Construction Law Blog

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Unreinforced Masonry Buildings – Seattle

Date: May 4, 2016  /  Author: Larry S. Glosser  /  Categories: Regulatory Administration, Construction News and Notes, Recent Legislation  /  Comments (0)

Since 2009, the City of Seattle Department of Constructions & Inspections (formerly part of the Department of Planning (the “Department”) has been considering requiring retrofits for buildings with unreinforced masonry (“URM”) bearing walls.  URM buildings are the brick buildings built without steel reinforcements and ties and connections required by modern building codes.  They were built throughout the city, but many can be seen in neighborhoods such as Pioneer Square, Chinatown/International District, Columbia City, Capitol Hill, and Ballard.  URM buildings are the most likely type to be damaged during earthquakes, and retrofits will make these buildings less vulnerable to damage.

GAO Proposes Major Changes to Bid Protest Procedure

Date: April 27, 2016  /  Author: Matt Paxton  /  Categories: Government Contracts, Construction Bidding, Construction News and Notes, Recent Legislation  /  Comments (0)

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) has jurisdiction to hear bid protests from government contractors seeking review of a federal agency’s contract procurement and awards.  The GAO receives thousands of bid protests every year.  On April 15, 2016, the GAO published notice of potential changes to its protest procedures, which would significantly change the manner in which protests get filed and decided.

Washington’s Timber Trespass Statute and its Treble Damages Mandate

Date: April 20, 2016  /  Author: Ceslie Blass  /  Categories: Out of the Ordinary, Damages  /  Comments (0)

Under Washington’s timber trespass statute, a timber trespass occurs when a person cuts down, girdles, or otherwise injures or carries off any tree, including a Christmas tree, timber, or shrub on the land of another. The timber trespass statute is penal in nature, and its purpose is to “(1) punish a voluntary offender, (2) provide treble damages, and (3) discourage persons from carelessly or intentionally removing another’s merchantable shrubs or trees on the gamble that the enterprise will be profitable if only actual damages are incurred.”

Steps to Minimize Exposure from Workplace Discrimination Complaints

Date: April 13, 2016  /  Author: Ellie Perka  /  Categories: Employment  /  Comments (0)

Even the most altruistic employers, at one point or another, will likely face an employment discrimination complaint against their company.  Even meritless discrimination claims can cause potential exposure to costly attorney fees and/or significant settlement amounts to the complainant.  Juries are unpredictable and litigants often use this fact to extract large settlement sums from employers trying to avoid the costs and unpredictability of litigation.  If claims are handled appropriately, costly results can often be avoided (or at least minimized).

House Votes to Add Vets to DOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program

Date: April 6, 2016  /  Author: Matt Paxton  /  Categories: Recent Legislation, Construction News and Notes, Construction Bidding, Government Contracts, MBE/DBE/WBE  /  Comments (0)

Many of our veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are interested in starting or buying their own business.  To support our soldiers, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) implemented the Veteran and Small Business program, which creates set-asides for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business and Veteran-Owned Small Business (“VOSB”).  However, the far more lucrative set-asides with the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) are governed by the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”) program.  For DOT set-asides, only women-owned and minority-owned small businesses qualify as DBEs.

SBA Expands Woman-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program

Date: March 30, 2016  /  Author: Matt Paxton  /  Categories: Government Contracts, Regulatory Administration, Construction News and Notes, Recent Legislation  /  Comments (0)

More than 100 new industries are now eligible for the Small Business Administration’s (“SBA”) Woman-Owned Small Business (“WOSB”) contract program.  The SBA implemented the WOSB program in order to expand the number of industries where woman-owned small buisnesses could compete.  The program allows set-asides for Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs (“EDWOSBs”) in industries where WOSBs are underrepresented and set-asides for WOSBs where they are substantially underrepresented.

Legislative Update: House Bill 2539 Clarifies the Application of the Real Estate Excise Tax to Property Inherited by Operation of Law

Date: March 23, 2016  /  Author: Erin M. Stines  /  Categories: Out of the Ordinary, Construction News and Notes  /  Comments (0)

In Washington, the real estate excise tax (REET) is imposed on the sale of real property, which includes the transfer of ownership and the transfer of controlling interests in real property.  RCW 82.45.197 provides for several exemptions from the REET.  One of the allowable exemptions is for individuals who inherit real property.

Owner Awarded Liquidated Damages Following a Termination for Convenience

Date: February 24, 2016  /  Author: John P. Ahlers  /  Categories: Notice Issues, Government Contracts, Contracting, Construction News and Notes, Delay Claims, Claims, Change Orders  /  Comments (0)

As discussed in previous blog posts, a Termination for Convenience (“TforC”) clause allows a party (generally, the owner or general contractor) to stop work for just about any reason without having to pay for anticipated profit or unperformed work. Read more here and here.  Recently, the Washington Court of Appeals decided SAK & Associates, Inc. v. Ferguson Construction, Inc. in which the Court held that all that is required to trigger a TforC clause is a statement that termination is being invoked for the convenience of the terminating party.  Read more here.

Ahlers & Cressman Wins Client Choice Award for 2016

Date: February 17, 2016  /  Author: Ahlers & Cressman Crew  /  Categories: Construction News and Notes  /  Comments (0)

Client Choice selected Ahlers & Cressman and one of its founding member, John P. Ahlers, as one of its 383 winners worldwide for 2016.  Only five other attorneys won the 2016 Client Choice award in Washington and Mr. Ahlers was the only Washington attorney to win for his expertise in Construction Law.  

Established in 2005, Client Choice recognizes those law firms and partners around the world that stand apart for the excellent client care they provide and the quality of their service. The criteria for this recognition focus on an ability to add real value to clients' business above and beyond the other players in the market.

Differing Site Conditions and Disclaimer Clauses

Date: February 11, 2016  /  Author: John P. Ahlers  /  Categories: Government Contracts, Construction Bidding, Contracting, Construction News and Notes, Damages  /  Comments (0)

At times, both public and private owners succumb to the temptation of taking back what was given to a contractor through a differing site conditions clause by including disclaimers in their contracts as to the reliability of site condition information supplied in the bidding documents.  The disclaimers may be specific statements, such as “no claims for differing site conditions will be recognized regarding the absence or presence of subsurface rock or unstable rock conditions,” or general statements, such as “the contractors shall not rely upon any contract indications or owner furnished information, but should make their own soils analysis.”  The effectiveness of these disclaimers depends upon the specific language used.  The more general the language, the more likely the disclaimer will be rejected.  The outcome also depends on the jurisdiction in which a party attempts to enforcement of the disclaimer.