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What is Construction Litigation?

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  • Written By: Norman DePlume
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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Construction litigation is an area of law concerning legal disputes that arise out of building projects. Disputes can arise under both construction agreements and claims of injury or wrongful death caused by negligent behavior. In both cases, construction litigation refers to civil lawsuits involving private parties and is governed by rules and burdens of proof that are distinct from those applicable to criminal prosecution.

Contract disputes that lead to construction litigation sometimes involve simple matters, such as non-payment, work conditions or project deadlines, and often involve just two parties, the general contractor and a subcontractor. Other times, the contract disputes are complex and involve claims regarding the quality and scope of work performed or matters pertaining to clauses in loan agreements. These are likely to include additional parties, such as suppliers and lenders. Construction litigation involving negligence often centers on defects discovered by homeowners or commercial property owners during or after the construction process. Such discoveries will sometimes lead to lawsuits against builders and construction companies based on claims of defective materials, improper soil analysis and negligent structural engineering.

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Claims of negligence involving injury and wrongful death claims usually involve construction workers and arise from accidents that involve unsafe working conditions, burns, falls, electrocution, or loss of a limb. These accidents will result in a worker’s compensation claim in addition to civil litigation. Construction accidents sometimes involve passersby who may have become injured or killed by such things as dangerous equipment negligently left out in the open, falling debris, fires, or other poorly marked hazards.

One area of growing concern in construction litigation involves toxic molds. Mold spores enter buildings through the air or on objects, animals, or people going into the building. Some molds can be harmful to both humans and animals. Increasingly, construction litigation involves claims to recover the significant costs to remove mold from buildings.

Construction litigation can be a costly and time-consuming process for all parties involved. Thus, many disputes arising out of construction contracts are subject to clauses that enable the parties to seek arbitration as an alternative means to dispute resolution. Construction arbitration typically involves an informal process in which the parties in dispute make their arguments to an arbitrator, who, as an independent third party, makes a ruling on the dispute that is binding in most cases. Arbitration is often preferred over litigation for the additional reason that special construction arbitrators are more familiar with the technical aspects of the construction industry and are, thus, in a better position to understand the respective positions of the parties.

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