Construction Dispute Law in Wisconsin
Construction contractors and landowners in Dane County, Wisconsin sometimes end up in disputes when a project that the landowner contracted for doesn't go exactly to plan. Truth be told, in any significant construction project, a few minor disputes are almost guaranteed.
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 option 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 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).
Construction Dispute litigation in Dane County, Wisconsin is typically time-consuming and expensive. But it is sometimes necessary, typically as a last resort.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Dane County, Wisconsin
Delays: Some minor delays in a construction project are all but guaranteed to occur. Typically, 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. Moreover, 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 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.
Subcontractors: With big construction projects, contractors typically hire other, smaller contractors to do some of the work for them. This is typically work of a specialized nature, which the general contractor isn't equipped to handle (such as plumbing or electrical wiring). The general contractor is the one who is responsible for the satisfactory completion of the project. If a subcontractor makes a mistake, or causes a delay, the general contractor is ultimately liable to the person who hired them. However, if they are sued for the mistakes of a subcontractor, and lose, they can then sue the subcontractor to recover their losses.
Mechanic's Lien: When a contractor wins a lawsuit against a client for nonpayment of the contract price, and the client still refuses 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 proceeds to the contractor, to secure payment.
Can a Dane County, Wisconsin Attorney Help?
If you have a construction dispute, you should first try to resolve it amicably with the other party. If this fails, it is almost always necessary to hire a Dane County, Wisconsin construction disputes attorney, who can advise you on the next steps in the process.