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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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With more than 6,000 members, the American Bar Association’s Forum on Construction Law is the world’s largest organization of construction attorneys.  It offers invaluable opportunities for construction lawyers to interact and learn from many of the most accomplished practitioners in the profession.

The Forum has 14 distinct divisions focusing on different aspects of construction law, including insurance, surety, contract documents, design, construction delivery methods, and labor issues. It conducts simultaneous events at four different cities every fall focusing on the same issue, and it also hosts several other yearly gatherings that enable participants to learn about various timely issues impacting the industry.

NSiegfried2013-thumb-200x300-94905-199x300Our firm’s construction law attorneys have a long history of playing very active roles in the Forum, and partner Nicholas Siegfried is continuing to build on our legacy of involvement as the former Chair of the Young Lawyers Division of the Forum.  He has had the honor of speaking at numerous events, including the Forum on Construction Law 2016 Fall Meeting in Chicago where he spoke on the legal implications associated with new wearable technology in the construction industry.  He was also a speaker at the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s regional February 2016 program in Jacksonville, Fla., where he spoke about the types of damages recoverable in a construction claim as well as the negotiation of damage provisions in a construction contract.  In 2017, he spoke on trends in construction defect claims as well as Chapter 558 at the National Construction Defect Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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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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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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