The Most Common Causes of Construction Litigation

Written by: Natalie Klyashtorny

Disputes can arise at any stage of the construction process, from commitments at a project’s start to fundamental disputes over performance after its completion. Contracts outline what is promised between two parties during a project. If the end result is not as stated in the contract (or something on the project goes awry), the affected party may make a legal claim for breach of contract.

Construction litigation can be quite complex due to the high number of parties and numerous moving parts involved. This creates several opportunities for issues to arise that can quickly skew the project’s deadline or halt the production altogether. Someone dealing with construction litigation may deal with anything from material suppliers, to local government agencies that provide permits, to contractors, architects, and property owners.

In this blog, we discuss the most common causes of construction litigation.

  1. Nonpayment: When general or trade contractors complete a project and the owner does not provide the agreed-upon compensation, contractors can sue for nonpayment. For most cases of nonpayment, contractors will file a mechanic’s lien. These documents go further than just a standard lawsuit. In fact, they become attached to the deed or title of the property and appear on public record, meaning the property cannot be sold until the liens are dealt with. Unless the contractor has gone against the terms of the contract, the owner of the project is obligated to complete the transaction.
  2. Failure to Meet Contractual Terms: Like with all contracts, the devil is in the details. Omitting the important details out of a contract opens the door to conflict, but failing to meet your contractual terms opens the door for lost profits and business. Well-worded contracts are the ultimate difference-maker in the construction industry, but only if you’re equipped with the tools to satisfy every detail. Remember, even if you uphold all of your personal obligations, your subcontractors and material suppliers could upend your entire project.
  3. Construction Delays: Construction delays are arguably the biggest stressor on job sites and can come about due to weather, permit delays, materials, labor, and much more.  While delays are generally not the fault of the contractor, some written agreements require a completion date. That means the contractor can incur penalties for every month, or even week, after the cutoff date. Things like weather and natural disasters are out of human control. But when it comes to delays due to things like delivering materials or getting permits, the guilty parties are often unaffiliated with the project’s contract. Unfortunately, that means the project owner and the contractor are the ones stuck with the blame.
  4. Workplace Injuries: Despite the increase in safety protocols throughout the industry, incidents still occur on construction sites every day. When a worker gets injured, there is a lot to consider before deciding who is at fault. If the worker intentionally puts him or herself at risk, they are responsible for their own actions. However, if the worker did not receive proper safety education or if the working conditions are unsafe, those in charge would be held liable.
  5. Overall Quality of Construction: Quality of construction is extremely important for a number of reasons. For example, if construction is not up to standard, the building poses a threat to all who enter—which could potentially lead to catastrophic consequences. When an owner finds issues with their finished structure, or if it does not pass inspections, the blame will likely fall on the contractor. Perhaps the laborers were not skilled enough, or the materials used were lower quality than agreed upon. There are cases in which claims can be refuted, like when the contractor did use the materials discussed in the contract (or materials proved to be faulty). Either way, a building that is flawed or dangerous clearly needs to be fixed—meaning more costs, more labor, and more time for your business.

How an Attorney Can Help with Construction Litigation

An attorney with the requisite experience and knowledge provides the greatest benefit for their clients through involvement in all stages of the construction process. Having an attorney present at the inception of the project allows the client and the lawyer to work together toward common goals. Contracts are the lifeblood of the construction industry. A well-written, clearly detailed contract can save contractors from future headaches by having all the necessary contingencies in place when a dispute arises.  If a dispute or other issue does arise later on, the client should immediately seek out the services of an experienced litigation attorney.

At Nochumson P.C., we are more than legal counsel. We are people serving our neighbors and community in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Knowing that real communication between real people can help lead to real positive results, our team of attorneys are available 24/7 to help answer your legal questions and to fight for you with skill and fortitude, whatever the case may be. When you hire us, you can expect a sensible and cost-effective approach to legal counsel. We think fast, think ahead, and get things done. Contact us today or call us at (215) 399-1346 to see how we can represent you.