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A recent ruling by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal reiterates that the terms of the warranty sued upon will ultimately dictate the forum for litigation of construction defects. For property owners considering suit, it is important to consider the implications of any forum selection clause prior to filing suit.

The appellate court’s opinion in West Bay Plaza Condominium Association v. Sika Corporation arose from the association’s appeal of the dismissal of its complaint based upon it being filed in the wrong court.

The dispute arose from work performed by a builder, construction manager and engineer for the association.  Sika, a supplier for the project, issued a five-year warranty to the association for sealant products used in the condominium’s parking garage. 3rd-dcapp-300x200The association sued Sika as well as the other parties involved in the project alleging breach of contract and negligence. It sued Sika for breach of warranty alleging that the sealants provided had allowed water to intrude into the garage.

Sika moved to dismiss, asserting that the warranty contained a forum selection clause requiring claims to be litigated in New Jersey. The association argued that it should not be required to litigate in New Jersey because it had never signed the warranty with Sika. However, the trial court dismissed the suit against Sika.

The appellate court affirmed.

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Stuart-Sobel-2021-2-200x300The firm’s lawsuit against Suffolk Construction on behalf of Suncor, a structural steel fabricator, involving the construction of the new Virgin Voyages cruise terminal at PortMiami completed last year was the subject of an article from April 6 by The Real Deal.  The breach of contract lawsuit filed in March in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleges Suffolk withheld $2.6 million in payments, including for extra expenses accrued because the plans it provided were erroneous and incomplete.  The article reads:

. . . As the design-build contractor, Suffolk was responsible for the plans provided by the engineer. So, to the extent there were any errors or gaps, the accountability falls on Suffolk, said attorney Stuart Sobel, who represents Suncor.

RDeal“Suncor has done something like 100 jobs for Suffolk all over the country for 25 years. They had a great relationship with Suffolk until this job,” Sobel said. “And they are really at a wit’s end to explain why Suffolk has taken this position.”

Boston-based Suffolk declined comment.

Suffolk accused Suncor of delaying the job, but the steel contractor has proven that it did not, according to Sobel.

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Stuart-Sobel-2021-2-200x300When the editors and reporters at the Daily Business Review are seeking sage legal wisdom on major construction lawsuits involving high-profile projects for their readers, they turn to the firm’s Stuart Sobel for his input.  Stuart, who is board certified in construction law by The Florida Bar, was quoted extensively by the DBR on his insights and takeaways on a lawsuit involving the “Signature Bridge” currently under construction in downtown Miami.

The article from the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper, appeared in yesterday’s edition of the newspaper under the headline “In Miami Federal Lawsuit, Litigant Seeks $155 Million for ‘Signature’ Construction Gone Wrong.”  It focuses on a lawsuit in Miami federal court seeking the nine-figure damages due to the defendants’ alleged gross negligence in designing the new span that has been called Miami’s “Signature Bridge” (see renderings in video below).  The article reads:

. . . Stuart Sobel, a shareholder at Siegfried Rivera in Coral Gables, is not involved in the lawsuit that Alexandre Drummond, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw in Atlanta, filed on behalf of Archer Western LLC and De Moya Corp., identified in the complaint as CJV.  Sobel said it is suspect that one of the defendants, HDR Engineering Inc., would err so completely in its preliminary design documents, such as by failing to complete basic due diligence in not having wind tunnel testing done until after the project broke ground.

“You can do wind tunnel testing; you can do all sorts of testing, especially with the technologies that we now have,” Sobel said. “You can test the design 16 different ways from Sunday before you submit it. This is shocking to me if that’s true.” . . .

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Oscar-Rivera-2015-hi-res-200x300Managing shareholder Oscar R. Rivera was proud to be selected by the editors of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper, for the publication’s weekly “Leading the Way” column featuring extensive Q&A interviews with South Florida legal leaders.  Now closing in on his fourth decade with the firm, Oscar discusses in today’s article the changes that the firm and the entire legal profession have experienced during the pandemic, and how we have successfully contended with all of the challenges and continued growing.  The article reads:

. . . While Rivera has worked on some of Miami’s most visible developments since joining the firm in 1984 — including representing the developer of 200,000-square-foot Mary Brickell Village — he hasn’t encountered every legal issue his clients face.

Putting heads together to solve new problems was easier before COVID, Rivera said. So was getting to know law clerks’ personalities and training young lawyers. And even if the pandemic were eradicated tomorrow, Rivera knows that many lawyers and staff, including those at his own firm, don’t want to come back every day.

dbr-logo-300x57At the end of 2021, firm founder Steven Siegfried stepped down from his role as co-managing partner, leaving Rivera to lead the evolution of Siegfried Rivera in an eventual post-COVID world.

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Our firm is extremely proud of our talent development program for new associates that was featured in an article in today’s online edition of American Lawyer Media’s Daily Report newspaper in Atlanta.  The article, which was titled “Extremely Beneficial: How Firms Use Talent Development Programs to Get a Leg Up” and will soon appear in the print edition of the newspaper and also in the pages of ALM’s Daily Business Review in South Florida, focuses on the programs that several law firms in Georgia and Florida have created to help new associates develop their skills and knowledge.  It includes insights from the firm’s Stuart Sobel and Maryvel De Castro Valdes.  The article reads:

. . .For at least a quarter-century, Siegfried Rivera, a Coral Gables, Florida-based firm, has had its new construction attorneys go through a rigorous process of studying construction law and then speaking to fellow lawyers in the firm before lecturing in front of other attorneys in other organizations and even at public events such as conferences.

Maryvel-De-Castro-Valdes-002-200x300Maryvel “Marty” Valdes, a nonequity shareholder at Siegfried Rivera, went through the program shortly after joining the firm in 2012.
“It’s important,” she said. “For the firm, number one, it helps give the younger associates a sense of confidence. It’s something you’re very concerned [about] when you are first out there. You don’t want to make yourself or the firm look bad. I would say it was a benefit in every sense of the word.” . . .

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A recent ruling by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal over a dispute involving a new real estate development on a City of North Miami property has clarified a potentially confusing aspect of the lien law.

The ruling provides both the government landlords as well as their private-sector developer partners a new understanding of how Florida’s lien law will be applied if construction disputes arise and liens are filed.

The case involved a dispute at Biscayne Landing in North Miami. The City of North Miami leased the property in May 2012 to developer Oleta Partners LLC as a sub-landlord, and Oleta subsequently entered into a ground sublease with Warren Henry Automobiles for a new dealership on a portion of the property. 3dca-300x200Warren Henry later assigned the ground sublease to another company, which conveyed a leasehold interest in the property back to Warren Henry as a lower-tier sub-sub-tenant.

In 2017, the luxury automobile dealership retained general contractor James B. Pirtle Construction Co. to build its new store. A dispute arose and Pirtle recorded a construction lien against the tenant’s leasehold interest.

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Stuart-Sobel-2013-thumb-180x270-86799An article on the current growth in construction and the opportunities for highly qualified and experienced construction attorneys in Georgia and Florida that appeared recently in the pages of American Lawyer Media’s Daily Report newspaper in Atlanta featured extensive quotes and input from the firm’s Stuart Sobel.  The article reads:

. . . Stuart Sobel, shareholder with the Siegfried Rivera firm in Coral Gables, Florida, has practiced law for 43 years, with the last 26 focused 99% on construction. He said South Florida’s construction market is equally successful today.

“There’s tons of work, and it’s actually been strong for a while, just different segments of the construction market” fluctuating at times, Sobel said. drptHe added the only sector within the construction industry that’s tailed off lately is commercial/retail, due to a rise in online shopping, but he’s seen some development recently in areas such as Doral.

The statistics back up the praise from Shelar and Sobel.

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As we approach the last quarter of 2021, I wanted to check in with our readers to provide some updates from our firm.

While many of us expected the pandemic to be in our rearview mirror, COVID-19 continues to affect our community, creating challenges for how we all live and work. As a business, we have felt the importance of our mission to be a reliable resource for our clients more than ever. We continue to publish articles and offer webinars to provide you with real-time updates and helpful information to help you make better decisions for your business/community.

Our firm has also hit some significant milestones this year. We’ve added new members to our team and hope to continue growing our Siegfried work family in the coming months. Together, we’ve been able to showcase our expertise both in the media and virtually, sharing our insights with thousands of people on several important topics.

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Construction-Trial-Deskbook-Announcement-002-300x300Our firm is known around the country for our work in construction law-related matters. Recently, we were privileged to have been selected to have Jason Rodgers-da Cruz co-author one of the chapters for the American Bar Association’s newly released “Construction Trial Deskbook.”

The chapter, which is titled “Jury Instructions and Verdict Forms,” serves as a resource for construction attorneys preparing for trial. This trial practice handbook was written by construction lawyers who, collectively, have decades of trial experience. The book follows a trial sequence, with chapters on jury selection, opening statements, direct and cross-examination, handling experts and exhibits, jury instructions, and closing.

Our firm congratulates Jason Rodgers-da Cruz for his participation in developing such an essential chapter in a book that will play a vital role in assisting construction attorneys preparing to go to trial.  Click here for more information on the new book.

It is essential for those in the construction industry, including contractors, subcontractors and suppliers, to learn about construction liens, which can be an additional layer of protection from non-payment. A construction lien provides unpaid project participants the ability to claim an interest in the property they have worked on. Once recorded, the lien remains on the title of the property until the lienholder gets paid for the work or services it provided, or the lien is otherwise released or discharged.

Though a helpful option in recovering unpaid amounts, the process of recording a construction lien is technical, and failing to follow specific requirements, some of which are outlined below, can result in a lien that is not perfected and subject to challenge. The following suggestions should be considered when filing a construction lien:

Serve a Notice to Owner

iStock_000011161523Medium-300x201Most claimants who do not have a direct contract with an owner need to serve a Notice to Owner as a first step in perfecting a claim of lien. Subcontractors, sub-subcontractors and material suppliers working on a construction project must serve a Notice to Owner pursuant to Section 713.06, Florida Statutes, within 45 days of first performing work or furnishing materials. Doing so preserves their right to record a claim of lien. Failure to properly complete this step can make a future claim of lien unenforceable.

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