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Design Professional Liability Legislation (Again)

For the third year in a row, the state legislature has introduced legislation to protect architects, engineers and other design professionals from claims for negligence in the performance of their professional services. In 2010 a bill passed both legislative houses but was vetoed by Governor Crist. Last year the bill did not get as far, but apparently proponents of the bill believe the third time may be the charm. Unfortunately, as in prior years this legislation is anti-consumer. Senate Bill 286, linked here, would provide that architects or engineers would no longer be personally liable for negligence arising out of their professional services. This would essentially limit people hiring these design professionals to breach of contract claims against the design professional’s business entity. This is a problem because most design contracts limit the design professional’s liability to some paltry amount that pales in comparison to the harm that comes from defective design. The steps that the...

Watch out for Construction Scams in 2013

As the construction industry hopefully improves in 2013, one must always be mindful of construction scams. These scams can take many forms, including but not limited to the following: The free test and need for a new system – An individual visited homeowners in Virginia and offered to test their water. Perhaps not surprisingly, the homeowners were then told they needed new water filtration systems. Yet, after paying for the systems the homeowners were unable to contact this individual. His so-called office address turned out to be a chiropractor’s office. Charges for construction fraud were brought against this individual in Virginia. Advance payments for work not done  - A general contractor in Texas continually got advance payments from its clients while doing minimal work in relation to the monies paid. In appealing criminal convictions determined in the trial court, the general contractor argued that it only quit the jobs after there were...

Can you recover punitive damages in construction cases?

A party seeking damages in construction litigation is often so incensed at the other side’s perceived outrageous conduct that they want to recover more than those compensatory damages that would make them whole. One potential item of additional recovery to consider is punitive damages. The purpose of awarding punitive damages under Florida law is not to further compensate the plaintiff, but to punish the defendant for its wrongful conduct and to deter similar future misconduct. The possibility of being subject to an award of punitive damages can be a significant impetus to resolve a dispute. But are punitive damages recoverable in every construction dispute? The answer is … it depends on the particular case. In Florida, breach of contract claims generally do not allow for the recovery of punitive damages. One seeking to foreclose a construction lien is likewise typically not entitled to recover punitive damages. However, where there is a finding of...

Attorney fees not necessarily awarded to a party who prevails in a construction lien dispute

Florida's mechanic's lien law generally provides for an award of attorney fees to a party that prevails in a construction lien dispute. But what happens if one party prevails on the lien claim, but other claims in the case have not been decided?...