Construction Dispute Law in California
When a property owner and a general contractor contract for a construction project to take place on some property in Fresno, California, whether it's a house, some landscaping, or a remodeling project, there is always a gamble that something can go wrong. In fact, at least a very minor setback may be more likely than not.
Most often, landowners and construction contractors are able to resolve minor to moderate disagreements between themselves, and litigation is rarely necessary. Nobody likes litigation, so, to this end, most construction contracts have built-in remedies in case something goes wrong, like set price reductions if construction is delayed.
Even if disagreements can't be resolved amongst the parties to the contract, they don't need to take their dispute into the court system. For instance, construction contracts typically call for mediation or arbitration before any disputes are resolved by the courts. Mediation is a process by which a third party serves as a sort of intermediary in settlement negotiations between the parties to the contract. The mediator can help keep negotiations on track, and suggest possible solutions the parties might not have thought of. The mediator can't issue a binding decision, however. Arbitration is a procedure through which the parties agree to have their dispute resolved by a third party, which can render a binding decision. Arbitration can be quicker and cheaper than litigation, and it has some other advantages, as well.
Litigating a construction dispute in Fresno, California is definitely not something that anybody likes doing. Nonetheless, it is sometimes necessary, as a last resort.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Fresno, California
Major Delays: If the contractor or a subcontractor is at fault in causing a considerable delay to a project (several months, for example), this may lead to a lawsuit. If the contract stated that time was of the essence for some reason (maybe the project was a new store that the owner hoped to open before the holiday shopping season, for example), a court can typically award the owner any damages that were caused by the delay.
Owner's refusal to pay: if the contractor finishes a project to specifications, and the owner of the property doesn't pay the contractor, the contractor will most likely file a lawsuit to recover the agreed-upon price. In such cases, the owner will typically argue that the contractor's work wasn't of acceptable quality. In these cases, the court must decide who first breached the contract. In these cases, it's the party who did not breach first who wins the lawsuit. If the court finds that the contractor breached the contract through sub-quality work product, the owner will not be responsible for payment (though he may have to pay for materials and labor), and if the court finds that the construction was acceptable, the owner has to pay, because he is the party in breach.
Subcontractors: Subcontractors are hired by general contractors to assist them in large construction projects, typically specialized tasks like installing plumbing. Nonetheless, no matter how much of the work is performed by subcontractors, the general contractor (the one that the client actually hired to do the project) is liable to the landowner as if it were doing all the work itself. This essentially means that, if a subcontractor messes up, the general contractor is the one who gets sued. But all is not lost in such a situation. If the general contractor has to compensate the owner because of the mistakes of a subcontractor, it can sue the subcontractor for whatever it had to pay to the landowner.
Mechanic's Liens: A mechanic's lien is a way for a contractor to secure payment if a landowner declines to pay. In such cases, if the contractor sues and wins, he or she can sometimes impose a mechanic's lien on the property he or she just worked on. This permits the contractor to force a sale of the property to cover the judgment. It is usually used when other attempts to secure payment fail.
Can a Fresno, California Attorney Help?
If you are involved in a dispute over a construction project, you should try to avoid litigation, and settle the matter as amicably as possible. However, litigation is sometimes imperative, and a Fresno, California construction disputes attorney can be of great help.