concepts form the bedrock of all contract negotiations and assure that all parties' interests are fairly represented.

Can you avoid a costly construction lawsuit?

If you are a Broward County contractor, you may have faced lawsuits related to construction disputes. While some litigation may be unavoidable in this industry, many mistakes can be prevented or corrected before the paper chase begins.

Familiarizing yourself with common causes of construction lawsuits and suggestions for how to avoid them could help your business in the future.

Could your disposal of hazardous waste be illegal?

If your Fort Lauderdale construction company runs afoul of federal laws regarding disposal of hazardous waste, it can cost you plenty of money in fines and penalties.

The agency that deals with the disposal of hazardous waste is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the construction industry, a common hazard that requires special handling and disposal is asbestos. While asbestos has not been used in new builds for many decades, developers often encounter it when a project involves a tear-down in order to clear the space for its eventual construction use.

Would you recognize fraud in your construction company?

One survey done a few years ago by Kroll's Global Fraud Report indicated that fraud occurs in 78 percent of construction companies. The construction industry also comes in at second place for the highest incidences of physical assets being stolen — 36 percent.

It's far easier to prevent fraud in the construction industry than to try to recoup the losses from it. Below are some common ways fraud could affect your construction firm.

Can this partnership dispute be avoided?

There is no doubt that construction is a hands-on business. If you are a contractor, you are used to striding around a job site wearing a hard hat and a pair of steel-toed boots. Climbing a ladder to inspect a third-story roof is second nature to you. Your idea of hell is sitting behind a desk in some office.

But a common problem for some contractors is the inherent personality differences they have with their business partners. Make no mistake — partnering with someone who has a different but equally as important skill set than you is the basis of many a successful partnership. Disputes arise when expectations, strategies and managerial philosophies diverge too far from what each partner believes is best.

Does your contract allow too much wiggle room?

Business negotiations are both an art and a skill. For those in the real estate development and/or construction industries, profits can rise or fall dependent upon the terms of a contract.

The best contracts are air-tight and clearly delineate the separate parties' responsibilities. But some contracts have as many holes in them as a slice of Swiss cheese. When you are dealing with a shady or unethical business counterpart, you may inadvertently stumble into the trap of the default tactic.

Should you file a mechanic's lien?

If you are a supplier or subcontractor working under a shady contractor and the contractor fails to pay you for goods or services, you may be faced with filing a mechanic's lien against the homeowner's property.

It can seem very unfair to the property owner to be faced with paying for an item or labor twice. However, you have little other recourse available to you in these type of disagreements.

Ooops! Whose insurance covers construction mistakes?

If you are a contractor, you know that even the best intentions can lead to mistakes, and sometimes they can be quite costly to repair. In these scenarios, whose insurance picks up the tab — yours or the homeowner's?

In all likelihood, it will be the contractor's liability insurance that is tapped first to repair any damages. This is why it is imperative for contractors to carry adequate insurance coverage to avoid being named a defendant in a civil suit.

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