Category: Europe

1
Implementing Building Information Modelling (BIM) in Germany
2
FIDIC Update: Termination and the Employer’s Obligations under the Red Book
3
Reform of Construction Contract Law Planned in Germany
4
Materials Available: EPC Contracting Issues in the Oil & Gas Industry
5
Materials Available: 2015 Legal Update – Construction and Engineering Seminar
6
Update on Legal Advice Privilege
7
Unreasonable disadvantage to contractor: Securing warranty claims by standard terms and condi-tions restricted by German Federal Supreme Court
8
FIDIC Update: Further clarity provided by Obrascon Huarte Lain SA v HM Attorney General for Gibraltar
9
Independent evidentiary proceeding—A legal tool in Germany to avoid construction court proceedings
10
Time Bars in Construction Contracts – A Comparison between Jurisdictions

Implementing Building Information Modelling (BIM) in Germany

By Christoph Mank, K&L Gates, Berlin

In recent years, numerous issues have accumulated in connection with the realisation of large building projects planned and financed by the public sector, such as the new international airport in Berlin, the Elb-Philharmonie in Hamburg and the Stuttgart 21 train station project. In particular, issues included delays, huge cost increases and communicating the projects and the attendant problems affecting the public. The ensuing discussions in the German public triggered the formation of a reform commission by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (Bundesministerium für Verkehr und digitale Infrastruktur), called “Bau von Großprojekten” or “Large-Scale Construction Projects”. One recommendation in the reform commission’s final report is that Building Information Modelling (BIM) should be implemented in Germany.

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FIDIC Update: Termination and the Employer’s Obligations under the Red Book

By Mike R. Stewart, Mary E. Lindsay, and Nita Mistry, K&L Gates, London

A Privy Council case last year provided some important guidance on the provisions in the FIDIC Red Book in relation to Employer’s financial arrangements and claims.  Whatever your perspective might be, when negotiating or managing a contract based on the FIDIC Books, employers and contractors should be aware of the Privy Council’s findings in NH International (Caribbean) Ltd v National Insurance Property Development Company Ltd (Trinidad and Tobago) [2015] UKPC 37.

The Contract
National Insurance Property Development Company Ltd (Trinidad and Tobago), the Employer, employed NH International (Caribbean) Ltd, the Contractor, to construct a hospital in Tobago under a contract in the form of the FIDIC Red Book.

On 2 November 2006, the Contractor terminated the contract pursuant to Clause 16.2.  The Employer did not agree the termination was valid but the parties proceeded as if the contract had been terminated.  A number of issues arose during the Engineer’s assessment of the work to the date of termination and these matters, including the validity of the termination, were referred to arbitration.

The arbitrator’s decisions in relation to Clauses 2.4 and 2.5 and Clause 16.1 were later appealed first to the High Court and the Court of Appeal in Tobago and then to the Privy Council.

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Reform of Construction Contract Law Planned in Germany

By Christoph Mank, K&L Gates, Berlin

Introduction
Despite the huge economic significance of the construction industry to Germany, there is, as yet, no codified construction contract law. Usually, general services contract law according to the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch – BGB) is applied to contract types as varied as manual repair work and project developments involving millions of Euros. Traditionally, general contractual terms known as “VOB/B” (Verdingungsordnung für Bauleistungen), which have existed for almost 100 years, are of considerable practical importance to the German construction industry. They are flanked by increasingly extensive case law regarding individual issues of construction law, requiring expert knowledge to comprehend the legal framework for construction contracts. A codification of construction contract law has been called for in Germany for a long time. The most recent comprehensive reworking of the law of obligations, which came into effect in 2002, also saw a revision of services contract law, but without consideration of the specific characteristics of construction contracts. The pressure exerted by practitioners on the legislature has increased due to recommendations issued by the building commission, “Deutscher Baugerichtstag”, that has been convening biannually since 2006. In September of this year, a draft bill was presented by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz) for the reform of the construction contract law. There will be considerable need for further discussion regarding the details in the consultations currently taking place among interested groups. However, we would like to take this opportunity to give an overview of the planned changes to the law.

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Materials Available: EPC Contracting Issues in the Oil & Gas Industry

K&L Gates and Marsh recently co-sponsored a one-day, complimentary seminar titled “EPC Contracting Issues in the Oil & Gas Industry.”

The seminar featured six hour-long sessions, including a luncheon presentation by Robert Peterson, senior partner at Oliver Wyman, and an industry roundtable review panel consisting of industry experts from Exxon Mobil, Phillips 66, Chicago Bridge & Iron Company, Fluor, and Aker Solutions.

More than 100 representatives from leading energy companies attended the seminar at the JW Marriott Houston Downtown.

Houston partners Randel Young and John Sullivan III, Pittsburgh partners Richard Paciaroni and Jason Richey, London partner Matthew Smith, Washington, D.C. partner Steven Sparling, and Dallas partner Beth Petronio, along with Pittsburgh associate Jackie Celender, presented during the seminar.

Seminar materials can be found here.

Materials Available: 2015 Legal Update – Construction and Engineering Seminar

On 7 October 2015, the K&L Gates London office held a 2015 Legal Update – Construction and Engineering breakfast seminar.  The seminar featured the following topics:

  • CDM 2015: The End of the Transition – Nicola Ellis, Special Counsel
    The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 came into force on 6 April. This session highlights the key changes that were introduced, the practical effects of those changes and the consequences of the transitional provisions coming to an end on 6 October.
  • Construction Law UpdateInga Hall, Special Counsel
    A summary of some of the recent key construction and engineering cases that have come before the courts, and the implications of those decisions.
  • The NEC3 Suite: Beyond the ECC – Matthew Smith, Partner
    This session looks at the true range of options the NEC3 suite of contracts offers and gives an insight into which issues are addressed consistently across the suite, and highlights the key differences between specific forms.

To view a copy of the materials from this seminar,  please click here.

Update on Legal Advice Privilege

By Mike R. Stewart and Nita Mistry, K&L Gates London

In common law jurisdictions, legal professional privilege prevents communications between a professional legal adviser and their clients from being disclosed.  There are two main types of privilege:

  • Legal advice privilege, which protects confidential communications between lawyers and their clients; and
  • Litigation privilege, which protects confidential communications, provided that such communications have been created for the dominant purpose of obtaining legal advice for litigation.

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Unreasonable disadvantage to contractor: Securing warranty claims by standard terms and condi-tions restricted by German Federal Supreme Court

By Christoph Mank, K&L Gates, Berlin

Background
Standard terms and conditions in German construction contracts often contain requirements to provide a warranty bond to secure performance by the contractor of its warranty obligations under the contract. These requirements often stipulate the contractor to provide both a performance guarantee and a warranty bond.

The warranty bond secures the contractor’s warranty obligations during the warranty period (typically arising after the acceptance and take-over of the construction works) and is often in an amount of not more than 5% of the contract sum. This practice has been established due to prior case law by the German Federal Supreme Court. According to the Federal Supreme Court, the client´s security interest after acceptance of the construction is significantly lower than its security interest during performance.

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FIDIC Update: Further clarity provided by Obrascon Huarte Lain SA v HM Attorney General for Gibraltar

By Mike R. Stewart and Mary E. Lindsay, K&L Gates, London

We wrote recently on the case of Obrascon Huarte Lain SA v Her Majesty’s Attorney General for Gibraltar [2014] EWHC 1028 (TCC).  The case provided welcome clarity on the interpretation of Sub-Clauses 4.12 (Unforeseeable Physical Conditions) and 20.1 (Contractor’s claims) and Clause 15 (Termination).  The matter was appealed and dismissed unanimously in Obrascon Huarte Lain SA v Her Majesty’s Attorney General for Gibraltar [2015] EWCA Civ 712 (http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2015/712.html).

The dispute arose out of the design and construction by Obrascon Huarte Lain SA of a road and tunnel under the runway of Gibraltar airport.  The contract was an amended form of the FIDIC Conditions of Contract for Plant and Design-Build for Electrical and Mechanical Plant, and for Building and Engineering Works, Designed by the Contractor, 1st edition, 1999; the Yellow Book.

In the first instance case, Mr Justice Akenhead was required to consider whether the employer was entitled to terminate.

In addition, the judgment clarified that, under Sub-Clause 20.1 of the FIDIC Conditions (Contractor’s Claims), time does not start running for the Contractor to give notice until the date on which he is aware (or should have been aware) of the delay resulting from a particular event or circumstance. The court only considered Sub-Clause 20.1 in relation to the extension of time, but the same principle is expected to apply to claims for additional payment made pursuant to the same provision.

The contractor appealed on the grounds that the court had incorrectly found that contamination encountered was foreseeable, failed to find that documents provided by the engineer constituted variations and failed to find that the employer had invalidly terminated the contract.  The contractor’s appeal against Mr Justice Akenhead’s decision was unanimously dismissed by the Court of Appeal.  The appeal judgment provides contractors with some helpful explanation in respect of each of these grounds of appeal.

(i)  What would constitute unforeseeable physical conditions under Clauses 1.1.6.8 and 4.12?

In this respect, the Court of Appeal was reluctant to overturn findings of fact made at the first instance, particularly in the case of appeals from a specialist court such as the English Technology and Construction Court (the TCC).

However, the Court of Appeal did note that Mr Justice Akenhead had “held that an experienced contractor would make its own assessment of all available data. In that respect the judge was plainly right. Clauses 1.1 and 4.12 of the FIDIC conditions require the contractor at tender stage to make its own independent assessment of the available information. The contractor must draw upon its own expertise and its experience of previous civil engineering projects. The contractor must make a reasonable assessment of the physical conditions which it may encounter. The contractor cannot simply accept someone else’s interpretation of the data and say that is all that was foreseeable.

(ii)  Had the Engineer issued instructions which varied the Works?

Again, on some points, the Court of Appeal was reluctant to interfere in the findings of the TCC.

The Court of Appeal found that the documents referred to it did not amount to instructions to vary the contract.  They were either matters which were the contractor’s obligations in any case, concessions by the employer which could be withdrawn and were not contractual or matters which the contractor had not, in fact, acted upon.

The analysis here (at paragraphs 101 to 112) of the judgment gives some indication of the Court’s interpretation of a variation instruction.

(iii)  What would give rise to a failure to proceed with the works under Clause 8 and so justify termination pursuant to Clause 15.2?

The first instance court had summarised the relevant legal principles.  These were not challenged but the contractor appealed the court’s application of the principles.

The Court of Appeal first addressed the contractor’s claim that it was undertaking a re-design of the works with which the employer and contractor had elected.  However, the Court of Appeal found “it is clear that neither GoG nor the Engineer made an election which committed them to adopting the re-design and rejecting the original design of the tunnel. The Engineer made it plain that the original design was perfectly satisfactory and capable of being constructed without any risk to health or safety. The Engineer was simply considering the re-design as a modification put forward by OHL”.

In addition, when the engineer considered the contractor’s design under Clause 5.2, he was considering whether the design was technically acceptable and whether, if the design was implemented, the completed works would accord with the contract. If the re-design is satisfactory in all those respects, it is not for the Engineer to reject the design because he thinks it will take too long to build as the contractor claimed.

The Court of Appeal then considered termination under Clauses 15.2(b) and 15.2(c)(i) and the obligation under Clause 8 of the FIDIC Conditions to “proceed with the works with due expedition and without delay”.  The Court decided that the obligation under Clause 8 is not directed to every task on the contractor’s to-do list.  Rather it is directed to activities which “are or may become critical”.

The Court of Appeal then considered whether there was a “reasonable excuse”, within the meaning of clause 15.2(c), for the contractor’s failure to proceed with the works.  On examination of the facts, it found there was no reasonable excuse.

As we have said, the appeal was unanimously rejected and agreed that the employer had validly terminated the contract.  The decision provides helpful clarity and reasoning to understand the FIDIC Conditions and should, combined with the first instance judgment, provide some welcome guidance in the areas considered.

Independent evidentiary proceeding—A legal tool in Germany to avoid construction court proceedings

By Christoph Mank and Eva Hugo, K&L Gates, Berlin

The dilemma

A construction principal faces a lot of questions if material defects occur while a building is still under construction: he can decide to continue with construction in order to prevent a delay in completion, but faces the risk that it might be difficult, or rather, impossible, to outline and, in particular, to later prove the background and causes of defects. Furthermore, warranty claims against contractors or architects can become time-barred if the works continue for years without clarification of the defect. On the other hand, if construction stops until a court proceeding takes place, the project might be delayed due to the excessive duration of German construction court proceedings, possibly causing enormous financial losses. Besides the principal, contractors and architects also have an interest in the causes and responsibility for an occurring, material construction defect being promptly clarified and assessed.

Aims of independent evidentiary proceedings

Independent evidentiary proceedings, as provided in the German Code of Civil Procedure, can help those principals, contractors and architects involved in construction project to step out of the above scenarios.

Independent evidentiary proceedings are initiated by the application of one party. It is not required that a court proceeding be pending. Independent evidentiary proceedings aim to secure the state of construction and to clarify the causes of, and responsibilities for, a defect through an expert’s participation. This enables construction parties, for example, the principal and a contractor, to come to an agreement and to avoid a subsequent court proceeding. The defect can be remedied and the project continued to completion. Even if an agreement cannot be reached and a court proceeding follows, an independent evidentiary proceeding will help accelerate the construction court proceeding, because the independent evidentiary proceeding’s results will be considered as evidence in the court proceeding.

Legal requirements

Independent evidentiary proceedings have to be applied for at the court that would also settle the legal matter. Furthermore, the applicant party has to provide a legitimate interest to establish the state or value of an object, the cause of property damage or a material defect or the effort required to remedy the property damage or material defect by a written expert opinion. Such a legitimate interest is statutorily presumed if the establishment serves to avoid a court proceeding.

Evidence can be taken by way of written expert opinion. In its application, the applicant has to precisely designate the opponent, as well as the facts and circumstances on which evidence should be taken; it is not allowable to describe vague, unsubstantiated facts only for the purpose of obtaining information to concretize an argument of fact. However, it is permitted to describe the facts as they appear to the applicant as a lay person in construction matters. The court then decides whether to take evidence on the application, and chooses an expert to be instructed. The expert´s opinion only assesses the case on a factual basis; legal questions and interpretations are excluded.

Independent evidentiary proceedings end with the delivery of the expert´s opinion and, possibly, with an agreement between the parties, which then will be recorded by the court, but not by a contentious decision of the court. The court may set a time period within which the parties can raise objections to the expert´s opinion and may apply for appointments to orally discuss the opinion with the expert.  If, however, the case is later brought before court by one of the parties as the result of the independent evidentiary proceedings, the expert´s opinion will be treated as if it was obtained during the court proceeding.

The opening of an independent evidentiary proceeding also affects the underlying claims. The limitation of those claims, especially warranty claims, will be suspended from the beginning of the independent evidentiary proceeding until six months after its end, a further advantage of this special type of proceeding.

 

Time Bars in Construction Contracts – A Comparison between Jurisdictions

By Jafar S. Khan, K&L Gates, Doha and Inga K. Hall, K&L Gates, London

The consequences for a contractor who delays in submitting an application for an extension of time, or who gets his payment application in late, can differ dramatically depending on the contract terms and also the governing law of the contract.

In order to ensure contractors submit their claims as they arise (rather than ‘roll them over’ to the end of a project) and to assist in efficient cash-flow management, it is common practice for both bespoke and standard form contracts to include express procedures for submitting claims for time, money or other relief. Provisions dealing with claims for an extension of time for example will frequently stipulate time limits for each of the following:

  • the initial notification of the events giving rise to the claim,
  • submission of particulars,
  • a response/request for further particulars on behalf of the employer, and
  • an assessment of what if any extension should be awarded.

What happens though if one of the parties does not complete the relevant action or step forming part of the procedure within the stipulated time?

This will depend first on what the contract says the consequences are to be. The usual practice in the standard forms mentioned above is to expressly provide that a failure to (say) submit the particulars of the claim strictly in accordance with the time period prescribed will invalidate the claim i.e the claim becomes “time barred”. Looked at in another way, such express provisions are seeking to make timely submission of the required particulars a condition precedent to recovery.

This raises the interesting question of whether such time bars are enforceable. On the one hand it would seem disproportionate to bar a substantial claim if a contractor was only one day late in filing its claim, but on the other hand, an employer might have made certain assessments as to liability and closed its position with respect to issues in relation to the events surrounding the claim. It would arguably be unfair to ignore the terms of the contract and permit the employer to continue to be exposed to claims.

The issue of enforceability will depend to a significant extent on the law of the contract. In common law systems such as the United Kingdom for example, clearly drafted time bars (such as those found in FIDIC sub-clause 20.1 and NEC3 clause 61.3) have in the past generally been enforced.

An issue which is however currently generating debate in the UK is how to properly assess the time period for first notifying an event. NEC3 clause 61.3 states that if the contractor does not notify a compensation event (i.e a variation) “within 8 weeks of becoming aware of the event, he is not entitled to a change in the Prices [or] the Completion Date”. FIDIC sub-clause 20.1 requires the contractor to give notice “as soon as practicable and not later than 28 days after the contractor became aware, or should have become aware of the event or circumstance [giving rise to the claim]”. Although both clearly state the condition precedent aspect of the timely giving of notice, the more difficult issue is when does that time start running?

There is frequently a delay between the time an event occurs, and when the effect of that event as giving rise to a claim is identified. Equally, for an ongoing event which spans several days or weeks (such as a prolonged period of bad weather), should notice be given on day one (on a ‘just in case’ basis even though the duration and effect of the event are unknown) or at the end of the event (which the effect is known but with the risk the employer will say you have given notice too late?). These were the type of issues considered by the UK courts in the 2014 case of Obrascon Huarte Lain SA v Her Majesty’s Attorney General for Gibraltar[1] where the court said the notice provisions should be construed broadly, meaning the time should be calculated from when the contractor became aware (or should have become aware) of the delay, rather than from the date of the event itself.

Across the common law jurisdictions, the hardest line against time bars is taken in Australia, with the 2012 decision in Andrews v Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd[2] that such time bars can be unenforceable as penalties.

The approach in civil code jurisdictions such as the GCC generally take the middle ground.

The UAE Civil Code neither expressly prohibits time bars nor enforces them.

Instead, prescribed time periods need to be read in the context of certain provisions of the UAE Civil Code including:

  • Article 106 – prohibiting the exercise of rights if the desired interest or result is disproportionate to the harm that will be suffered by the other party;
  • Article 246 – requiring the parties to act in good faith; and
  • Article 249 – prohibiting a party from exercising its rights in a manner that is oppressive or abusive

These provisions, read together, have the effect of meaning that time bars are neither expressly permitted nor expressly prohibited under UAE law. Instead, consideration will be given to matters which under common law are considered as being “equitable principles” such as whether the parties were acting in good faith, whether the actions are oppressive or unconscionable, and whether the benefit enjoyed by one party will be disproportionate to the harm suffered by the other party. Although such an approach is to be commended, since it ensures that a party is prevented from unnecessarily abusing its position under the contract, it does mean that the terms of the contract may be ignored in some instances. It is not clear as to the frequency at which courts in the UAE are willing to intervene and override the express terms of the contract, and this is an area we are continuing to monitor with interest.

Of course, a different scenario arises if a clause is silent on the consequences of a failure to submit a claim strictly in accordance with the time period prescribed by the construction contract. The question then becomes whether a time bar is implied when the prescribed steps to making a claim are not followed. One of the leading authorities on time-bars is Brember Handels GmbH v Vanden Avenne Izegem PVBA[3], HL which is authority for the proposition that, for a notice requirement clause to be a condition precedent, the clause must state the precise time for service and make it plain by express language that unless the notice is served within that time, the party required to give notice will lose its rights under that clause. Hence the conclusion should be that time bars will never be implied. However notably Jackson J in Multiplex Construction (UK) Ltd v Honeywell Control Systems[4] permitted a time bar to be implied despite the contract being silent on the matter. Some commentators however have suggested that a clear intention for a condition precedent is required, and that the decision in Multiplex can be distinguished on the basis of the Prevention Principle. Although there is no clear guidance in the UAE on whether a UAE court would be willing to view notice requirements as a condition precedent without clear words to that effect, in our view the UAE courts do not follow the principles which are equivalent to those in Brembar but instead weigh up the circumstances of each case and determine the fairest approach.


 

[1] [2014] EWHC 1028 (TCC)

[2] (2012) 290 ALR 595

[3] [1978] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 109

[4] [2007] EWHC 477 (TCC)

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