Construction Dispute Law in Massachusetts
When the owner of some real estate and a contractor enter an agreement for a construction project in Somerset, Massachusetts, be it a house, landscaping project, or huge office building, there's always a chance that problems will come up, no matter how careful everyone is. A few minor setbacks are almost inevitable, in fact.
Most often, the owners of land and contractors can end disputes 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, typically 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 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 process through which the parties agree to have their dispute resolved by a third party, which can render a binding decision. Arbitration can be faster and cheaper than litigation, and it has some other advantages, as well.
Litigating a construction dispute in Somerset, Massachusetts is definitely not something that anybody likes doing. However, it is sometimes necessary, as a last resort.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Somerset, Massachusetts
Delays: If the contractor is culpable in a major delay in a construction project (a delay of weeks or months, for example), a lawsuit could result. If the contract specifically states that completion by a specific date is very important, or the builder has a good reason to know this, a court will often award the owner compensation for any economic harm caused by a delay.
Owner's Refusal to Pay: If the contractor completes the project, and the owner refuses to pay the agreed-upon price, the contractor will typically file a lawsuit to recover what is owed. Of course, the owner will typically claim that there is a good reason for not paying, arguing that the contractor didn't conform to the project's specifications, or that the quality of construction was unacceptably poor. In such a case, the court will have to determine if the contractor actually breached the contract by doing shoddy work, which could, at least in part, excuse the owner's duty to pay.
Subcontractor Disputes: When a construction company is contracted to complete a large project, there is typically 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. However, the general contractor (the one that the landowner hired to do the work) is still responsible 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: A mechanic's lien is a way for a contractor to secure payment if a landowner refuses 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 Somerset, Massachusetts 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 necessary, and a Somerset, Massachusetts construction disputes attorney can be of great help.