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    COVID-19 Could Impact Contractor Performance Bonds

    March 30, 2020 —
    As COVID-19 continues to expand around the United States and the world, it may only be a matter of time before U.S. construction projects are affected by the virus. Performance bonds guarantee that a project will be completed by a contractor according to the contract. However, what if a contractor cannot complete a project on time due to widespread disease? What, if any, impact could the virus have on a contractor’s surety bond program? Risk Factors Several risks associated with the virus could trigger a performance bond claim. 1. Materials. The Chinese account for a large supply of construction materials, including steel, copper, cabinetry, etc. An inability to obtain these materials could significantly delay or stop a project all together. Even if a contractor is able to obtain them from other sources, it may be at a significantly higher cost than they put into the bid. 2. Labor. There is already a shortage of qualified labor in the construction industry. Additionally, construction already lends itself to the spreading of viruses; workers are often in close proximity, handling common materials, and they may not have an easily accessible place to wash their hands. Furthermore, even though many now have paid sick leave, there is often pressure not to use it. These things could magnify the labor shortage and make it difficult to complete projects on time. 3. Safety. Finally, the world is having a serious shortage of respirators. Because of widespread panic, many people have been purchasing N95 respirators—so much that the Surgeon General has asked people to stop buying them. It has created a shortage for people who really need them, like contractors. If contractors can’t get these safety masks, certain trades will either be unable to work, or risk continuing the project without masks, which would endanger workers and open them up to OSHA penalties. Reprinted courtesy of Ben Williams and MG Surety, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved. Read the court decision
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    Failing to Adopt a Comprehensive Cyber Plan Can Lead to Disaster

    January 13, 2020 —
    Despite being aware of cyber risk, and even frightened by it, a shocking number of companies in the construction industry have neither a cyber insurance policy nor a basic cyber security plan to deal with a hack or breach into their computer systems. Once breached, companies with no plan in place become, essentially, a rudderless ship subject to the whims of criminal tides. A proper cyber plan lays out at least the following:
    • the criteria for when a plan would be triggered (i.e., in the event of a breach or a hack);
    • which persons inside the company (in-house counsel, IT personnel, executive, project managers) and which persons outside the company (attorney with knowledge of cyber issues and ideally construction law as well; forensic computer experts, crisis management experts; and an insurance broker familiar with cyber policies) should be involved;
    • the chain of command and communication in this type of situation and the distinct roles each of the above players will fulfill (Note: this is not the same as the normal corporate chain of command); and
    • the various available options to address the breach situation, which will all depend upon the facts at issue—such as the type and extent of the breach and how much of what particular kind of information was lost, stolen or exfiltrated.
    Reprinted courtesy of Richard Volack, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved. Mr. Volack may be contacted at Read the court decision
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    Traub Lieberman Attorneys Lisa M. Rolle and Vito John Marzano Secure Dismissal of Indemnification and Breach of Contract Claims Asserted against Subcontractor

    November 24, 2019 —
    On August 7, 2019, TLSS Partner Lisa M. Rolle and associate Vito John Marzano obtained a dismissal of all claims on behalf of their client, the subfloor subcontractor at the worksite, in a severed action filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Kings. In April 2014, plaintiff commenced suit against several defendants, including the general contractor, after he sustained an injury when he fell through temporary plywood while installing a staircase at a worksite in Brooklyn. In May 2018, plaintiff filed a note of issue and certified the matter as ready for trial. Immediately thereafter, the general contractor initiated a second third-party action against the subcontractor seeking common-law and contractual indemnification and breach of contract. The Court subsequently granted Traub Lieberman’s motion to sever the second third-party action and instructed the general contractor to file a new action. After the general contractor recommenced suit, Traub Lieberman, on behalf of its client, the subcontractor, immediately moved to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action. In relevant part, Traub Lieberman pointed to the deposition testimony of the general contractor’s principal to establish that the subcontractor had finished its work on the permanent subfloor no less ten months to over a year prior to plaintiff’s accident, and that the subfloor required no alteration, repair or maintenance prior to or as a result of plaintiff’s accident. Further, the general contractor’s testimony pointed to work performed by another subcontractor that directly resulted in plaintiff’s injuries. It was also brought to the Court’s attention that plaintiff had testified that he fell through a temporary plywood floor, and that the subcontractor had only installed a permanent subfloor. Reprinted courtesy of Lisa Rolle, Traub Lieberman and Vito John Marzano, Traub Lieberman Ms. Rolle may be contacted at Mr. Marzano may be contacted at Read the court decision
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    Despite Feds' Raised Bar, 2.8B Massachusetts Offshore Wind Project Presses On

    November 04, 2019 —
    Developers of the 800-MW, 84-turbine Vineyard Wind offshore wind energy farm in Massachusetts, set to be the first and largest commercial-scale project in the U.S., say they are committed to pushing through its $2.8-billion construction despite a sudden Trump administration permitting setback. Reprinted courtesy of Mary B. Powers, Engineering News-Record ENR may be contacted at Read the court decision
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    Brown Act Modifications in Response to Coronavirus Outbreak

    March 30, 2020 —
    Gov. Gavin Newsom waived certain provisions of the Bagley-Keene Act and Ralph M. Brown Act to make state and local legislative bodies safer while allowing California public entities to conduct business. In an effort to promote social distancing and slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic Gov. Newsom issued Executive Order N-25-20. The Executive Order authorizes state and local legislative bodies, such as school district and county office of education governing boards, to more easily hold public meetings by way of teleconference. The order took further steps to make public meetings accessible to the public via electronic means, including telephone. The Brown Act generally requires legislative body members, a clerk, or other personnel to be physically present in a meeting in order to participate or establish a quorum. Executive Order N-25-20 temporarily eliminates this requirement. Furthermore, standard Brown Act requirements such as publicly noticing the teleconference location for each meeting participant is also suspended. Clearly, this is an attempt to protect the public, as well as Board members and staff, by temporarily discouraging large group settings in the conduct of the public’s business. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Gregory J. Rolen, Haight Brown & Bonesteel
    Mr. Rolen may be contacted at

    Safety, Compliance and Productivity on the Jobsite

    November 18, 2019 —
    With any project, managing a large contingency of workers—all with varying levels of security clearance—can be a logistical headache. On the majority of construction sites, managers lack the resources to quickly and accurately identify all onsite personnel and ensure the right labor, equipment and materials are in the right place at the right time. Equally important, construction managers need to know if worker certifications are current and only allow access to authorized areas. Multiple factors compound the need for better transparency across the workforce, including:
    • Safety. Construction work is inherently dangerous. In 2017, nearly 1,000 fatalities occurred on construction sites. This means that the industry accounted for more than 20% of private sector fatalities across all industries.
    • Regulatory. The Federal government has a heightened awareness of jobsite dangers and is targeting companies that are not making every effort to maximize the workers’ safety.
    • Security. Sites in urban environments require round-the-clock protection from urban explorers, thieves and the general public.
    • Employee wage disputes. Lawsuits and disputes over wages and hourly employment are increasing.
    • Reduced productivity. It can be difficult to measure and track productivity in construction.
    Reprinted courtesy of Matthew Ramage, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved. Read the court decision
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    Policy Lanuage Expressly Prohibits Replacement of Undamaged Material to Match Damaged Material

    March 09, 2020 —
    Construing an all-risk Businessowners Policy, the court found that the policy language did not required replacement of undamaged material match materials that were damaged. Pleasure Creek Townhomes Homeowners' Ass'n v. Am. Family Ins. Co., 2019 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1095 (Minn. Ct. App. Nov. 25, 2019). The policy covered the Association's 14 townhome buildings. In June 2017, a hail storm damaged siding on all 14 buildings. An appraisal panel included the cost to replace the undamaged, faded siding in its appraisal award so that it would match the new siding. American Family refused to pay this component - which was appraised at about $211,382 - of the award. An exclusion in the policy provided,
    We will not pay to repair or replace undamaged material due to mismatch between undamaged material and new material used to repair or replace damaged material.
    We do not cover the loss in value to an property due to mismatch between undamaged material and new material used to repair or replace damaged material.
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    Reprinted courtesy of Tred R. Eyerly, Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert
    Mr. Eyerly may be contacted at

    Performance Bond Surety Takeover – Using Terminated Contractor To Complete The Work

    January 06, 2020 —
    When a contractor is defaulted under a performance bond, can its surety hire the same defaulted contractor to complete the work? Stated differently, can the performance bond surety engage its defaulted bond-principal in taking over and completing the same work the contractor was defaulted under? The answer is “yes” if you are dealing with a standard form AIA A312 performance bond (and other bond forms that contain analogous language), as demonstrated by the recent decision in Seawatch at Marathon Condominium Association, Inc. v. The Guarantee Company of North America, 2019 WL 4850194 (Fla. 3d DCA 2019). In this case, a condominium association hired a contractor in a multi-million dollar contract to renovate condominium buildings. The contractor provided the association, as the obligee, a performance bond written on an AIA A312 performance bond form. During construction, the association declared the contractor in default and terminated the contractor. In doing so, the association demanded that the performance bond surety make an election under paragraph 4 of the AIA A312 bond form that gave the surety the following options: 4.1 Arrange for the CONTRACTOR, with consent of the OWNER, to perform and complete the Contract; or 4.2 Undertake to perform and complete the Contract itself, through its agents or through independent contractors; or 4.3 Obtain bids or negotiated proposals from qualified contractors acceptable to the OWNER for a contract for performance and completion of the Contract, arrange for a contract to be prepared for execution by the OWNER and the contractor selected with the OWNER’S concurrence, to be secured with performance and payment bonds executed by a qualified surety equivalent to the Bonds Issued on the Contract, and pay to the OWNER the amount of damages as described in paragraph 6 in excess of the Balance of the Contract Price incurred by the OWNER resulting from the CONTRACTOR Default; or Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of David Adelstein, Kirwin Norris, P.A.
    Mr. Adelstein may be contacted at