Construction Dispute Law in Indiana

When the owner of some real estate and a contractor enter an agreement for a construction project in St. Joseph County, Indiana, be it a house, landscaping project, or large office building, there's always a chance that issues will come up, no matter how careful everyone is. A few minor setbacks are almost inevitable, in fact.

Typically, contractors and landowners can resolve minor disputes amongst themselves, without having to resort to litigation. Frequently, construction contracts contain built-in remedies for mistakes and delays that can be easily corrected, such as payments to the owner for every day the project is delayed.

And even if disputes can't be resolved so easily, the courts still don't necessarily have to get engaged. For example, a construction contract may require mediation before any further action is taken. Mediation is a process by which a third party tries to guide the parties to the dispute to a settlement. The mediator cannot, however, render any binding decision. Another avenue is arbitration. This is where the parties go to a private arbitration service, which can render a binding judgment (usually enforceable through contract law, as the parties agree in advance to abide by the arbitrator's decision). Arbitration has benefits over litigation, as the parties can have a say in choosing the arbitrator (allowing them to have their case arbitrated by an expert on construction disputes, for example).

Litigation of a St. Joseph County, Indiana construction dispute is never something that anyone wants to do. Nonetheless, there are sometimes no other avenues.

Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in St. Joseph County, Indiana

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: 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." Alternatively, 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: In large projects, contractors often can't handle every aspect of the construction, so they hire other (typically smaller) contractors to do some specialized work for them, such as plumbing, electrical installations, and the like. The general contractor, nonetheless, is responsible to the owner for anything that goes wrong. If a subcontractor messes up, and the owner sues the contractor, the contractor will have to pay. Nonetheless, the contractor can then go after the subcontractor to recover whatever he had to pay.

Mechanic's Lien: When a contractor wins a case against a client for nonpayment of the contract price, and the client still declines to pay, there is a problem: a monetary judgment means next to nothing if it can't be enforced. To solve this problem, the mechanic's lien has been developed. Typically, if a landowner refuses to pay a contractor, even in the face of a court order, the court can force a sale of the property that the contractor worked on, along with all the improvements on it, and then give the funds to the contractor, to secure payment.

Can a St. Joseph County, Indiana Attorney Help?

Construction disputes can be time-consuming and costly. Hiring a reliable St. Joseph County, Indiana real estate attorney can make it much easier to deal with such disputes, and help you avoid litigation, or prevail if litigation becomes necessary.