Construction disputes can be complex and challenging. They may involve property owners, developers, general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and other parties. Some of these disputes can be resolved through mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods, but in some cases it may be necessary to pursue formal litigation. The construction litigation attorneys at Klapper & Fass aggressively represent clients in New York and other states, taking cases to trial as necessary.Common Types of Construction Litigation
A typical basis for construction litigation is nonpayment under a contract. It can also include claims of construction defects, disputes over the scope of the work, and delay or acceleration claims. Many construction disputes are governed by contractual language, which is generally interpreted according to its plain and unambiguous meaning. However, some contracts include terms that are considered unconscionable or void based on public policy, or they may have ambiguous language that results in strong disagreements between the parties about what was intended.
Parties to a construction contract in New York have some freedom to bargain for the provisions that they want in their construction contract, but there are certain limitations. Under Section 757(1) of the General Business Law, any dispute arising from a New York construction contract—except for contracts with material suppliers—must be resolved by state laws. If the contract provides otherwise, the provision is void and unenforceable.
Similarly, the parties to a private construction contract cannot specify periods within which an invoice must be paid that are different from what is prescribed by statute. In all cases, owners must pay an invoice within 30 days of invoice approval. A contractor or subcontractor needs to tender payment of an invoice proportionate to what the owner paid within seven days of receiving the owner's payment.
Contractors, subcontractors, materialmen, landscape architects, nurserymen, and landscaping suppliers may file a mechanic's lien to recover the principal and interest of the value or agreed price of the labor or materials under N.Y. Lien. Law § 3. The timelines for a mechanic's lien depend on the nature of the project. For example, anyone who provides labor or materials to a single-family home must file the lien within four months of the last provision of labor and materials. However, for other projects, parties that provide labor or materials must file mechanic's liens within eight months of the last provision. The contractual language under which the labor or materials were supplied cannot limit or eliminate the lien rights of a contractor.
In the past, contractors, subcontractors, architects, and engineers could pass along the risk of their own negligence to other parties through an indemnification provision in the construction contract. The party with greater power in the contracting process—usually owners and general contractors—could insist on indemnity clauses that shifted the responsibility to pay damages from one party to another without regard to who caused the loss. Like 44 other states, however, New York has an anti-indemnity law that makes void and unenforceable an indemnification provision that holds harmless or indemnifies a promisee against liability for damage caused by the promisee's negligence. For example, a general contractor and architect cannot escape liability for negligent electrical specifications by including an indemnification provision in its contract with an electrical subcontractor.Consult a New York Attorney to Protect Your Interests at Trial
When construction litigation or another business dispute is on the horizon, you can consult the New York lawyers at Klapper & Fass. We are experienced litigators who understand the construction industry and the many laws that govern it. Our attorneys provide legal services from offices in White Plains and Manhattan, and we serve all five boroughs in New York City. We also provide legal services in Orange, Westchester, Nassau, Dutchess, Suffolk, and Rockland Counties, as well as in other states such as New Jersey and Connecticut. Contact our office at 914.287.6466 or via our online form.