Featured Articles

George-Ketelhohn-Gort-photo-200x300Firm shareholder Georg Ketelhohn authored an article that appeared as the “Board of Contributors” guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper.  The article, which is titled “Ruling Clarifies the Use of Pre-Suit Notice in Construction Defect Lawsuits,” discusses how the application of the 10-year statute of repose for construction defect lawsuits in Florida became a bit clearer recently after one of the state’s district courts of appeal found that the requisite pre-suit notice qualified as the commencement of an action under the state’s limitation period.  Georg’s article reads:

Florida law provides a four-year statute of limitations for lawsuits founded on construction defects, but in cases of latent defects, the four-year period runs from the time the defect is discovered or should have been discovered. Florida law also provides for a 10-year statute of repose, which requires that any action founded on the design, planning or construction of an improvement to real property must be commenced within 10 years, regardless of whether the construction defect was latent. Florida’s Chapter 558 requires pre-suit notice and compliance with other pre-suit procedural requirements before filing a lawsuit alleging construction defects.

The case of Gindel v. Centex Homes involved allegations of latent defects in townhomes that were discovered by the homeowners only a few months prior to the expiration of the 10-year statute of repose. The owners subsequently provided the requisite pre-suit notice pursuant to Chapter 558 of the Florida Statutes to Centex approximately two months prior to the expiration of the 10-year repose period.

At the completion of the mandatory pre-suit procedure, which was more than one month after the expiration of the 10-year period, the builder declined to provide a remedy for the alleged defects and the homeowners filed suit.

dbrlogo-thumb-220x41-94239The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Centex. It disagreed with the homeowners’ argument that the action commenced upon the filing of the requisite pre-suit notice as prescribed under Chapter 558. The trial court concluded that the action commenced upon the filing of the suit, so it originated after the expiration of the 10-year period.

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NSiegfried-ABA-2018-300x300Firm shareholder Nicholas D. Siegfried served as a program co-chair for the American Bar Association Forum on Construction Law’s 2018 Fall Meeting.  The event, which took place Oct. 4-5, 2018 in Montreal, Canada and was titled “It’s Lonely at the Top: Building a Successful Team with the Owner,” drew more than 450 ABA members and construction law practitioners.

Together with his fellow co-chair, Nicholas led the development and planning for the meeting’s program, which focused on the best practices for building a successful project team.  It presented viewpoints from both in-house and outside counsel as well as consultants on topics including:

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  • Selecting the right delivery method for the project.
  • Negotiating contract clauses that lead to a successful project and avoid disputes.
  • Hot topics and issues with financing the project.
  • Innovative insurance products that help to reduce and allocate risks.
  • Strategies for addressing disputes proactively, before they mushroom into full-blown litigation.
  • The evolution of P3s and what their future holds in store.
  • Key ethical considerations and issues in the procurement and construction industry.

Our firm salutes Nicholas for playing an integral role in the planning of the program for this event.

George-Ketelhohn-Gort-photo-200x300For the second consecutive day, an article by one of our attorneys was featured as the “Board of Contributors” guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper.  The article, which is authored by shareholder Georg Ketelhohn and is titled “Going Strong: Slavin Doctrine Continues to Protect Florida’s Builders, Designers,” focuses on a recent appellate ruling that illustrates how the Slavin Doctrine continues to offer vital protections from liability for the state’s contractors, subcontractors and design professionals against future injuries alleged to have been caused by defects in their work.  Georg’s article reads:

The 60 year-old ruling by the state’s highest court held that a contractor’s liability in negligence, which is the duty of care that it owes to third parties, terminates if the property owner accepts the contractor’s work with patent defects. It is used to defend contractors from liability for patently obvious and apparent defects when they cause injuries after the property owner has accepted the improvements together with the responsibility for their ongoing maintenance and repair.

dbr-logo-300x57The recent ruling applying the doctrine was issued by the state’s Third District Court of Appeal in the case of Melitina Valiente v. R.J. Behar. It stems from the tragic death of a motorcyclist who collided with another vehicle at a Hialeah intersection in 2008. The subsequent complaint was filed by the victim’s mother against the city of Hialeah, R.J. Behar & Co., Williams Paving and Melrose Nursery, among others.

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Nick Siegfried 2013-thumb-160x240-60131Nicholas D. Siegfried has played a leadership role in the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association Forum on the Construction Industry, which he chaired from 2016 – 2018.  He has focused particularly on the group’s efforts behind the ACE Mentor Program, and on March 7th, 2018 he helped to lead students from various high schools in Washington D.C. through the Construction Negotiation Module that he had previously developed for the program.

ACE, which stands for architecture, construction and engineering, annually engages more than 9,000 high school students in a free, 16-session after-school program for those who are interested in learning more about career options in the construction field (www.acementor.org).  Practicing industry professionals mentor students during a 40-hour, hands-on curriculum that realistically simulates an actual design and construction project.  ACE not only exposes students to real-world opportunities, it also financially supports their success through scholarships and grants totaling more than $15 million since the program began in 1994.

Nicholas had previously helped develop the program’s Construction Negotiation Module and Mentor Guide, which are now being used by ACE Mentors nationwide to provide students with an overview of construction law, contractual relationships, contract administration/interpretation, construction claims, dispute resolution, negotiation, and settlement.  At the event, which was chronicled in a video for the organization in which Nicholas is featured (see below), he helped the team representing the property owner in the negotiation of a construction dispute.  The students learned about contract law, dispute resolution and negotiation tactics.

Our firm salutes Nicholas for his ongoing efforts to lead the ABA Young Lawyers Division Forum on the Construction Industry’s involvement with the ACE Mentor Program.

One of the most significant changes in years to the Florida laws governing construction defect litigation will take effect on July 1, and for some of the state’s real estate developers and general contractors the changes are going to bring meaningful relief.  The new law will provide one year for developers and contractors to file claims against design professionals, subcontractors and suppliers when they are hit with defect lawsuits just prior to the expiration of the 10-year deadline for latent defect litigation.

The new amendments to Section 95.11(3)(c) of the Florida Statutes are intended to correct what many believe to be an unfair byproduct of the state’s 10-year statute of repose, which functions as a final deadline for the filing of construction defect suits.  It provides that actions for latent construction defects must commence within 10 years of the last of the following four events:  the date of actual possession by the owner; the date of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy; the date of abandonment of construction if not completed; or the date of completion or termination of the contract between the professional engineer, registered architect or licensed contractor and their employer.

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Michael-Clark-Gort-photo-thumb-160x240-13551Firm partner B. Michael Clark Jr. authored an article that appeared as a “Board of Contributors” guest column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper.  The article, which is titled “Statute of Limitation Begins to Run When Principal Under Surety Bond Abandons Construction Project,” focuses on a recent ruling by the Second District Court of Appeal finding that the limitations period for action on a surety bond began to run when the principal under the bond abandoned a construction project.  Michael’s article reads:

The [Lexon Insurance v. City of Cape Coral and Coco of Cape Coral] case stems from an ordinance that was adopted by the city of Cape Coral in January 2005 to initiate the development of an approximately 450-acre parcel, which included a single-family subdivision to be built by Priority Developers.  The city’s ordinance required the developer to provide a surety bond, and Lexon issued two subdivision bonds totaling $7.7 million. Disputes arose, and the contractor stopped work on the project in March 2007.

dbrlogo-thumb-220x41-94239In March 2012, Coco of Cape Coral purchased the project for $6.2 million, and in July of the same year the city adopted a resolution demanding that Lexon fulfill its obligations under the bonds. When Lexon declined, the city filed suit against it for breach of contract and declaratory relief, and the claims were later assigned to Coco.

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Nick Siegfried 2013-thumb-160x240-60131Firm partner Nicholas D. Siegfried authored an article that appeared as a “Board of Contributors” guest column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper.  The article, which is titled “Contractors That Allow Court Notices to Fall Through the Cracks Will Face Severe Consequences,” focuses on the takeaways from a recent appellate ruling against a contractor that failed to file suit against a surety bond within the required 60 days.  His article reads:

In the case of Rabil v. Seaside Builders, a dispute arose between the homeowners and their contractor. Thereafter, the contractor recorded a construction lien against the property under Chapter 713, Florida Statutes, and filed suit.  The homeowners responded by posting a lien transfer bond and recording a notice of contest of lien.  The notice shortened the time for the contractor to file suit against the transfer bond from one year to 60 days. The clerk of court dbrlogo-300x57recorded a certificate of transfer of the lien to bond and mailed a copy to the contractor along with the notice of contest of lien.

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Michael-Clark-Gort-photo-thumb-160x240-13551Firm partner B. Michael Clark Jr. authored an article that appeared as a “Board of Contributors” guest column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper.  The article, which is titled “Fla. Supreme Court Finds Insurers Liable From Onset of Construction Defect Pre-Suit Process,” discusses the ramifications of the recent decision by the state’s highest court holding that the pre-litigation notice and repair process for construction defect cases does indeed constitute a claim which general liability insurance carriers must recognize.  The article reads:

The state’s pre-litigation defect procedure, outlined in Chapter 558, was enacted in 2003 to provide a means by which property owners could notify builders of alleged construction or design defects. The responsible contractors, subcontractors and design professionals must then either voluntarily resolve the defects or deny liability.  The goal of the statute was to reduce the amount of complex, multiparty construction defect litigation, which had ballooned during dbrlogo-300x57the building boom prior to the collapse of the housing market and the foreclosure crisis.

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Stuart-Sobel-2013-thumb-180x270-86799The firm’s Stuart Sobel was quoted in an article in today’s Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper, about a lawsuit by client ADF International, the steel contractor on Brightline’s downtown Miami train station.  ADF was hired in 2016 by Suffolk Construction Co. Inc., the MiamiCentral general contractor, to work on Brightline’s private passenger rail station and one of the office buildings in the complex.  The company claims it is owed $25.8 million for extra work blamed on on-site issues and incomplete and faulty plans.  It is suing Suffolk Construction, project architect and engineer Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, and All Aboard Florida, which plans to run Brightline trains between Miami and Orlando and is building MiamiCentral along Northwest First Avenue between Third and Eighth streets.

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ORivera-DBR-profile-11-17The firm’s Oscar R. Rivera was the subject of a profile article in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper.  The article, which is titled “Real Estate Attorney Oscar Rivera Traces Career Roots to Shredding Carbon Paper,” chronicles Oscar’s career in the law, which began when he was still in high school in the 1970s.  It reads:

Oscar R. Rivera’s first job at a law firm required him to go through the office trash cans to find and shred the discarded carbon sheets used to make copies of legal documents.

That was in the 1970s, and Rivera was in high school and working at a Miami management-side labor law firm. His shredding was meant to prevent a pro-union law firm from dumpster-diving to read the flimsy purple sheets to gain insight into its opponent’s strategy, Rivera said.

“If you looked at the carbon paper against the light, you could read the letter,” he said.

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