Construction Contracts

Two Construction Workers Discussing at construction site

Co-author: Trenton Patterson

It has been months since you have been paid and the general contractor or the owner continues to demand that you perform extra work, perform in changed conditions or work on a compressed timeline with no promise of payment in sight.  At this point you have a decision to make.  Do you continue to perform work and submit claims for the extra work and changed conditions? Or do you suspend work or terminate the contract?
Continue Reading To Perform or Not Perform, That is the Question

big bulldozer removing snowThe winter storm that brought snow, freezing temperatures, power outages, frozen water lines and bursting pipes to Texas, shutting down most construction projects in the process, forced many contractors and owners to take a look that their contracts to determine who is responsible for the ensuing delays and the costs to repair any damage.
Continue Reading Excusable Delay and Builder’s Risk: A Reminder to Weatherproof Your Contracts

Drain pipe with frozen stream of water near brick wall of a cottage outdoors in winterCo-author: Trevor Lawhorn

As evidenced by the unprecedented arctic weather last week and the resulting fallout, emergency construction services are essential. Freezing temperatures, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters lead to a high demand for remediation and reconstruction services. Contractors are often best positioned to provide the necessary emergency construction services to rebuild businesses, residences and communities. Emergency contractors must always be mindful of certain laws that impact how they conduct business after a disaster. Understandably, Texas has implemented a number of laws to protect disaster victims against predatory or otherwise unsavory business practices. Here are a few essential Texas laws that both owners and contractors must consider when contracting for emergency construction services.
Continue Reading Texas Laws Emergency Contractors Must Know

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?

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: Russell Jumper and Tim Fandrey
Published in Cleaning & Restoration Magazine

Just as the Texas coast assessed the magnitude of Hurricane Harvey’s damage, Hurricane Irma was taking shape in the Atlantic. Fewer than two weeks later, Irma would crash into the Florida Keys. Estimates put Harvey and Irma’s combined impact in excess of $275 billion. No small part of that amount will be required for cleaning and restoration services. Before Irma made landfall, even as Harvey hovered over the Houston area, restoration professionals from around the country arrived along the Texas coast to kick-start Texas’ recovery. For the people who lost their homes, possessions, and even family or friends, the focus turned to recovery. For some of the restoration professionals who helped, and continue to help, a second storm is forming: owner and insurer payment disputes. Like boarding up windows and setting out sandbags, there are some steps cleaning and restoration professionals can take in an effort to minimize the damage from the approaching payment dispute storm.
Continue Reading The Storm After the Storm

Construction lawyers routinely deal with delay claims. I have presented or defended more of them than I can remember.  That is why I was curious when, earlier this year, I received a series of email invitations to presentations on the use of “concurrent delay” as a defense to contractor or owner claims for delay damages on construction projects.  I’ve written about the subject in the past and wondered what, if anything, had changed.

Continue Reading A Myth About Delay – Revisited

Co-authors: Russell Jumper and Tim Fandrey

Hurricane Harvey caused severe destruction in Texas with its significant winds and historic rainfall. But Harvey may also prove to be a costly lesson for many project owners and contractors. As Texas begins to focus on recovery in the coming weeks, Harvey will further serve as a reminder to all construction industry stakeholders that hurricanes, and other “acts of God”, are risks that must be effectively managed during the pre-construction and construction phases of every project. While it is difficult to effectively avoid the risks attendant to a highly-destructive, low probability event that occurs on short notice, owners and contractors have two primary tools at their disposal to mitigate the effects of such an event: (i) contractual force majeure provisions; and (ii) builder’s risk insurance.
Continue Reading Softening a Hurricane’s Blow: Force Majeure and Builder’s Risk

Most commercial construction contracts contain a “No Damage For Delay” Clause and most contractors mistakenly believe they are Kings X for any potential claims related to delay caused by an owner or original contractor. While nearly every commercial construction contract contains the same or similar provisions, it is important to keep in mind they all have different authors, which means typically no two clauses are ever drafted the same.

This is particularly important when it comes to “No Damage For Delay” Clauses as the actual breadth of the language and scope will set the tone for their enforcement or circumvention. There are several common law exceptions to “No Damage for Delay” clauses recognized in Texas, which may be neutralized or ignored by the particular language of a “No Damage for Delay” Clause.
Continue Reading How to Circumvent “No Damages for Delay” Clauses