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Joe Virene represents clients in both the construction and oil & gas industries. He has successfully handled various matters, including filing and prosecuting material men, mineral, and maritime liens, among others.

Co-author: Stephanie Snyder-Zuasnabar*

In James Construction Group, LLC v. Westlake Chemical Corporation, the Texas Supreme Court clarified the standard necessary to satisfy notice provisions in a construction contract.  The Court’s opinion reached two key holdings: (1) substantial compliance is sufficient to satisfy a party’s obligation under a contractual notice requirement; (2) however, if the contract requires written notice, then the notice must be in writing to substantially comply even when there is actual notice.  This opinion is important for the construction industry because it clarifies a gray area, and unequivocally enforces contract provisions requiring written notices.  This opinion illustrates the importance of complying with notice provisions and the consequences of failing to do so.  The owner’s failure to comply with notice provisions deprived it of more than one million dollars in damages awarded by a jury.      
Continue Reading Texas Supreme Court: Actual Notice Does Not Satisfy Written Notice Requirement

engineer meeting for an architectural project. working with partner and engineering tools working on blueprint architectural project at the construction site at desk in the office.

Co-author: Stephanie Snyder-Zuasnabar

Texas has new lien laws that affect all construction projects with a prime contract dated on or after January 1, 2022.  The new lien laws are particularly helpful to architects, engineers, and surveyors.  Design professionals will benefit from the expanded lien rights provided by this new legislation.  Lower tier design professionals will now be able to perfect liens in a manner similar to subcontractors and suppliers.  The new law also expanded the type of design work that gives rise to lien rights.  These changes collectively level the playing field.      
Continue Reading Chapter 53 Expands Lien Rights for Design Professionals

My law partner, David Gair, and I recently wrote a paper regarding the energy-efficient commercial building tax deduction (IRC § 179D).  The upshot is that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 recently made this deduction permanent.  As discussed in much more detail in the paper, 179D allows for a tax deduction of up to $1.80

The general prohibition against waiving lien rights under Chapter 53 of the Texas Property Code has been written about extensively, and is well known through the industry.  However, the Construction Trust Fund Act (Ch. 162 of the Texas Property Code) does not contain any such prohibition.  From the Act itself, it is not clear whether construction trust fund rights can be waived or not.  Less than two years ago, the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals considered this issue, among several others, in Mesa Southern CWS Acquisition, LP v. Deep Energy Exploration Partners, LLC.  In that case, the Court considered the following provision:
Continue Reading Can the Trust Fund Act be Waived?

When owners file bankruptcy or projects otherwise go south, lien priority often comes to the forefront.  The idea is relatively simple.  Priority is how courts determine which creditors get paid first.  This often pits lenders against M&M lien claimants.  For lenders, their liens typically arise when they record their deeds of trust.  However, for M&M lien claimants, the Texas Property Code has very specific rules that must be followed.
Continue Reading Lien Inception

COVID-19 is now interrupting and, in some instances, cancelling contracts across the country.  While the situation is highly fluid, these business disruptions appear likely to continue and perhaps even worsen in the immediate future.  This will significantly affect and perhaps threaten businesses people have worked had to establish.  And it will of course impact employees and their jobs.  Business leaders will have to make tough decisions in the coming weeks and months.  Many of these decisions will touch on important legal issues.  Below are a few legal hot topics addressed by my colleagues at Gray Reed in the past few days:
Continue Reading COVID-19 – Legal Impact

Co-author: Trevor Lawhorn
Published in Build Houston Magazine

When non-payment occurs, suppliers and service providers often first seek relief by suing for breach of contract. Unfortunately, many companies are undercapitalized or otherwise “judgment proof.”  A personal guaranty might mitigate this risk by providing an additional target, but guarantees are often difficult to obtain.  Even if one is signed, the guarantors may lack assets, perhaps deliberately so.  Judgement proof debtors and guarantors are especially frustrating when the case involves misappropriations of construction project funds or wrongful transfers of assets.  Texas law provides at least two statutory tort claims in these circumstances: the Texas Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (TUFTA) and the Texas Construction Trust Funds Act (the Trust Fund Statute).
Continue Reading Establishing Personal Liability Without a Guaranty

Co-authors: JP Vogel and Tim Fandrey
Published in Build Houston Magazine

Texas is a hot-bed for construction. In 2016, according to the Virtual Builders Exchange, Texas was second only to New York in construction expenditures, spending $44.4 billion. And there is no sign that the proliferation of construction is slowing down.  New housing starts are up in Texas as a result of an influx of new employees moving to the area. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that Texas has experienced the largest population growth of any state between 2010 and 2016. This, in turn, increases demand on civil infrastructure thus requiring more construction. This explosion of growth in construction spending has taken place without consideration given to the rebuilding efforts arising from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Continue Reading Protecting Yourself in a Volatile Labor Market