Surfside Condo Collapse Investigators Uncover More Pool Deck Deviations
September 12, 2023 — James Leggate - Engineering News-Record
The investigation into the 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., has uncovered more deviations between the as-built conditions of the pool deck and the building’s design. But investigators emphasize their data are still preliminary as they continue to gather and test evidence from the collapse that killed 98 people.
Reprinted courtesy of James Leggate, Engineering News-Record
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South Carolina Court of Appeals Diverges from Damico Opinion, Sending Recent Construction Defects Cases to Arbitration
October 24, 2023 — Laura Paris Paton - Gordon Rees Construction Law Blog
Could the latest opinion from the South Carolina Court of Appeals be the distant ringing of a death knell for runaway construction defects verdicts? On the heels of the Damico ruling earlier this year, the courts have issued several opinions distinguishing various arbitration agreements from the one analyzed in Damico and have sent subsequent cases to arbitration.
This summer, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals compelled arbitration in Cleo Sanders v. Savannah Highway Automotive Company, et al. Appellate Case No. 2021-000137 / Opinion No. 28168 (petition for rehearing pending) and Joseph Abruzzo v. Bravo Media Productions, et al. Appellate Case No. 2020-001095 / Opinion 6004. Now, in the matter of Jonathan Mart, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Respondent, v. Great Southern Homes, Inc., Appellant, Appellate Case No. 2018-001598, the Court of Appeals reversed the circuit court’s order denying a homebuilder’s motion to dismiss and compelled arbitration in this action, which was brought by the homeowner, individually and on behalf of other similarly situated homeowners. Read the full story...
Reprinted courtesy of Laura Paris Paton, Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani
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New Florida Bill Shortens Time for Construction-Defect Lawsuits
September 06, 2023 — Jessica Zelitt - Construction Executive
On April 13, 2023, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 360 into law. This legislation alters the time period for bringing forward construction-defect lawsuits, as well as modifies the current private right of action against a contractor for violation of the Florida Building Code.
SB 360 amends § 95.11(3)(c), Florida Statutes, to reduce the statute of repose from 10 years to seven years for actions founded on latent construction defects. The legislation also changes the manner in which this time period is calculated under both the seven-year statute of repose and the four-year statute of limitations for construction-defect cases.
Under the prior statute,
the time to commence an action began with the later of (i) the date of actual possession by the owner, (ii) the date of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy (CO), (iii) the date of abandonment of construction if not completed or (iv) the date of completion or termination of the contract.
Reprinted courtesy of Jessica Zelitt, Construction Executive
, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved.
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Surplus Lines Carrier Can Force Arbitration in Louisiana Despite Statute Limiting Arbitration
February 12, 2024 — Tred R. Eyerly - Insurance Law Hawaii
The federal district court granted the surplus lines insurer's motion to compel arbitration despite a Louisiana statute barring policies from depriving courts of jurisdiction in cases against insurers. Queens Beauty Supply, LLC v. Indep.Specialty Ins. Co., 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 195372 (E.D. La. Oct. 31, 2023).
Hurricane Ida damaged property leased by Queens. Queens filed suit against its insurer, Independent Specialty Insurance Company (ISIC) for breath of contract and bad faith for failing to pay the full amount Queens contends it was owed for the damage. ISIC moved to compel arbitration.
Queens argued that ISIC waived its right to enforce the policy's arbitration clause by its actions before the court, including failing to opt-out of the settlement program adopted for Hurricane Ida cases. The court disagreed, ISIC had taken no overt act that evidenced a desire to resolve the instant dispute through litigation rather than arbitration. ISIC asserted as an affirmative defense that Queens's claims were barred by the arbitration clause in the policy. ISIC then participated in the settlement program for Hurricane Ida cases, which evidences a desire to settle the dispute, not to resolve it by litigation. Therefore, ISIC had not waived its right to arbitrate. Read the full story...
Reprinted courtesy of Tred R. Eyerly, Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert
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Anchoring Abuse: Evolution & Eradication
October 09, 2023 — Tim Capowski & Chris Theobalt - Kahana Feld
Over the past few years, the plaintiff bar has expanded its use of improper anchoring tactics. Historically, improper anchoring was seen as a risky tactic in which a plaintiff’s counsel would suggest an outrageous figure for pain and suffering during summation in the hope that the lay jury would either award it or split the difference (cut the suggested figure by half) and, either way, return an excessive or runaway verdict. Plaintiff counsel deployed the tactic infrequently through the turn of the century for fear of alienating the jury by appearing greedy.
Two interrelated factors happened to change this dynamic. First, the plaintiff bar worked extremely hard in the intervening years with great success to shed its “ambulance chaser” stereotype by marketing itself as the “protector of the vulnerable”. Second, with the rise in Reptile and punitive tactics spawned in part by the publication of the Reptile handbook, the plaintiff bar also discovered that juries were not alienated by outrageous anchors as long as they were preceded by Reptile commentary essentially to “prime” the jury to punish the defendant rather than compensate the plaintiff with its award.
This is not speculation. I recall sitting outside a courtroom with one of New York’s top plaintiff attorneys in 2006 during deliberations on a catastrophic personal injury trial, during which he conceded to me that he was worried he had asked the jury for too large a figure (it was not even eight figures). A decade later in 2016, that same attorney felt no trepidation in requesting nearly $100 million for a comparable injury. He fed the jurors a steady diet of Reptile tactics from start to finish and they dutifully awarded the requested figure. Our research confirms that this two-step strategy (Reptile + improper anchor) preceded every New York nuclear verdict returned from 2010-2022. The same is almost certainly true of most nuclear verdicts in other jurisdictions.
Reprinted courtesy of Tim Capowski, Kahana Feld
and Chris Theobalt, Kahana Feld
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Construction Employers Beware: New, Easier Union Representation Process
October 17, 2023 — Natale V. DiNatale - Robinson+ColeThis week we are pleased to have a guest post by Robinson+Cole Labor Relations Group chair Natale V. DiNatale.
The NLRB has reversed decades of precedent and made it far easier for unions to represent employees, including construction employers, without a secret ballot election. Initially, it is important to understand that this new standard applies to traditional “9(a)” relationships, not prehire agreements under 8(f) of the NLRA. While both types of relationships exist in the construction industry, 9(a) relationships require support from a majority of employees, while prehire agreements do not and tend to be project specific. The NLRB’s new standard (announced in Cemex Construction Materials Pacific, LLC, 372 NLRB No. 130 (2023)) emphasizes union authorization cards that are gathered by union officials and union activists who often employ high-pressure tactics to obtain a signature. Employees often sign authorization cards without the benefit of understanding the significance of the cards. Even if they don’t want a union, they may sign because they feel pressured by a coworker, don’t want to offend a colleague, or want to avoid being bothered. Read the full story...
Reprinted courtesy of Natale V. DiNatale, Robinson+Cole
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US Moves to Come Clean on PFAS in Drinking Water
September 18, 2023 — Pam McFarland, Debra K. Rubin & Mary B. Powers - Engineering News-Record
Congress has allocated billions of dollars to address contamination caused by the ubiquitous class of “forever” chemicals known as PFAS—with billions more also earmarked in recent legal settlements with manufacturers—but drinking water managers, construction sector experts and other stakeholders say the true cost of cleanup could be much higher.
Reprinted courtesy of Pam McFarland, Engineering News-Record
, Debra K. Rubin, Engineering News-Record
and Mary B. Powers, Engineering News-Record
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Illinois Court of Appeals Addresses Waiver and Estoppel in Context of Suit Limitation Provision in Property Policy
February 05, 2024 — James M. Eastham - Traub Lieberman
In Naperville Hotel Partners, LLC v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 2023 IL App (3d) 220440-U the Illinois Third District Court of Appeals addressed whether failure to include reference to a limitations provision in reservation of rights correspondence to an insured can be deemed a waiver of the provision or otherwise estop the insurer from relying on the provision.
The claim involved water damage sustained at the Insured’s motel as a result of numerous rain events that occurred between 2015 and 2020. Liberty Mutual issued an insurance policy that covered several buildings including the subject hotel. The policy required that any legal action based on the coverage had to be brought "within two (2) years after the date on which the physical damage occurred, extended by the number of days between the date you submitted the statement of loss to us and the date we deny the claim in whole or in part."
Plaintiffs filed their claim with Liberty Mutual in May 2019. In June of 2019 Liberty Mutual sent a reservation of rights letter to the Insured which requested more information and listed the "immediate written notice of loss" provision as a potential basis for excluding coverage but did not list the two-year time-limitation on legal action. Liberty Mutual also did not mention the provision in subsequent communications with the Insured. Read the full story...
Reprinted courtesy of James M. Eastham, Traub Lieberman
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