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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.

Steve-Siegfried-2013-srhl-lawIt is hard to believe that we are officially one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. As the entire world continues to battle the virus and adjusts to the daily changes in protocol and restrictions, our firm remains fully operational, staying up-to-date with the latest news and making decisions based on those developments.

With our staff’s, clients’, and families’ health and safety remaining of utmost importance, our firm continues to operate with a majority of our attorneys and support staff working remotely. We are happy to say that we have all remained safe during this time and the initial closures never caused any interruptions or delays in service. We have also pivoted in the way we serve our clients by upgrading our network’s infrastructure and making improvements to how we conduct business, such as enhancing our data security and offering digital document signature options as well as online notaries. Though we’ve all had to overcome our own set of challenges, we have conquered them together and have only become stronger.

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Michael-Clark-Gort-photo-thumb-160x240-13551An article authored by the firm’s B. Michael Clark, Jr. is featured as the expert 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 “Certified Question to High Court: Do Original Arbitration Provisions Apply to Subsequent Homebuyers,” focuses on the contractual provisions prescribing arbitration as the means of dispute resolution for construction defect claims.  These stipulations, which are used by developers for sales of their new homes, are probably known and understood by the initial buyers of newly built properties, but are subsequent buyers of these homes also subject to the arbitration provisions of the original warranty deeds?  Michael writes that is the question that an appellate court has certified as one of great public importance for consideration by the Florida Supreme Court.  His article reads:

. . . In Hayslip v. U.S. Home, the Hayslips appealed a nonfinal order granting U.S. Home Corp.’s motion to stay their claim and compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of the original special warranty deed for the property. As subsequent buyers of the home from the original owners, the Hayslips asserted they were not bound by the arbitration provision because it is not a covenant running with the land but rather a personal covenant binding only to the original purchasers.

2dcaThe Second District Court of Appeal found a valid arbitration agreement existed and, as a restrictive covenant running with the land, the arbitration provision contained in the original special warranty deed bound the Hayslips to arbitrate as subsequent purchasers. The court affirmed the circuit court’s order compelling arbitration, but it certified a question of great public importance to the Florida Supreme Court as an issue of first impression.

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NSiegfried2013-thumb-200x300-94905-199x300Stuart-Sobel-2013-thumb-180x270-86799Firm shareholders Stuart Sobel and Nicholas D. Siegfried were quoted in an article that now appears on the main South Florida page of The Real Deal, the real estate news magazine and website.  The article, which is titled “Codina Partners affiliate allegedly owes $3.6M for Downtown Doral condo construction: lawsuit,” focuses on the firm’s work on behalf of the general contractor for the prolific developer’s new 5350 Park condominium tower in Downtown Doral.  The article reads:

. . . Grycon LLC is suing 5350 Park LLC and the project’s surety bond provider Arch Insurance Company in Miami-Dade Circuit Court for breach of contract. According to the complaint, Grycon hasn’t been paid for $3.1 million in construction services and $500,000 in bonuses for achieving completion milestones.

RDealIn February, the 20-story, 238-unit tower and attached garage were substantially completed, and buyers began closing on 5350 Park condos, the lawsuit states.

“When it came time to pay us and settle up, [the developer] has come up with excuse after excuse,” said Stuart Sobel, a Siegfried Rivera shareholder representing Grycon. “They have played it very heavy-handed.”

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Jason-Trauth-200x300StuartSobel2013-thumb-120x180-93546Firm shareholders Stuart Sobel and Jason B. Trauth secured a $10.54 million settlement for ADF International, which fabricated and erected the structural steel for the Virgin train station and 2 MiamiCentral office tower, from general contractor Suffolk Construction Co. and the project’s architects and insurers.  The settlement was reached on the 10th day of trial in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on the lawsuit, which alleged nonpayment and severe project management failures by Suffolk.

The Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper, and The Real Deal Miami magazine and website chronicled the settlement.  The DBR article reads:

. . . ADF, which amended its complaint twice, argued it received project plans that were missing information, had mistakes and sometimes were conflicting. Also, the construction site was mismanaged as tower cranes weren’t provided and service on the nearby Metrorail and Metromover wasn’t coordinated with the steel installation work.

ADF said it told Suffolk about the issues, but Suffolk either never replied or responded without thoroughly addressing problems, and told ADF to keep working. The complaint said ADF followed up by sending change items with added changes and extra costs, but the change notices were often rejected or ignored.

dbrlogo-300x57Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas presided over the trial from Sept. 16 to 27. ADF International and Suffolk had rested their cases. Skidmore was about to call its witnesses when the emphasis shifted to settlement talks . . .

. . . Suffolk paid some of ADF’s costs during the litigation, and other amounts were recalculated, said ADF attorney Stuart Sobel, a shareholder at Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars & Sobel in Coral Gables. He worked on the trial with shareholder Jason Trauth.

“We think that the $10.5 is that horrible thing called a fair settlement,” he said flippantly. “We think it’s fair. It may have been half of the liquidated amount we sued for, but it’s a whole hell of a lot more than those guys wanted to pay.”

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Stuart-Sobel-2013-thumb-180x270-86799An article authored by shareholder Stuart Sobel 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 titled “‘Daubert’ Standard in Fla. Construction Litigation Requires Deft Implementation,” focuses on the ramifications of a decision earlier this year by the Florida Supreme Court to reinstate the Daubert standard for evaluating and admitting expert testimony, after having abandoned it in favor of the Frye standard.   Stuart’s article reads:

. . . The more stringent Daubert standard, which is used in federal courts and most state courts, requires that the court act as the gatekeeper, determining that proposed expert testimony is based upon scientific methods appropriately applied to the matter at hand, presented by appropriately qualified witnesses. The resurrection of the Daubert standard in Florida has the potential to increase the cost and time needed for litigating construction disputes, since Daubert challenges will now become the norm, rather than the exception.

dbrlogo-300x57Trial courts will employ a multi-factor test to determine whether experts’ methods are “scientifically reliable.” They will hold pretrial hearings on Daubert motions to determine whether experts will be limited in the scope of their testimony or excluded from testifying at trial.

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Stuart-Sobel-2013-thumb-200x300-87324-200x300The firm’s Stuart H. Sobel was the subject of the weekly “Profiles in Law” feature in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper.  The article, which is titled “How Miami Construction Lawyer Stuart Sobel Accidentally Built a Trial Empire,” discusses the entire span of Stuart’s career in the law and his varied litigation experience.  It reads:

. . . Sobel’s represented Miami’s New World Center concert hall, the contractor who built the Port of Miami tunnel, the steel fabricator who built Miami’s Brightline train terminal — and the one who put the roof on the Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins.

As shareholder at Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars & Sobel’s Coral Gables office, construction cases account for 98% of Sobel’s practice, and avoiding trial is the top priority. But in the 1980s, Sobel cut his teeth trying “any kind of case and every kind of case” that got him into the courtroom.

. . . Sobel took the law boards “on a lark” but had decided on a business degree at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. While driving to Philadelphia for his first semester, Sobel changed his mind. Somehow, his brother Jack Sobel, in law school at the University of Miami at the time, convinced law school dean Soia Mentschikoff to take a call from Sobel on his travels.

dbr-logo-300x57“I was literally in my car, pulled over, went to a phone booth and got interviewed by Dean Mentschikoff,” Sobel said. “And at the end of the conversation she said, ‘Keep driving.’ I got to Miami on a Thursday afternoon and I started law school on Monday morning without ever applying.”

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susanodess-srhl-224x300LindseyTLehr-200x300An article authored by shareholders Lindsey Thurswell Lehr and Susan C. Odess was featured as the “My View” guest commentary column in the Business Monday section of today’s Miami Herald.  The article, which is titled “Lawsuits by Condo Associations Against Neighboring Developers, Builders Are New Norm,” focuses on the spate of recent lawsuits against South Florida condominium developers and general contractors alleging their construction work caused physical damage to neighboring condominium towers.  Their article reads:

. . . This new litigation trend appears to have especially taken hold in South Florida, where several prominent condominium developers and contractors have been sued by adjacent associations for damages emanating from their construction sites. The lawsuits raise claims for structural damage, fallen stucco, splattered paint, excessive dirt, broken glass/windows, and other damage resulting from the construction practices of neighboring developments.

The insurer for the 1060 Brickell Condominium Towers brought a lawsuit alleging construction debris from Panorama, 1010 Brickell and the Bond damaged the two 1060 Brickell buildings. The lawsuit claims that the construction activities at these properties damaged 1060 Brickell’s facade, balconies, railings, pool deck, roof, cooling tower and other components.

MHerald2015-300x72The entire development team behind the ultra-luxe Porsche Design Tower faced a similar lawsuit brought by the association for the adjacent Millennium Condominium. The association alleged that its building suffered millions of dollars in damage caused by the Porsche Tower’s construction next door, including extensive cracks to the lobby, parking garage and pool deck. Engineers concluded that the cracks were caused by excessive vibrations from the pile-driving equipment used for the neighboring tower’s foundation, and the suit also alleged concrete overspray splattered onto Millennium’s balconies, ruining the building’s paint job and related exterior components.

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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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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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