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    Considerations in Obtaining a Mechanic’s Lien in Maryland (Don’t try this at home)

    December 21, 2020 —
    For this week’s Guest Post Friday at Construction Law Musings I welcome Matthew Evans. Matt is the owner of Law Offices of Matthew S. Evans, III, LLC located in Annapolis, Maryland. He has practiced construction, real estate and land use law in Maryland and D.C. for thirteen years. Prior to opening his own firm in May 2011, Mr. Evans was a partner at a mid-sized firm in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Mr. Evans lives in Historic Annapolis (only three short blocks from his office) with his wife Margaret, and three children, Matthew (5), Bo (4) and Peyton (2). Some of the most common calls I get are from irate contractor or subcontractor clients who have not been paid demanding that I “lien the property”. Many times after calming the client down, I determine, to their dismay, that they are not entitled to a mechanic’s lien. In Maryland, the mechanic’s lien law is driven by statute, which contains specific requirements which must be met before the client is entitled to a lien. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill
    Mr. Hill may be contacted at

    Comparative Breach of Contract – The New Benefit of the Bargain in Construction?

    October 26, 2020 —
    Ask most Florida Construction Law practitioners, and you will likely hear that liability may not be apportioned in “pure” breach of contract cases via the Comparative Fault Act, section 768.81, Florida Statutes (the “Act”). If a material breach is a “substantial factor” in causing damages, the breaching party must answer for all damages that were reasonably contemplated by the parties when they formed the contract. Claimants argue that matters of contract should be governed strictly by the agreement, and risk can be controlled by negotiated terms, including waivers and limitations. Defendants complain that construction projects are collaborative, multi-party affairs, and strict application of contract principles leads to harsh results for relatively minor comparative fault for the same or overlapping damages. The notion of apportioning purely economic loss contract damages based on comparative fault is not new. Since April 2006, Florida has been a “pure” comparative fault jurisdiction with limited exceptions. Prior to the amendment, tort liability for non-economic damages was purely comparative, but liability for economic damages was typically a combination of joint and several liability with an additional exposure based on comparative fault. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Steven Hoffman, Cole, Scott & Kissane
    Mr. Hoffman may be contacted at

    COVID-19 Win for Policyholders! Court Approves "Direct Physical Loss" Argument

    October 12, 2020 —
    Late last week, a Missouri federal district court provided a significant victory for insurance policyholders for COVID-19 losses. In Studio 417, Inc. v. The Cincinnati Insurance Company 6:20-cv-03127-SRB (W.D. MO, So. Div., Aug. 12, 2020), the Court was called upon to decide whether allegations involving the presence of COVID-19 in and around physical structures qualify as “direct physical loss or damage” to covered property. For those actively monitoring the COVID-19 insurance coverage litigation landscape, this has been a central question – and hotly contested debate – in virtually all first-party property and business interruption claims. Through a detailed and well-reasoned discussion, the Court answered the question with an emphatic “Yes.” The Plaintiffs – a proposed class of hair salons and restaurants - purchased “all-risk” property insurance policies (the “Policies”) from Cincinnati. The Policies provide that Cincinnati would pay for “direct ‘loss’ unless the ‘loss’ is excluded or limited.” They also defined a “Covered Cause of Loss” as “accidental [direct] physical loss or accidental [direct] physical damage.” The Policies did not contain a virus exclusion. Anecdotally, Cincinnati has been vocal about the general lack of virus exclusions on its standard forms, having recently publicized that the company considers such exclusions “unnecessary” because, in its view, “a virus does not produce direct physical damage or loss to property.” From Cincinnati’s perspective, the insuring agreement is not triggered by these events, so there’s no need to analyze exclusions. Cincinnati relied heavily on that analysis in this case. Reprinted courtesy of Gregory D. Podolak, Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C. and Christine Baptiste-Perez, Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C. Mr. Podolak may be contacted at Ms. Baptiste-Perez may be contacted at Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of

    Maine Court Allows $1B Hydropower Transmission Project to Proceed

    August 31, 2020 —
    Maine’s Supreme Court cleared the way for construction to begin on the nearly $1-billion, 145-mile high voltage transmission line that will feed hydroelectric power from Quebec into the New England power grid. Mary B. Powers, Engineering News-Record ENR may be contacted at Read the full story... Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of

    Because I Haven’t Mentioned Mediation Lately. . .

    November 23, 2020 —
    Any regular reader of Construction Law Musings knows that I am both a great believer in mediation and a certified Virginia mediator. After the last few weeks in which I participated in mediation by Zoom, a Judicial Settlement Conference (read, court-ordered mediation with a retired judge), and will be participating in another mediation in person next week, it seems as if others believe in the process as well. After all of this mediation activity, all of which related to construction project-related disputes, I am more convinced than ever that almost every construction case should at least be submitted for mediation. The list below gives my reasons for saying this:
    1. The parties are in control. In litigation or arbitration, the parties present their evidence to a third party or parties with no familiarity with the “boots on the ground” reality of the construction project at issue. This third party gives a cold review of what evidence court rules allow them to consider and gives a final ruling that one side “wins” and the other side “loses.” This decision has monetary consequences for the losing party, not the least of which is a large attorney fee bill after potentially several years of legal wrangling. With mediation, those closest to the project, the parties, can say what they want, present what they feel to be the best case, and work for a solution. The solution can be flexible and allow the two sides to reach a business decision that is at least better than a large monetary judgment against one of the parties that is only further enforceable in court.
    Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill
    Mr. Hill may be contacted at

    Hawaii Federal District Rejects Another Construction Defect Claim

    November 30, 2020 —
    The Federal District Court, District of Hawaii, continued it long line of cases finding no coverage for claims of faulty workmanship. Nautilus Ins. Co. v. Summary Judgment RMB Enters., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 200468 (D. Haw. Oct. 28, 2020). Property owners entered a construction contract with RMB Enterprises to develop and construct residential structures and a pond. The pond walls enclosed residential spaces, providing structural foundations for the walls of the building. After completion of the project, the pond leaked into its pump room. RMB performed remedial work by injecting epoxy into cracks. Later, water from the pondleaked into the interior of a residence near a staircase. Water also leaked into the master bedroom area causing musty odor, mood growth, and increased humidity. The owners sued RMB asserting breach of contract, breach of warranty, misrepresentation, and negligence claims. Nautilus denied coverage. The policy provided that faulty workmanship did not constitute an "occurrence." But when faulty workmanship caused property damage to property other than "your work," then such property damage would be considered caused by an occurrence. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Tred R. Eyerly, Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert
    Mr. Eyerly may be contacted at

    Transportation Officials Make the Best of a Bumpy 2020

    January 18, 2021 —
    The year 2020 provided a bumpy budgetary ride for all modes of transportation, and some industry insiders don’t expect airport and transit ridership to return to pre-pandemic levels for years. Agencies are taking lessons learned, coupled with hopes for the new Biden administration, to carry on as best they can. Reprinted courtesy of Jim Parsons, Engineering News-Record and Aileen Cho, Engineering News-Record Ms. Cho may be contacted at Read the full story... Read the court decision
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    A Murder in Honduras Reveals the Dark Side of Clean Energy

    October 12, 2020 —
    Berta Cáceres campaigned to stop a renewable energy project, and the long fight turned her into one of Central America’s most prominent environmentalists. She won a prestigious international prize known as the “Green Nobel” for protecting a river, using some of the award money to purchase a modest bungalow in La Esperanza, her hometown in central Honduras. Her activism is also what brought three gunmen to her back door. The men broke into her kitchen around 11:30 p.m. on March 2, 2016. Cáceres heard a noise and called out from her bedroom: “Who’s out there?” Within seconds, a gunman entered her room and shot her dead. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Monte Reel, Bloomberg