Construction Dispute Law in Pennsylvania
Landowners and contractors in Washington County, Pennsylvania commonly contract with each other for major construction projects. With any large construction projects, some small delays or problems are all but inevitable, but they don't usually derail the project or lead to major disputes between the parties.
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 someone else needs to get immersed to resolve a dispute, this does not automatically mean litigation is necessary. For example, the parties might attempt mediation, in which a neutral third party tries to help guide the parties to an agreement, but cannot render a binding decision himself. They might also agree to arbitration, during which a third party is able to render a binding decision. Arbitration is normally done through a private company, and may cost less than litigation, and is overseen by an arbitrator who is an expert in the relevant field.
Because of the large cost in time and money involved, litigation in Washington County, Pennsylvania is regarded a last resort. However, in rare cases, it does become necessary.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Washington County, Pennsylvania
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: 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." Rather, 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: With very massive construction projects, general contractors don't always have the resources to do all the work themselves, so they hire other contractors to do some of the work for them. Nonetheless, it is the general contractor who is ultimately responsible to the owner for the satisfactory completion of the project. So, it is very necessary to the general contractor that subcontractors do a good job. If the subcontractor causes a delay or other issue, and the owner sues the general contractor as a result, the general contractor can then go after the subcontractor to recover whatever it lost in the lawsuit.
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 authorize 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 Washington County, Pennsylvania 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 crucial, and a Washington County, Pennsylvania construction disputes attorney can be of great help.