Dispute Resolution

Overview

Construction projects are complex and can involve sophisticated contracting issues, financing, and third-party guarantees. The risks can be high, and scheduling, coordinating, and dealing with the impacts can be, as the Washington DC Court of Appeals described, unpredictable and akin to the movement of men on a battlefield: 

Except in the middle of a battlefield, nowhere must men coordinate the movement of other men and all materials in the midst of such chaos and with such limited certainty of present facts and future occurrences as in a huge construction project…Even the most painstaking planning frequently turns out to be mere conjecture, and accommodation to changes must necessarily be of the rough, quick and hoc sort, analogous to ever changing commands on the battlefield.

Blake Construction v. C.J. Coakley Co., 431 A2d 569 (D.C. App. 1981).

Our Services 

Our lawyers litigate and arbitrate many types of disputes that include the following:

  • changes in scope
  • construction and design defects
  • differing site conditions
  • delay and lost productivity claims
  • insurance coverage
  • surety bonds claims

Delay and productivity-related claims in particular can be complicated and time-consuming. We take a meaningful approach to sophisticated scheduling techniques, both as a tracking tool to evaluate construction progress and as a forensic tool to prepare and defend against such claims. Using industry-recognized standards, we are also knowledgeable in calculating costs resulting from claims or delays, lost productivity, acceleration, disruption, and interference with work.

Our Team

Our clients benefit from our lawyers’ far-reaching experience representing the construction and surety industries and from our familiarity with construction risk and litigation management professionals who can assist in preventing or resolving claims. The bottom line is that we understand and anticipate the needs of our clients and strive to provide exceptional and cost-effective legal services. 

Our group is well versed in all aspects of construction, from developing and designing to bidding, scheduling, attending to change orders, and prosecuting and defending claims. We routinely counsel clients during the course of project development, design, and construction in recommending strategies to limit or transfer certain construction risks as well as to minimize the risks of costly disputes and litigation. Our clients benefit not only from our litigation experience but also from our experience in drafting and negotiating thorough and thoughtful agreements to avoid or limit the risk and uncertainty of litigation.

When disputes are unavoidable, our construction lawyers ably litigate complex claims in state and federal court and before administrative tribunals. We can resolve construction disputes through alternate dispute resolution, including arbitration. Several of our team members are trained arbitrators and mediators who have been appointed by the American Arbitration Association and other dispute resolution organizations.

    • Experience
      • Handled the litigation involving the collapse of a building in New Haven, Connecticut, that caused $2 million in property damage against the demolition contractor responsible for the collapse. Robinson+Cole settled the claim through mediation prior to our client having to incur extensive costs and prolonged litigation.

      • Dual representation of a mechanical trade contractor and its sheet metal subcontractor in the prosecution of a $1.9 million claim seeking compensation for delays, inefficiencies, additional field and shop labor, and sheet metal poundage against construction manager and project designer where project completion time was extended by six months as a result of scheduling, coordination, and deficient and defective bid documents. Case settled following two-day mediation in favor of clients after limited discovery in litigation.

      • Dispute Resolution

      • Representation of a construction manager in the defense of multimillion-dollar construction defect claims relating to the installation of a complex refrigeration system within a large grocery store, obtaining nuisance value settlement for client before trial and following discovery and disclosure of expert witnesses. This was a multiparty litigation before the complex litigation docket involving the owner, manufacturer, construction manager, designer, subcontractor, and various vendors.

      • Other Experiences

      • Presentation of oral argument to the Connecticut Supreme Court on behalf of a bridge contractor concerning the scope of a statutory waiver of the state's sovereign immunity for disputed claims under contracts with the state for the design, construction, construction management, repair, or alteration of any highway, bridge, building or other public works of the state.

      • Transactional

      • Representation of a surety engaged in the completion of several heavy/highway projects in Massachusetts and Connecticut with an aggregate value of over $55 million. Negotiation of takeover agreements with public owners, completion agreements with successor contractors, and subcontractor ratification agreements. Included preparation, presentation, litigation, and negotiation of affirmative claims on behalf of the surety.

      • Other Experiences

      • Representation of an owner and construction manager in a complex dispute with the mechanical and refrigeration contractor regarding claims made by the contractor for additional services and backcharges from the owner and construction manager arising from failure to perform work and complete the project in a timely manner. The matter resolved after several days of arbitration hearings.

      • Dispute Resolution

      • Representation of the owner of a high-end home in multimillion-dollar claims against the project architect, HVAC designer/installer, window installer, and window manufacturer with respect to defective design and specification of windows and HVAC systems.

      • Representation of mechanical trade contractor in the prosecution of claims for additional materials (added fittings) and extra work against construction manager and project’s mechanical engineer and architect in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Boston) based upon defective design and bid documents. Obtained favorable settlement for client following mediation.

      • Other Experiences

      • Successfully defended a municipality in a lawsuit brought by a contractor for damages for delay and obtained judgment against the contractor for liquidated damages incurred prior to the termination of the parties' contract for convenience. On appeal, the Connecticut Supreme Court unanimously held that, under the language used in the parties' contract, the owner retained the right to recover liquidated damages for project delays incurred prior to the termination of the contract. The Court also rejected the contractor's claim that the municipality could not collect liquidated damages because it was at least partially at fault for the delays in completing the project, clarifying that, if a contract provides a procedure for extending the contract's termination date due to delays not caused by the contractor, then collection of liquidated damages is not strictly abrogated under Connecticut law.

      • Secured a significant trial ruling against a state agency responsible for the repair, maintenance, and construction of public highways and bridges and for the increased costs of a 749-day delay in completing a roadway reconstruction and bridge replacement project. The decision presents important legal authority regarding the liability of a public owner for causing work delays.

      • Representation of major international contractor in connection with $100 million construction litigation concerning the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant.
      • Achieved a favorable settlement for an owner and construction manager in a case involving the collapse of a church, which resulted in a fatality and other serious personal injuries.

      • Successfully prosecuted a multimillion-dollar claim for contract balances, delays, and inefficiencies against the general contractor and ownership group of a hotel in connection with the total renovation of a historic city block in New Orleans, Louisiana, while defending against claims of various subcontractors in state and federal court.

      • Representation of a construction manager, working closely with the owner and its counsel in all facets of contracting and dispute resolution of the $125 million renovation of The Palace Theatre and construction of the adjacent magnet school in Waterbury, Connecticut. *

      • Successfully represented a mechanic's lienor in a case that upheld the constitutionality of Connecticut's mechanic's lien law. *

      • Defeated designer's motion to strike subcontractor's tort claims of approximately $5 million, based upon defective design documents and negligent contract administration by successfully convincing the court that the Economic Loss Doctrine did not bar such claims. *

      • Representation of a public owner in a multimillion-dollar dispute involving claims of construction delays and design flaws in connection with the construction of a 200,000-square-foot convention center.
      • Representation of the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority in arbitration of claims related to faulty design and construction of energy recovery reuse facility against engineering procurement and construction contractor. Representation also includes litigation regarding a defective boiler.
      • Dispute Resolution

      • Representation of construction manager in defense of multimillion-dollar construction defect action filed by a condominium association asserting nearly 100 building code defects that were claimed to be the result of defective construction. Obtained a zero dollar settlement for client, which included reimbursement for legal fees and costs after impleading the responsible subcontractors and the project designer and following extensive discovery and settlement negotiations.

      • Representation of construction manager in the defense of multimillion-dollar construct defect claims relating to the construction of a parapet wall and roofing deck where the owner claimed water infiltration was the result of client’s deviation from plans and specifications and faulty means and methods. Obtained a nuisance value settlement following extensive discovery and disclosure of expert witnesses and motion practice. This was a multiparty litigation before the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, which was subsequently returned to New Jersey Superior Court where it settled following three days of mediation. Parties to the litigation included the owner, designers, and subcontractors.

      • Representation of a mechanical contractor in the prosecution of multimillion-dollar delay and inefficiency claims against a New Jersey school district and its designers, defeating “No Damages for Delay” provision asserted by way of summary judgment and obtaining favorable settlement for client following three days of mediation.

      • Representation of construction manager client and defeated owner bankruptcy trustees preference claims seeking the return of progress payments and retainage, obtaining voluntary dismissal of adversary proceeding in favor of client.

      • Representation of large steel trade contractor in action assertion of affirmative claims for delays and inefficiencies against structural engineer. Obtained favorable settlement for client after surviving motion to strike all claims based upon economic loss doctrine and depositions of defendants' engineers.*

      • Other Experiences

      • Representation of an internationally renowned research hospital in its successful prosecution of a multimillion-dollar claim for defective design and construction of a state-of-the-art patient care center.
      • Litigation

      • Representation of an insurer in defense of litigation from construction defects from the "Big Dig" project in Boston. Specifically, the matter involved the failed installation of an underwater tunnel segment, resulting in flooding and movement of a large concrete tunnel segment. The issues included both design and workmanship concerns.

      • *These matters were of counsel prior to an individual attorney joining Robinson+Cole.
      • Dispute Resolution

      • Represented UConn and achieved a favorable settlement of millions of dollars against the design and construction teams in connection with design and construction defects on the South Campus dormitory complex.

      • Represented UConn and achieved a favorable settlement of millions of dollars against the design and construction teams in connection with design and construction defects on the South Campus dormitory complex.

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    • News
      • January 25, 2016

        Joe Barra Featured in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Article

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