Construction Law

Legal issues, news, and regulations concerning the construction industry

1
Will construction companies have an easier way to reach settlements with public investors in Poland?
2
German Caselaw: When will warranty claims for rooftop solar power stations be time-barred?
3
Considerations for Construction Industry Employers as They Continue to Prepare for New Salary Thresholds Under White-Collar Overtime Exemptions
4
Proposed Security of Payment Legislation in Hong Kong
5
Building from the Sky Down: New FAA Rules Affect Use of Drones in Construction Industry
6
Interim Payments – No Automatic Entitlement to Interim Payments Beyond the Last Date in the Agreed Payment Schedule
7
Picerne Constr. Corp. v. Castellino Villas
8
New Jersey Supreme Court Gives Supreme Win to Policyholders
9
Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking in the Construction Industry
10
Welcome to the 32nd Edition of K&L Gates’ Arbitration World

Will construction companies have an easier way to reach settlements with public investors in Poland?

By Joanna Łagowska and Łukasz Gembiś, K&L Gates, Warsaw

In Poland, for years now we have seen a steady increase in the number of commercial disputes referred to the common courts. According to the information provided in April 2016 by Undersecretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Construction, Jerzy Szmit, the value of the claims that contractors brought to the court, or intend to bring, amounted to approximately €2.5 billion, covering 5000 cases (only regarding road construction disputes).

Although the efficiency of the Polish courts has improved in the last few years, the average duration of court proceedings in Poland is still very long. Amicable dispute resolution is one method to deal with the resulting delays (for example by way of conciliation or mediation procedures etc.). However, unfortunately, despite various initiatives to promote such methods by both the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Development, government bodies and state budgetary units only occasionally make use of procedures for the amicable settlement of disputes arising under civil law. It appears that the main factor preventing public investors from wider use of such amicable dispute resolution methods is a fear of incurring liability for breach of public finance discipline.

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German Caselaw: When will warranty claims for rooftop solar power stations be time-barred?

By Christoph Mank, K&L Gates, Berlin

The question of when warranty claims are time-barred according to the German Civil Code, may differ from contract to contract. Often, warranty claims are time-barred two or three years after transfer of risk; however, for construction works, longer periods of four or five years may be applicable, starting with the completion and acceptance of the works.

The civil division of the German Federal Supreme Court (“BGH“), which is ─ inter alia in charge of construction law, had to decide a case recently in which rooftop solar panels were installed subsequently on the roof of an indoor tennis center. Three years ago, another civil division of the BGH ─ which is in charge of the law related to sale and purchase agreements ─ had to decide a very similar case in which rooftop panels were installed on a barn. In the case of 2013, the BGH ruled that warranty claims for the solar panels, which were only delivered and not installed by the vendor, are time-barred two years after delivery. According to that decision, the rooftop solar power station is not a building or a “structure,” which it needs to be considered to qualify for the five-year warranty period. Only the barn is a building, and the solar power system is not relevant for the construction and the continued existence of the building; the solar power system is only used for generating electricity.

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Considerations for Construction Industry Employers as They Continue to Prepare for New Salary Thresholds Under White-Collar Overtime Exemptions

By Amy L. Groff, K&L Gates, Harrisburg and Matthew D. Duncan, K&L Gates, Raleigh

Employers in the U.S. construction industry should act now to address recent changes to the overtime exemptions for “white-collar” employees. On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published its highly anticipated final rule, which more than doubles the salary threshold required for certain executive, administrative, and professional employees to qualify for an exemption from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The new rule will take effect on December 1, 2016. In this relatively short time frame, employers must review their current practices, determine which positions should be reclassified and how they should be classified and paid, consider related policies that should be revised, and plan how to communicate changes to employees.

These changes to the overtime exemptions will touch almost every employer in the country, but they are likely to have a disproportionate impact on construction-related businesses, which are among the industries projected to have the most affected workers. The final rule makes it much more difficult to treat employees such as first-line construction supervisors as exempt from overtime pay, and employers are now required to make hard staffing and economic choices in their businesses.

To read the full alert on K&L Gates HUB, click here.

 

Proposed Security of Payment Legislation in Hong Kong

By Sacha M. Cheong and Dominic C. Lau, K&L Gates, Hong Kong

A prominent feature of the construction industry is its pyramid structure with long chains of contracts and sub-contracts from developers down to small sub-contractors and suppliers.

The inclusion of conditional payment terms (favorable to the paying party), frequent disputes at all stages of the projects, and cumbersome dispute resolution processes can often result in substantial delay in payments to the smaller sub-contractors and suppliers. On the one hand, these sub-contractors and suppliers are usually dependent on the parties higher up in the contracting hierarchy for new work, and they often lack the financial means and resources to engage in protracted disputes. On the other hand, delayed or nonpayment could adversely affect their cash flow, resulting in difficulties in ordering and securing goods and services, paying employee wages, and sometimes even the suspension of work.

To address these problems, the United Kingdom pioneered the statutory adjudication scheme for security of payment in 1996, which has since been followed (with slight variations) by several other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Malaysia.

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Building from the Sky Down: New FAA Rules Affect Use of Drones in Construction Industry

By Gregory R.  Andre, K&L Gates, Chicago and Thomas R. DeCesar, K&L Gates, Harrisburg

On August 29, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) long-awaited final rules regarding the commercial operation of small unmanned aircraft (a.k.a. drones) become effective.[1] The FAA’s new rules, which will primarily be codified under Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, are a major step for the eventual integration of unmanned aircraft into business operations nationwide. Part 107 represents the FAA’s first comprehensive regulation of unmanned aircraft operations.

Before Part 107, companies had to obtain preapproval through the lengthy Section 333 exemption process (named for Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012) before conducting commercial unmanned aircraft operations. The Section 333 exemption process imposed significant restrictions on unmanned aircraft operations and required operators of unmanned aircraft to have a pilot’s certificate. The new rules, however, generally permit companies to use unmanned aircraft in commercial operations without obtaining preapproval from the FAA and with fewer restrictions than were required under Section 333 exemptions.  In addition, the rules create a new class of pilot’s certificate specific to unmanned aircraft that is easier to obtain than a typical pilot’s certificate.

The construction industry will stand to benefit from Part 107, as unmanned aircraft can be employed in a variety of operations helpful to construction companies, including: topographical surveys, access to hard-to-reach locations, job progress tracking, videography/marketing, building and structure inspections, site security, safety, and general construction site troubleshooting. In fact, in an early survey of companies seeking FAA authority to use unmanned aircraft, nearly half of applicants identified the construction industry as a field where they would use their device.[2] This post summarizes the new FAA rules and highlights a few issues of particular importance in the construction industry.

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Interim Payments – No Automatic Entitlement to Interim Payments Beyond the Last Date in the Agreed Payment Schedule

By Nita Mistry, K&L Gates, London

In Grove Developments Limited v Balfour Beatty Regional Construction Limited [2016] EWHC 168 (TCC), the contract (JCT Design and Build Contract, 2011 edition with bespoke amendments) contained an agreed schedule of 23 interim valuation and payment dates. The last date in the schedule coincided with the date of practical completion. The works completed after the contractual date for completion of the works. The contractor issued an interim application number 24. This interim application was outside of the agreed payment schedule. The contract did not contain a provision regarding payment beyond the 23 scheduled payments. The employer argued that the contractor was not entitled to issue further applications beyond interim application 23, and the judge, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith, agreed. The contractor was not entitled to further interim payments.

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Picerne Constr. Corp. v. Castellino Villas

By Hector H. Espinosa and Benjamin Kussman, K&L Gates, Los Angeles

Under California’s mechanic’s lien laws, a general contractor has 90 days from “completion” of its work to record a claim of mechanic’s lien. Ca. Civ. Code §8412.  Previously, it remained unsettled as to when this 90-day period began to run because some California courts held that the 90-day clock was triggered upon substantial completion of contractor’s work.  In Picerne Constr. Corp., the California Court of Appeal rejected this interpretation of Ca. Civ. Code §3115[1], ruling that completion (for purposes of the 90-day window) only occurs upon “actual completion” of the work of improvement as defined by statute.

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New Jersey Supreme Court Gives Supreme Win to Policyholders

By Frederic J. Giordano, Robert F. Pawlowski, Denise N. Yasinow, K&L Gates, Newark

On August 4, 2016, the Supreme Court of New Jersey unanimously affirmed the Appellate Division’s holding that consequential damages caused by a subcontractor’s faulty workmanship constitute “property damage” and an “occurrence” under the 1986 Insurance Services Office, Inc. (“ISO”) form commercial general liability (“CGL”) insurance policy.  This holding is welcome news to real estate developers, general contractors, and commercial policyholders who may seek coverage for damage caused by the faulty work of their subcontractors.

To read the full alert, click here.

Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking in the Construction Industry

By Camilla A. de Moraes, K&L Gates, London

Background

With an estimated 35.8 million people enslaved today,[1] it is undeniable that modern slavery and human trafficking is a significant global problem.  The construction industry in particular, with its high demand for migrant labour and complex procurement processes, has the potential for exploitation, and there have been high-profile cases such as in relation to the construction work for the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar.  However, in recent years, steps have been taken, both domestically and internationally, to tackle such human rights abuses.

In the United Kingdom, the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the “Act”) is now in force and an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner has been appointed as a result.  There have also been amendments to the UK Companies Act 2013, which requires companies quoted on the London Stock Exchange to report on their human rights performance, and a new Immigration Act, which proposes changes to the way the current Gangmasters Licensing Authority operates.  On the European stage, the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive requiring disclosure of human rights policies is in force, with member states required to bring into force laws to comply with it by 6 December 2016, and globally, a target to end modern slavery and human trafficking has been included as Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which will help shape development policy worldwide.

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Welcome to the 32nd Edition of K&L Gates’ Arbitration World

Welcome to this 32nd edition of Arbitration World.

To view Arbitration World, click here.

To download a printable PDF of the publication, open the link above and click on the fourth icon from the right in the magazine toolbar at the top of the page.

We are very pleased to include in this edition, as part of our series of guest contributions from expert witnesses, an article by Howard Rosen and Noel Matthews of FTI Consulting, regarding how “country risk” can affect the value of investments and the approach towards this issue in damages calculations in international arbitration.

We review recent developments in arbitration in Qatar, including court decisions regarding the validity of arbitration agreements and the enforcement of arbitration awards. As part of a series of articles related to so-called “Bermuda Form” liability insurance policies, we look at the process of formation of the arbitral tribunal in Bermuda Form policies and whether such insurance policies may conflict with certain U.S. state laws regulating insurance.

We report on a recent decision of the English Commercial Court regarding enforcement of a tribunal’s order for a provisional payment, as well as a recent UK Privy Council decision on the meaning and effect of permissive arbitration clauses. We review the new mediation rules of the Vienna International Arbitration Centre (VIAC) and report on the work of an International Bar Association (IBA) Subcommittee in assessing how states have defined the public policy exception under the New York Convention.

We review some recent decisions of the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland on arbitration award set-aside applications in the past year. We are also very pleased to include a guest contribution from Ben Beaumont, a barrister from Thomas More Chambers and Chairman of the Arbitration Club, regarding a recent decision of the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland on the role of a Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB) under the FIDIC Red Book regime.

We also provide our usual update on developments from around the globe in international arbitration and investment treaty arbitration.

We hope you find this edition of Arbitration World of interest, and we welcome any feedback (email ian.meredith@klgates.com or peter.morton@klgates.com).

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