The 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 […]
The 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
For 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.”
The 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.
A 2015 opinion by the Fifth District Court of Appeal had significant ramifications for the application of the statute of repose in construction defect cases. In response to the uncertainty created by the ruling, Florida lawmakers have introduced a bill to clarify one the trigger dates for the tolling of the statute of repose.
In Cypress Fairway Condominium v. Bergeron Construction Co., the condominium association brought suit on February 2, 2011 on behalf of the condominium, and as assignee of claims held by the general contractor, for recovery of more than $15 million in damages caused by construction defects. Da Pau Enterprises, Inc., the only remaining defendant after other parties reached settlements, moved to dismiss and/or for summary judgment against the association, alleging that the statute of repose expired three days prior to the date the litigation commenced.
The statute of repose in Section 95.11(3)(c) 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.
At issue was the last of the four trigger events under Section 95.11(3)(c). The defendant argued that the statute of repose commenced the date the contractor submitted its Final Application for Payment on January 31, 2001, which represented the “completion of construction.” However, the association contended that the repose period did not begin until the date final payment was actually paid by the owner on February 2, 2001, which represented the date of the “completion of contract.” The trial court disagreed with the association and granted summary judgment to the defendant, dismissing its claims.
The Fifth DCA reversed, reasoning that the unambiguous statutory language of Section 95.11(3)(c) required the completion of performance of the contract by both parties, and not just the completion of the performance of the contractor’s duties under the contract. The appellate panel concluded that the statute of repose was not triggered upon completion of construction. It found that the final act for the “completion of the contract” was final payment, and not three days earlier when the Final Application for Payment was submitted.
The firm’s 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 “Contractor’s Fraudulent Lien Doesn’t Mean Owner Automatically Wins,” focuses on the surprising results of a recent ruling by the Fourth District Court of Appeal involving a contractor’s lien that the lower court found to be fraudulent. His article reads:
For those in the construction industry, the right to impose a lien against the improved property in the event of nonpayment is an effective tool to get paid. Chapter 713, Florida Statutes, as well as countless cases require lienors to prepare their liens accurately and to include only lienable items. The failure to properly prepare a claim of lien can result in a claim for punitive damages and exposure to attorney fees and costs.
However, based upon a Fourth District Court of Appeal case, not all is lost if a contractor’s lien is discharged as fraudulent. In fact, despite a contractor’s fraudulent lien, a contractor can still be deemed the prevailing party in an action against an owner and avoid a claim for attorney’s fees.
In Scott Newman v. Sony Construction et al., the homeowner retained the general contractor to build an addition to his home. When the owner failed to pay, the contractor ceased work, recorded a claim of lien for approximately $134,000 and later recorded a partial release of lien reducing the lien to about $100,000.
The contractor filed suit against the owner for foreclosure of the construction lien, breach of contract and quantum meruit (payments due that are not enforceable under contract). The owner filed a counterclaim against the contractor for fraudulent lien and breach of contract, and the parties subsequently agreed to a bifurcated proceeding whereby the trial court would first determine whether the claim of lien was fraudulent prior to a trial on the remaining issues.
The trial court found that many of the charges included in the lien amount by the contractor were not lienable. These included a charge for approximately $15,000 for supervision and an additional $22,200 for the contractor’s 20 percent profit margin. The trial court found that these charges, which represented a large percentage of the lien, were not supported by the contract between the parties and therefore were not lienable items. It also found other charges included in the lien for pool cleaning chemicals and services, hand tools purchased for use at the job site but not left on the premises after completion, air-conditioning warranty work and rental equipment abandoned by the contractor at the job site were “not lienable by any stretch of the imagination.”
Steven M. Siegfried, our firm’s founder who launched the practice 40 years ago in 1977, was the subject of a “Profiles in Law” article published by the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which appears in today’s edition of the newspaper, chronicles his career and highlights his achievements as a construction law specialist, professor and writer for the last four decades.
The profile article, written by DBR reporter Samantha Joseph, reads:
Steven M. Siegfried wrote the book on construction law. The literal book. The one the American Bar Association published in 1987 as an early nod to a then-fledgling practice area.
His work, “Introduction to Construction Law,” became a standard reference for real estate and construction lawyers across Florida for the past three decades. Over several incarnations, it helped establish the Siegfried Rivera Hyman Lerner De La Torre Mars & Sobel partner as a foremost authority on a specialty he’s long championed.
The article notes that Steve’s other publications focus on construction lien law, construction defects, condominium warranty claims and the statute of limitations, culminating with his authoring of “Florida Construction Law” by Aspen Publishers in 2001.
It states that his concentration on construction and community association law began in 1976, when he foresaw that the real estate sector would become a pillar of the region’s economy that would require highly specialized practitioners. The article notes that his firm “will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year. It employs 46 attorneys concentrating on real estate, construction, community associations, and property insurance . . . from offices in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.”
The firm’s Lindsey Thurswell Lehr authored a guest column that appeared in the “Board of Contributors” page of today’s Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which was titlted “Ruling Reinforces Need to Abide by Contracts in Construction Disputes,” focused on a recent Florida appellate court ruling finding that property owners which forgo the contractual mechanisms for resolving construction disputes will not prevail in the state’s courts. Her article reads:
Strictly adhering to the modus operandi for addressing and resolving disputes that is codified in construction contracts is essential to prevailing in any resulting litigation.
The Florida Third District Court of Appeal recently reinforced the obligation of construction defect litigants to adhere to the terms of their contract, finding that property owners which forgo the contractual mechanisms for resolving disputes will not succeed in Florida’s courts.
The ruling by the Third DCA in the case of Magnum Construction Management v. City of Miami Beach relieved the contractor of liability for alleged safety concerns with a playground that it installed at the city’s South Pointe Park. The appellate panel ruled that the city did not give the contractor the opportunity to fix the purported issues with the playground as required under its contract. Instead, the court stated that the city replaced the playground in its entirety without considering that the safety concerns could have been corrected by the contractor.
The court’s decision in this case reinforces the importance of abiding by all contract terms and requirements in construction disputes. Construction contracts often allow the contractor which performed the work to have the opportunity to fix and cure any purported problems and defects. If a property owner ignores this contractual stipulation, as the city of Miami Beach appears to have done in this case, Florida’s courts are very likely to rule against them.
This year our firm is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its founding. In 1977, Steven M. Siegfried had the vision to bring great lawyers and supporting staff together to focus on every aspect of Florida’s burgeoning construction, community association and real estate industries.
As Florida has grown, so too has SRHL. Maintaining our focus, we are now 46 attorneys in our three South Florida offices. As required by the evolution of the industries in which our clients excel, we have incorporated expertise in insurance, creditors’ rights, and the commercial transactions and disputes that relate to these core competencies. We also have developed an expertise in aircraft transactional work.
As we reflect on our 40 years of service in these vital industries, we take pride in having played significant roles in some of the most important and challenging projects throughout South Florida and the nation. We look forward to furthering our role as one of the most trusted sources for legal counsel and representation in these fields in the years to come.