Articles Posted in Firm News

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.

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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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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Nick-Siegfried-2013-200x300The 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. dbr-logo-300x57 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.”

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