Archive: September 2016

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

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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