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Can contractors seek damages for project delays?

South Florida contractors are likely familiar with the problem of a subcontractor or other party involved in a construction project who is woefully behind schedule and hangs up the project for those crews working on a build or remodel with them.

When delays begin to mount, those affected may look to their contracts to determine whether the Florida civil court system can provide them with some relief. Here's how that actually played out in Perez-Gurri v. McLeod, 238 So.3d 347 (Fl. Ct. App. 2018).

The above case determined whether contractors could petition the court for damages when parties other than the property owner could be responsible for paying out damages when delays extended beyond reasonable control.

In that case, the general contractor (GC) filed a lawsuit against an architect involved in a public contract with the City of Miami. The project was a renovation in Little Haiti, the Caribbean Marketplace section of Miami. After construction was delayed, the GC filed a malpractice against the multiple defendants, including subcontractors, engineers, designers and architects.

The project architect filed for summary judgment, claiming the GC's delay claim was barred by their contract's "No Damages for Delay" clause. The court granted the summary judgment in the architect's favor. Upon appeal, the Florida Court of Appeals reversed the ruling, determining the contract between the contractor and owner did not cover the architect on the project from liability.

They found that the GC was contractually barred from seeking damages from the owner for delays. However, the waiver of delays under contract was found not to extend to other parties, e.g., the architect. To wit:

"No claim for damages . . . other than for an extension of time, shall be made or asserted against City . . . except as provided herein. Contractor shall not be entitled to an increase in the Contract price or payment or compensation of any kind from City for direct, indirect, consequential, impact or other costs, expenses or damages . . . arising because of delay, disruption, interference or hindrance from any cause whatsoever . . ."

The court found that the emphasis language "expressly state[d]" protections from delay damage claims, and no language extended such protection to other defendants.

This is a great example of how such cases are quite specific and usually require the services of a Miami construction law attorney to sort out.

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