QUICK NOTE: CHARTING YOUR CONTRACTUAL RIGHTS WITH RESPECT TO THE CORONAVIRUS

As more and more information is being learned, and more and more industries are being impacted, it is likely that the construction industry will follow suit.  And, while impacts with the global supply chain may not yet be realized, impacts could begin with labor supply and, frankly, employers’ safety protocols dealing with the coronavirus.  One suggestion that should be implemented is a detailed chart, similar to the below, where you are charting rights and obligations under your contracts dealing with force majeure, notice, and project suspensions.  This is step one to make sure you are making prudent decisions, preserving rights, and making sure contractual obligations are being met.  Be proactive, not reactive.

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

 

QUICK NOTE: QUESTIONS AS TO THE FORCE MAJEURE IMPLICATIONS OF THE CORONAVIRUS? DO NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT ME!

If you have questions or concerns, and I am sure you do, as it pertains to the coronavirus and its force majeure implications on construction projects you are involved with, please do not hesitate to contact me or someone else that you trust can help.   Do NOT take a reactionary position and wait for things to get worse or for there to be more formalized suspensions in place, or impacts realized.  It is not worth it.  Please make sure you are undertaking efforts to know your contractual rights and options so that you can develop the best plans to preserve these rights and options.  Do it for you, your business, your personnel, and all the people you rely on in the performance of your work.  I remain here to assist in any way that I can to help you get through any delay, impact, and interruption the coronavirus and its force majeure implications may have on your business.

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE, TO PRESERVE FORCE MAJEURE RIGHTS REGARDING THE CORONAVIRUS

If you are involved in construction, NOW is the time to consider the potential force majeure impacts associated with the pandemic Coronavirus.  Things are beginning to drastically change on a minute-by-minute basis.  From travel restrictions, to the suspension or cancellation of events on an international level, to company-wide policies and restrictions, the global uncertainty has led to the possibility that a force majeure delay will occur.  Thinking otherwise is not being proactive.  The Coronavirus, and the impacts / delays associated therewith, is beyond anyone’s control.  Due to the uncertainty, it is hard to fathom at this time a reasonable challenge to someone’s reaction to this concern or their companywide response to the concern.

 

If you are a contractor, subcontractor, or even a supplier, my suggestions would be as follows:

  1. Revisit your contracts and see what type of force majeure language it has – anything relating to delays beyond your control or epidemics;
  2. Examine to see whether you have a basis for additional compensation AND additional time;
  3. Examine what type of notice you are required to provide for force majeure events;
  4. Be proactive – send notice now of the potentiality that this pandemic can impact / delay the job –no one should take offense to this letter as this pandemic has impacted all walks of life;
  5. If an impact occurs, send follow-up notice accordingly to ensure rights under the contract are preserved; and
  6. For future contracts, incorporate language that specifically addresses epidemics and pandemics now that the occurrence of this issue has become real.

If you are an owner, I would suggest that you also revisit your contract to reacquaint with the force majeure provisions and whether a force majeure provision allows for additional compensation and time.  This is important for you to deal with too.  You should also consult with your insurance broker to review policies in place to see whether you have insurance to cover losses associated with a pandemic.

If you need assistance with any of these activities, or want to inquire as to your rights, please give me a call.  You can also call my cell at (954) 295-6117.  Be proactive, not reactive, and having a contingency in place, determining a solution, and preserving rights is the right approach.  I remain here to help and to steer you in the best possible direction in light of this uncertainty.

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

 

QUICK NOTE: SIMPLE BUT THORNY ISSUE OF “CONCURRENT DELAY”

The definition of concurrent delay” seems simple, but it can give rise to thorny issues including misunderstandings, not truly digging into the causes of the alleged concurrent delay, and the lack of apportionment of the concurrent delay period.   This is why when dealing with any delay it is good practice to work with a scheduling consultant in conjunction with counsel that understands how to best prosecute or defend against delay-related claims.   This includes dealing with the simple but thorny issue of concurrent delay.   There is a difference between arguing concurrent delay and actually proving it or apportioning the time period that benefits your interests or allows you to understand the practicality of the delay period.

In a nutshell:

If the contractor and the [owner] cause [independent] concurrent delays that affect the critical path of performance, neither party can recover delay-related damages unless the delays can be apportioned between the parties.”  K-Con Building Systems, Inc. v. U.S., 131 Fed.Cl. 275, 328 (Fed.Cl. 2017).   For there to be a concurrent delay, there needs to be independent delays by both the owner and contractor, and the independent delays needs to impact the critical path.  “If two delays occur at the same time and one is on the critical path and the other is not, then the delays should not be considered concurrent.”  CONBRIEF No. 2004-10, Concurrent Delay (2004).

Note that concurrent delay can occur in two different scenarios: (1) when both parties are responsible for delaying the same critical activity over the same period or (2) when each party delays a separate critical activity at the same time (there were multiple critical paths).  Both delays must be independent of one another.  In other words, the contractor’s delay cannot be as a result of, or contingent upon, the owner’s delay, or vice versa.

CONBRIEF No. 2005-12, Basic Analysis for Delay and Disruption Claims (2005)

For more on concurrent delay check here.  For more on understanding basic scheduling terms, check here.

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

MUTUAL OR CONCURRENT DELAY CAUSED BY SUBCONTRACTORS

How are delay damages treated when two subcontractors cause a mutual or concurrent delay to the project?

Assume multiple subcontractors concurrently contributed to an impact to the critical path resulting in a delay to the project.  The delay caused the prime contractor to: (1) be assessed liquidated damages from the owner and (2) incur extended general conditions.  The prime contractor will be looking to the subcontractors for reimbursement for any liquidated damages it is assessed along with its extended general conditions costs.

There is really no great case that addresses this point when two (or more) subcontractors mutually or concurrently delay the project.  It is also not uncommon, and frankly expected, that a subcontractor will point the finger at another subcontractor for the cause of the delay or that another subcontractor was concurrently delaying the project.

The prime contractor should absolutely, without any exception, undertake efforts with a scheduling consultant to allocate the delay caused by subcontractors.  Taking an approach that joint and several liability applies between multiple subcontractors and/or not trying to apportion delay because the subcontractors concurrently delayed the critical path at the same time is probably not the best approach. The prime contractor should have an expert render an opinion as to the allocation of the delay period amongst responsible subcontractors that delayed the critical path. Not doing so, in my opinion, is a mistake.

For example, in the unpublished decision in Alcan Electrical & Engineering Co., Inc. v. Samaritan Hosp., 109 Wash.App. 1072 (Wash. 2002), a dispute arose between a general contractor and its electrical subcontractor on a hospital project.  The general contractor looked to recoup assessed liquidated damages caused by the electrical subcontractor.   The project was 201 days late attributable to the electrical subcontractor and, largely, the mechanical subcontractor. The trial court determined that the electrical subcontractor was only liable for 31 days of delay.

An appeal arose because the general contractor wanted to hold both subcontractors jointly and severally liable for the 201 days of delay. The Washington Court of Appeals was not accepting this argument.  Instead, it held that that the amount of delay attributable to the two subcontractors is a question to be resolved by the trier of fact.  This is exactly what the trial court did by finding that of the 201 days of delay, 31 days of delay was caused by the electrical subcontractor while the remaining 170 day of delay was caused by the mechanical subcontractor.

But, in another example from an unpublished decision, U.S. el rel. Belt Con Const., Inc. v. Metric Const. Co., Inc., 314 Fed.Appx. 151 (10th Cir. 2009), a general contractor looked to allocate liquidated damages to its masonry subcontractor due to delays to the construction of a federal training center.  The subcontract allowed the general contractor to equitably allocate delay damages among subcontractors as long as its decision was made in good faith.  The trial court, affirmed by the appellate court, found that the general contractor did not allocate the damages in good faith because the initial delay analysis it performed was submitted to the owner and allocated ALL of the delay to the owner.  Then, for purposes of trial, it simply adopted its trial expert’s analysis that allocated delay to subcontractors.  This issue alone hurt the contractor and, importantly, its expert’s credibility at trial.  (This is a reminder that there should be ONE delay analysis for the project and what is presented to the owner should not be conflicted with by delay analysis separately presented to subcontractors.)

Moreover, the court, applying California law, found that there was no law that supported the apportionment of a true concurrent delay. But, in my opinion, this did not make much sense because at trial both the general contractor and subcontractor’s experts rendered opinions allocating the delay caused by the culpable subcontractors.

Irrespective of the Court’s decision in this case, the best approach, mentioned above, is to allocate the delay period.  Thus, if two subcontractors mutually contributed to a 30-day window of time, an expert should be used to analyze that 30-day window of time to allocate the days to the two subcontractors.  Again, taking the approach that joint and several liability should apply or that an allocation is not necessary is a mistake.

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

IS THE ENFORCEABILITY OF A NO-DAMAGE-FOR-DELAY PROVISION INAPPROPRIATE FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Is the enforceability of a no-damage-for-delay provision inappropriate for resolution on a summary judgment?  The recent decision in U.S. f/u/b/o Kingston Environmental Services, Inc. v. David Boland, Inc., 2019 WL 6178676 (D. Hawaii 2019), dealing with Florida law, suggests that it is inappropriate for a summary judgment resolution, particularly when there is a right to a jury trial.

In this case, a prime contractor was hired on a federal construction project in Hawaii.  The prime contractor hired a subcontractor and the subcontractor sued the prime contractor and its surety under the Miller Act.  Of interest, the subcontractor was seeking to recover for the costs it incurred due to construction delays.  The prime contractor moved for summary judgment as to the no-damage-for-delay provision in the subcontract.  The no-damages-for-delay provision read as follows (and it is a well-written no-damage-for-delay provision):

The Subcontractor expressly agrees that the Contractor shall not be liable to the Subcontractor for any damages or additional costs, whether foreseeable or unforeseeable, resulting in whole or in part from a delay, hindrance, suspension, or acceleration of the commencement or execution of the Work, caused in whole or in part by the acts or omissions, whether negligent or not, of the Contractor including other subcontractors or material suppliers to the Project, its agents, employees, or third parties acting on behalf of the Contractor. The Subcontractor’s sole remedy for any such delay, hindrance, suspension, or acceleration shall be a noncompensable time extension.

It is well-settled in Florida that a no-damage-for-delay provision is enforceable.

But, there are three main exceptions to the enforceability of a no-damage-for-delay provision:  “if the delays were occasioned by [1] the [contractor]’s fraud, [2] concealment, or [3] active interference with [the subcontractor]’s performance under the contract.”  David Boland, Inc., 2019 WL at *3 (citation omitted).

Here, the prime contractor wanted the Court to enforce the no-damage-for-delay provision.  The subcontractor, no different than any other subcontractor, claimed that the exceptions to the enforceability of the no-damage-for-delay provision applied.   In addressing this issue, the Court noted: “At the outset, it bears emphasis that whether a party has actively interfered with another party’s contractual obligation is a question usually inappropriate for resolution at the summary judgment stage because the issue is highly case-specific and fact intensiveDavid Boland, Inc., 2019 WL at *4 (internal quotation and citation omitted).

The Court found that the prime contractor and subcontractor disputed facts relevant to the enforceability of the no-damage-for-delay provision (shocker!) and a jury could find that the prime contractor knowingly delayed or actively interfered with the subcontractor’s performance.  Such facts included:

  • Correspondence between the prime contractor and government that the prime contractor was unresponsive;
  • Correspondence that the government noted that the prime contractors’ schedules were fatally flawed and unreliable because they contained erroneous logic ties, unrealistic activity durations, and inaccurate scopes of work;
  • Correspondence that the government noted that the prime contractor’s poor schedule management was a detriment to the job;
  • Correspondence that the government accused the prime contractor of deceitfully and unethically manipulating schedule logic and durations to eliminate its own delays; and
  • Testimony from the subcontractor that the prime contractor prevented the subcontractor from accessing planned construction areas, resolving issues to allow the subcontractor to proceed, and failing to complete other activities which disrupted and impacted the subcontractor’s performance.

Think about it.  Such facts can ultimately be found on any delayed project, particularly a project where the owner is claiming the contractor is liable for the delays while not recognizing its own delays.  Also, it is expected that the subcontractor would claim that but for the delays and impacts it was ready, willing, and able to productively proceed with its work.  Hence, all of the facts that the Court took into consideration as stating there to be a question of fact for the jury are facts that would seem to universally make the enforceability of the no-damage-for-delay provision a finder of fact (jury) question.

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

 

DELAYS CAUSED WHEN GOVERNMENT (OWNER) PUSHES CONTRACTOR’S WORK INTO RAINY / ADVERSE WEATHER SEASON

There are a number of horizontal construction projects where a contractor’s sequence of work and schedule is predicated on avoiding the rainy season (or certain force majeure events).  The reason is that the rainy season will result in delays due to the inability to work (and work efficiently) during the adverse weather (including flooding caused by the weather).   If the work is pushed into the rainy season, is such delay compensable if the government (or owner) delayed the project that pushed work out into the rainy season?  It very well can be.

 

For example, in Meridian Engineering Co. v. U.S., 2019 WL 4594233 (Fed. Cl. 2019), a contractor was hired by the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a flood control project for a channel in Arizona. Due to delays, including those caused by the government, the project was pushed into the monsoon season, which caused additional delays largely due to flooding caused by the heavy rain.  One issue was whether such delays were compensable to the contractor – the government raised the argument that the contractor assumed the risk of potential flooding from the rainy season.  The Court found this argument unconvincing:

[The contractor’s] initial construction schedule planned for a completion of the channel invert work, a necessary step in protecting the site from flooding, to be completed by late June 2008…[M]any issues arose in the project’s early stages that led to cumulative substantial delay, including those caused by the government’s failure….The government cannot now claim that [the contractor] assumed the risk of flooding from monsoon season when the government was largely responsible for [the contractor’s] inability to complete the project prior to the beginning of the monsoon season.  Simply put, the government cannot escape liability for flood damages when the government is responsible for causing the contractor to be working during the flood-prone season.

Meridian Engineering, 2019 WL at *7 (internal citations omitted)

In other words, but for delays caused by the government, the contractor’s work would not have been pushed into the monsoon season.  The Court’s outcome, perhaps, would have been different if the contractor was the sole cause of delays that pushed the project into the monsoon season or the contractor’s original schedule was unrealistic to begin with.

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

PROVING IMPACTS TO CRITICAL PATH TO DEFEAT LIQUIDATED DAMAGES ASSESSMENT

When a contractor is staring down the barrel of an owner’s assessment of liquidated damages, the burden will fall on the contractor to establish that the delay was attributable to the owner and the owner’s agents.  The contractor will want to do this not only to defeat the assessment of liquidated damages, but because it will want to establish that the delay caused it to incur extended field overhead (general conditions) for which the owner is responsible.   A contractor supports its burden by proving the impacts to its critical path.  “In general, proving an allegation of government-caused delays without a means of showing the critical path is a steep prospect.”  James Talcott Construction v. U.S., 2019 WL 1040383, *8 (Fed. Cl. 2019) (unreported opinion) (finding that because contractor did NOT present a critical path analysis it could not support its claim for delay caused by the government).

Avoiding the assessment of liquidated damages means the contractor needs to support that it encountered excusable delay and it is/was entitled to an extension of time to complete the project.

An excusable delay is one due to causes that are unforeseeable, beyond the contractor’s control, and not resulting from its fault or negligence.  The delay must be to overall contract completion, meaning ‘it must affect the critical path of performance.’  If the failure is excusable, then appellant [contractor] would be entitled to time extensions and thus remission of LDs [liquidated damages].

Appeal of – Maruf Sharif Construction Co.,ASBCA No. 61802, 2019 WL 410470 (2019) (internal citation and quotation omitted).

A contractor presenting a critical path analysis allocating delay may become imperative when seeking remission of a liquidated damages assessment and, potentially, proving its own entitlement to extended general conditions.  Again, the burden falls on the contractor; therefore, not proving the impacts to the critical path and the excusable delay the contractor should be entitled to will likely result in the contractor failing to carry its burden.

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

EBOOK: DELAY! THE PROJECT IS LATE – WHAT DO YOU DO, WHO IS AT FAULT, AND HOW DO YOU ALLOCATE THE DELAY?

Over the years, I have put on presentations for project teams discussing the concept of delay — a late project — and related topics.  I discuss key terms relative to delay by using various hypotheticals. It is an interactive presentation that solicits the audience’s input so they are thinking about these issues that project teams deal with in real time on all of their projects (among all of the other issues they are navigating through on a daily basis). Although the actual presentation goes into much more detail that is oftentimes dictated by the audience’s input, I decided to turn a version of the presentation into a short ebook that can be found on Amazon of Apple, since it was easy to do so and, because, it is important for project teams to understand terms and application relative to delay so that they can best preserve rights in real time while they are dealing with a million other things on the project.

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

HOW DOES YOUR CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT TREAT FLOAT

shutterstock_480673663Although there are different types of construction schedule float and more technical definitions, the definition that makes sense to me is that float is the amount of time a particular activity can be delayed without that activity delaying the project’s completion date (substantial completion date).  In looking at a construction schedule, this determination is made from looking at the difference between the early start date for an activity and the late start date for that activity or the difference between the early finish date for that activity and the late finish date for that activity in your CPM schedule (which should be the same amount of time).  This is often referred to as “total float” and is the float that I usually focus on since it may pertain to a delay to the substantial completion date of the project and can trigger either the assessment of liquidated damages and/or the contractor’s extended general conditions, whatever the case may be.

 

Consider this hypothetical discussed in Weaver-Bailey Contractors, Inc. v. U.S., 19 Cl. Ct. 474, 481 (1990) that discusses the concept of total float by using a simple example that may apply to a residential house job:

 

To reiterate, a critical path activity is one which, if allowed to grow in duration at all, will cause the overall time required to complete the project to increase. By contrast, an activity with float time may grow in duration up to a certain point, without an adverse impact on the time required to complete the project. Consider the example of a contractor who committed himself to building a house, beginning on January 1, 1989. The contractor has determined that he will need one year to complete the job. Pouring the foundation is a critical path activity because any increase in the amount of time required to complete the foundation will cause an increase in the amount of time needed to complete the house; work on the walls, floors, roof, and utilities cannot begin until the foundation is complete.

***

Suppose that as part of the job, the contractor promised to build a fence along two edges of the property, and that building the fence will take 20 days. No other work depends on the completion of the fence, so delaying work on the fence until December 11, 1989 will not put the contractor in danger of late completion. In other words, building the fence is an activity with a lot of float time. However, float time is never unlimited. If on December 20 the contractor has yet to begin the fence, or if there is more than 11 days’ worth of fencing work to be done as of December 20, then the contractor will not finish the job on time. From the foregoing, one can make the following generalization: regardless of whether an activity is on the critical path of a project, if the time required to complete the activity is greater than the time remaining to complete the project, then project completion will be delayed.

***

Consider now the effect on our hypothetical contractor if on December 1, before fencing work had begun, the buyer of the house told the contractor that he would like all four sides of the property to be fenced, thereby doubling the fencing work. Clearly the contractor could not complete the entire project by the end of the year, but through no fault of his own. The time required for the fencing portion of the job is now 40 days, and the contractor has only 31 days left.

  

Many contracts, particularly in the public sector, contain a float-sharing provision that basically says that total float is for the benefit of the project and not for the exclusive benefit of either the owner or the contractor.  There are different ways this can be worded.  Under this float-sharing provision, construction is taken as it occurs such that use of float is typically applied on a first-come first-serve basis provided parties acted in good faith through the use of the float (good faith, obviously, being a relative term).  This obviously can work for or against a party based on when a delay occurs during construction.

 

There are contracts that include language that provide that float is for the exclusive use and benefit of the owner.  Under such a clause, float is not for the benefit of the contractor to account for contractor-caused delays; rather, it is for the sole use of the owner to apply to delays it may cause.  When I am representing the contractor, I warn them of the risk of this language as it takes away from the anticipated uncertainty that exists in construction, which is why schedules are never written in stone.  Further, if an owner can consume all of the float, it shifts, in my opinion, quite a bit of risk to the contractor since the owner can breach certain time commitments or obligations in the contract under the premise that it was consuming available float.  When I am representing the owner, I generally do not include such a provision as I tend to subscribe more to the presumed equity of a float-sharing provision, as such a provision can certainly benefit an owner with delays that occur early on in the job.

 

There is also the sentiment that float-sharing provisions, no different than provisions that give the owner exclusive use of float, are equally unfair.  There is an air of truth to this sentiment because a contractor generates the schedule and controls the means and methods of construction.  In doing so, the contractor, through experience, tries to conservatively, but flexibly, account for certain delays it can reasonably anticipate that perhaps would be consumed by float in the schedule.  The contractor cannot reasonably account for owner-caused delays and, in reality, an owner would not want the contractor to do so because there would be a huge time contingency built into the schedule to account for such unknown delays (e.g., is the permit going to be issued on time, is the designer going to promptly respond to RFIs and submittals, is there going to be change orders, is there going to be a design issue, etc).  The owner would never agree to this because it would simply delay the completion date. 

 

How does your construction contract treat float?  How does it define float?  How does the consumption of float potentially impact your project based on how you scheduled activities through completion of the project? 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.