Most construction projects are carefully planned with the best intentions, but the nature of the industry still lends itself to potential construction disputes. Whether issues are related to craftsmanship, contract, or timeline issues, it isn't uncommon for problems to arise during residential and commercial projects.
Due to their complexity, these types of disputes require a full understanding of the field and all of its unique issues. At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we represent many of Louisiana’s largest commercial and residential construction companies, as well as a number of developers, owners, suppliers, architects, and engineers. We also represent people from around our community. Whether you are an individual or business, if a construction dispute arises, we can help you resolve the issue with other parties.
What Leads To Construction Disputes?
Constructing homes and large commercial spaces is no easy task. Simply think about the various aspects that all require different levels of expertise. From masonry professionals to plumbers and painters, completing the job takes a lot of moving parts.
One study of the industry noted that contractors or subcontractors “failing to understand and/or comply” with a contract requirement is the most common construction dispute. While one head contractor typically oversees all of the sub-contractors, this doesn’t always go according to plan. Many construction disputes can arise from sub-contracting choices that lead to errors in work.
Timelines are another point of stress when trying to complete a construction job. While you may determine a completion date at the outset of a contract, unforeseen issues can arise. It’s fairly common for contractors to stumble upon problems that delay a project for a few days, weeks, or even months. Whether it’s a necessary repair or supply chain issue, no one likes lengthy delays that have an impact on the final completion date.
Finally, non-payment of fees commonly leads to construction disputes. Whether funding is running low, or an individual is withholding the money due to project concerns, this can lead to a contentious situation.
All of these reasons and more may lead to construction disputes, and there is plenty of gray area for misunderstandings.
Different Types Of Common Construction Disputes
In a perfect world, a well-executed contract and expert team can help you avoid construction disputes. But as discussed, problems can quickly become legal issues in this industry. These are some of the most common construction disputes that we see.
While this may be one of the most common construction disputes, the impact can be damaging for both parties. A developer may lose out on business if a building is not ready in time. On the other hand, a homeowner may face additional housing costs if their new home is not ready for move-in. These delays have an adverse effect on contractors as well because it keeps them from moving on to other scheduled jobs.
When these issues arise, they typically fall into one of two categories: inexcusable delays and excusable delays.
Inexcusable delays refer to contractors who are at fault for a timeline issue. The other party will typically seek financial damages, demand an acceleration of performance, or request to terminate the contract. Alternatively, excusable delays usually come down to circumstances beyond a contractor’s control. This relieves them of liability and usually requires a simple timeline extension.
The initial phase of any construction project relies on architectural designs. The engineers hired to complete these plans have a duty to exercise reasonable care. In the event that a design error or omission leads to changes that impact a contractor, there may be a legal case.
Another type of design defect case may arise later due to a third-party injury. For example, a concrete beam falls due to faulty supports, someone is hurt, and that person then sues the owner of the building. However, the owner finds that the design error is to blame and sues the original architect or engineer.
Due to the complex nature of business design, these issues can arise in many different forms when it comes to construction disputes.
Workmanship is a tricky issue due to the subjective nature of the topic. While a contractor may feel as though the quality of work is up to par, an owner or developer may disagree. This is why quality issues are among the most difficult construction disputes to prove and settle.
When an owner feels that a contractor completed substandard work due to poor craftsmanship or unacceptable materials, they may refuse to provide payment. Litigation is sometimes necessary to resolve these types of construction disputes.
Also known as changing or concealed conditions, these types of construction disputes occur when material differences arise after a contract is underway.
These claims typically occur around the following types of issues:
- The contractor suffered damages due to unforeseen site conditions.
- Site conditions differed from what was disclosed in the contract.
- Geological or soil surveys were incorrect and didn’t provide an accurate assessment.
Whether due to changes or misrepresentation, these issues can be associated with rock formation, water conditions, and even underground obstructions at a site.
Failure to make payments
Just as contractors are expected to complete the work on time, developers and owners have a duty to provide timely payments.
In most cases, the payment schedule is clearly stated in a contract at the outset of a project. Delays create cash flow issues for contractors. Because they’re expected to pay subcontractors, employees, and suppliers, a failure to make payments can lead to large construction disputes.
How Do You Resolve Construction Disputes?
If it’s clear that you’re dealing with a serious construction dispute, it’s important to consider all of your options. While going to court is the traditional route, there are other options. Commonly referred to as “alternative dispute resolution,” or “ADR,” these methods offer the following benefits:
- Faster settlements as it can take months or even years to get a case in front of a judge
- Lower costs spent on attorney fees due to finding a resolution faster
- Privacy through the confidential nature of ADR methods
From direct negotiation between parties to arbitration, here are the ways construction disputes may be resolved.
While it may seem obvious, it’s best to attempt to negotiate directly before seeking legal assistance. Reach out to the other party and find a time to sit down and discuss the issues at hand.
If they won’t cooperate or you can’t reach an agreement, it is time to find an attorney and pursue other resolution options.
Mediation is a structured process that includes a neutral third party. Mediators are not decision makers and will not decide on an outcome. They are trained professionals who are there to guide the conversation and help both parties communicate effectively.
Mediation usually lasts several days, which means it's a much quicker process than going to court. However, since there is no ruling, it relies on both parties' willingness to negotiate.
Many contracts require arbitration in the event of a dispute. While it is a faster and less costly option than going to court, it does model traditional court cases in many ways.
Each party will go before one or a panel of arbitrators. These are usually unbiased experts in the field. You may still prepare witnesses, evidence, and other supporting resources when it comes to this method of resolution. The arbitrators can then make a binding decision on the case.
State or Federal Court
When all alternative dispute resolution methods fail, you will have to take your case to state or federal court. This will put your case before a judge or jury.
While many cases settle outside of court, this remains an effective final measure for resolving issues.
The Huber Thomas & Marcelle Approach
When you partner with Huber Thomas & Marcelle, you reap the benefits of our collaborative team approach. We believe that working together provides our clients with the best outcomes. You will have a specific lawyer assigned to your case, but our entire team will contribute based on our unique expertise.
While most cases can settle using mediation or arbitration, we still prepare for every case as if it will go to trial. This extensive preparation allows us to excel in every negotiation. Plus, if your case does go to trial, you will have a team who is fully ready to fight for you when it’s your day in court.
At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we are proud to say that we’ve helped our clients recover millions of dollars in a range of different cases, including business torts. If you’d like to learn more about our successes, we encourage you to read about some of our previous case victories.
Find A Construction Attorney Today
Construction disputes can become long and drawn-out issues that take a toll on your personal life and business. Don’t spend another moment searching the internet for a “construction dispute attorney near me.” Huber Thomas & Marcelle should be your first call.
We represent clients in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and nationwide. Plus, we have substantial experience litigating construction-related claims, including violation of contract, construction defects, change orders, delays, disruptions, and termination.
If you’d like to discuss the details of your construction dispute or other business issue, please contact us to set up a free consultation.