Construction Dispute Law in Montana
Owners of real estate in Whitefish, Montana commonly contract with other parties ("contractors") for construction on the property they own. Such projects are likely to suffer at least a few minor setbacks, and any project also carries the risk of major setbacks, delays, or unexpected costs.
Normally, contractors and landowners can resolve minor disputes amongst themselves, without having to resort to litigation. Commonly, 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 immersed. 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 option is arbitration. This is where the parties go to a private arbitration service, which can render a binding judgment (typically enforceable through contract law, as the parties agree in advance to abide by the arbitrator's decision). Arbitration has advantages 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 construction disputes in Whitefish, Montana can be extremely time-consuming, stressful, and costly. Nevertheless, there are (relatively rare) times where it is the only option.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Whitefish, Montana
Delays: Some minor delays in a construction project are all but guaranteed to occur. Normally, if contracts require a specific completion date, the contractor will give itself longer than the project would take under ideal circumstances, to account for possible delays. Additionally, construction contracts usually attempt to insure against delays, such as imposing fees on contractors if the project is delayed beyond a certain point. If no such clause is included in a contract, a court will usually award the client damages that could have been reasonably anticipated at the time the contract was entered into.
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 normally 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 accountable 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, normally specialized tasks like installing plumbing. However, 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 basically 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 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 authorizes 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 Whitefish, Montana 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 Whitefish, Montana construction disputes attorney can be of great help.