Construction Dispute Law in Connecticut
When a property owner and a general contractor contract for a construction project to take place on some property in Westport, Connecticut, whether it's a house, some landscaping, or a remodeling project, there is always a chance that something can go wrong. In fact, at least a very minor setback may be more likely than not.
Most often, the owners of land and contractors can end disagreements before they get too serious, thus eliminating the need for litigation. Most contracts governing construction projects have built-in remedies for the most common problems, usually requiring the party that causes a delay or other problem to pay the other party a set fee.
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 usually 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.
Construction Dispute litigation in Westport, Connecticut is usually time-consuming and expensive. But it is sometimes necessary, usually as a last resort.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Westport, Connecticut
Major Delays: If the contractor or a subcontractor is at fault in causing a large 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 usually award the owner any damages that were caused by the delay.
Owner's refusal to pay: Contractors can also be the victims in construction disagreements. Sometimes, the person who hired them will refuse to pay the agreed-upon fee, or withhold a portion of it. This, without more, certainly constitutes breach of contract. However, in such cases, the owner will rarely go to court and say "I just didn't feel like paying, so I didn't." Instead, they will claim that they had a very good reason to withhold all or part of the payment, such as unsatisfactory work by the contractor. In these situations, the court has to determine if the owner has a valid reason for not paying. If it concludes that he or she does not, it will order the owner to pay the agreed-upon price.
Subcontractor Disputes: When a construction company is contracted to complete a large project, there is usually a great deal of specialized work to be done which they aren't equipped to handle. As a result, they hire other contractors, who, in this arrangement, are subcontractors, to do some of the work. Nonetheless, the general contractor (the one that the landowner hired to do the work) is still accountable for the completion of the project - if a subcontractor causes a problem, the general contractor is on the hook for it. This sometimes leads to landowners suing general contractors for the mistakes of subcontractors. If the general contractor loses, and has to pay the client, the general contractor can then sue the subcontractor for whatever amount of money it had to pay.
Mechanic's Liens: Sometimes, when a contractor wins in a case against the landowner who hired him or her, and obtains a court order for payment, the contractor will still refuse to pay. Since a money judgment isn't worth much without a way to enforce it, the laws of many states have evolved to allow what's known as a "mechanic's lien." As a last resort, if a landowner refuses to pay the contractor for work done on the property, the contractor can force a sale of the property, and keep the proceeds, up to the amount of money owed.
Can a Westport, Connecticut 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 Westport, Connecticut construction disputes attorney can be of great help.