Christopher G. Hill | Construction Law Musings
If there is one “theme” to Construction Law Musings, those that read regularly hopefully see that I take my role as counselor to construction companies seriously. Aside from the fact that litigation and arbitration are both expensive and not a great way for any business, particularly a construction business, to make money, I have found construction professionals to be a pragmatic group of people that would rather solve a problem than go to court.
I have also discussed the need for a good foundation for the project in the form of a well drafted and properly negotiated contract. This contract sets out the rights of the parties and essentially makes the “law” for your construction project. Virginia courts will not renegotiate the terms for you and while this can lead to problems where parties either don’t understand the terms or don’t work to level the terms, it does mean that the parties know what the expectations are where the expectations are properly set, preferably with the help of your friendly neighborhood construction attorney and counselor at law. Practical considerations such as your feel for the other party and which terms are worth forgoing the work for should drive your considerations almost as much as the legal implications.
With a good contractual foundation, hopefully you won’t ever have to call your attorney to deal with a dispute (at least in a “public” sense). While I highly recommend getting advice early and often when you see a problem coming down the pike (and there will be problems), be practical about whether you want to use any of the “hammers” in the contract (which can range from termination to stopping work to arbitration). The first and likely best option is to try and work through the problem and figure out a solution. The least expensive and fastest way to get through to the end of a project that has problems almost never to terminate a subcontractor or walk off a job. While these are proper in the right circumstances from a legal standpoint, they lead to additional issues, non-payment, mechanic’s liens, and in the end litigation or arbitration.
While I come from a litigation background, and litigate more often than I’m sure my clients would like, most often the practical approach, with a healthy dose of understanding the contract and the law, will get a construction project to the end and resolve issues in a less expensive and more satisfactory manner.