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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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The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) contract documents, which are generally regarded as the construction industry standards, are updated by the organization every 10 years, and the 2017 update released earlier this year contains considerable changes from the 2007 editions.

The changes in the documents directly impact the roles and responsibilities of each of the parties in construction and design contracts.  Some of the major owner/contractor changes include:

  • New exhibit with comprehensive insurance and bonds provisions that can be attached to many of the AIA owner/contractor agreements.
  • Expression provision in the AIA A201-2017 General Conditions addressing the rights of the contractor and the obligations of the owner in the event of a loss on the project if there is no property insurance procured.
  • New provisions relating to direct communications between the owner and contractor.
  • Revised provisions pertaining to the owner’s obligation to provide proof that it has made financial arrangements to pay for the project and the contractor’s rights related thereto.
  • Simplified provisions for the contractor to apply for, and receive, payments.
  • Single Sustainable Projects Exhibit that can be used on any project and added to most AIA contracts to address the risks and responsibilities associated with sustainable design and construction services.

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Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars & Sobel, P.A. achieved a significant milestone this year, celebrating 40 years of providing quality legal service to the South Florida, Florida and national communities. As we enter the fifth decade together, we are thankful for the relationships which we have built here in our backyard and beyond. It’s because of these relationships — and the trust we have earned—that we’ve continued to grow and flourish over the years. As we look back at where we have been, we are excited about where we are headed.

We take pride in the personalized professionalism we offer our clients. We will continue to mentor and expand our team to ensure we offer that same level of service as our younger attorneys transition into new leadership roles.  To commemorate our journey, we produced a short film explaining our plan to perpetuate our legacy throughout the 21st Century. Because we’ll still be here—you can trust us on that.

ErvinGonzalez2015-199x300The latest edition of the University of Miami Law Review, the quarterly legal journal published by the UM School of Law, features an article that was authored by the firm’s Steven M. Siegfried, H. Hugh McConnell and James S. Czodli, together with Allen Bonner and the late Ervin A. Gonzalez of Colson Hicks Eidson.  The article, which is titled “The Economic Loss Rule: Is a Building a Product? — Another View,” is among the last published works co-authored by Gonzalez (pictured here), the highly renowned civil trial attorney who tragically passed away in June.  Our firm’s attorneys and professionals extend our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to Ervin’s family, friends and colleagues.

Click here to read the complete article in the publication’s website.

Nick-Siegfried-2013-thumb-160x240-60131For insight into the ramifications of important court rulings involving construction law in South Florida, the region’s most widely read and highly regarded business and real estate media outlets often turn to the expertise of our firm’s construction lawyers.  The latest example can be found in articles on an appellate ruling against the Trump National Doral golf resort that appeared today in the Daily Business Review, The Real Deal and South Florida Business Journal.  Journalists from all three of these outlets interviewed firm partner Nicholas D. Siegfried, who is board certified in construction law by The Florida Bar, and quoted him in their articles.

The litigation stems from The Paint Spot’s 2014 lien against Trump National Doral Miami, which is owned by companies belonging to President Donald Trump.  The paint supplier claimed it was due a final payment of approximately $32,000 from the resort.  The renovation project utilized two contractors, and a Trump representative inadvertently handed The Paint Spot incorrect contractor information for its pre-suit notice to owner.

The Trump company argued the lien was invalid because The Paint Spot had served the wrong contractor.  However, the appellate court ruled that the resort had actual knowledge of the supplier’s “notice to owner,” which had “substantially complied with statutory requirements.”

dbr-logo-300x57The end result for the Trump company is that by fighting the $32,000 bill, it will now end up paying well over 10 times as much just for the plaintiff’s attorney fees.  According to the report by the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper, the resort is now facing a legal tab of approximately $390,000 to cover the prevailing party’s attorneys’ fees and costs.

That’s because the circuit court ruling applied a risk, or contingency fee, multiplier of 1.75 to calculate The Paint Spot’s reasonable attorney rates, which amounted to approximately $284,000 prior to the appeal.  Now the company expects to tack on the multiplier for the appellate proceedings, multiplying the $75,000 it incurred on appeal also by 1.75.  In addition, the amount for the lien itself has ballooned with interest to about $50,000, and the costs for the resort’s own legal fees undoubtedly are also very substantial.

The article concludes:

“This is what happens in these cases.  Legal fees start to drive it,” said construction attorney Nicholas Siegfried, who was not involved in the litigation. “It appears that it got to a point where the parties were really fighting about the fees, and both sides dug in on their position,” he said.

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