Construction Litigation

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Our attorneys have decades of experience representing all parties to complex construction disputes in Charleston, Columbia, and throughout South Carolina. Whether you are considering legal action or you need to mount a strategic defense, we can help you aggressively pursue a favorable and cost-effective resolution.

From single-family residential communities to large-scale mixed-use developments, all types of construction projects have the potential to lead to disputes among the various parties involved. When these disputes arise, a strategic and measured approach is often the best option, with the goal of reaching an amicable resolution.

Experienced Legal Representation for Construction Disputes in South Carolina

At Howser, Newman & Besley, LLC, we provide experienced legal representation for construction-related disputes throughout South Carolina. As seasoned litigators, we know that going to court is sometimes necessary, but we also know that it is rarely the best option for any of the parties involved. With deadlines, financing commitments, and profits all on the line – the best approach is often to find a way to come to terms that protect your immediate and long-term interests in the success of the project – without resorting to contentious litigation.

In order to determine the best path forward, you first need to know what options are realistically available. When you engage our firm, our attorneys will work closely with you to assess the present circumstances and determine your legal rights. With a clear picture of the landscape, we can then develop and execute a strategy focused on avoiding unnecessary hostility, while also preparing for the possibility of going to trial.

With offices in Columbia and Charleston, we represent clients from the the coast to the upstate and Piedmont region in state and federal court. We also maintain an active alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practice, and our attorneys routinely represent professional and corporate clients in mediation and arbitration. Regardless of the current state of your dispute and the issues involved, we can pursue the litigation strategy that is best-suited to your particular set of circumstances.

Construction Disputes We Handle

We represent individuals, architects, engineers, materials suppliers, builders, contractors, subcontractors, insurance companies, and other parties in all types of construction-related disputes.

Breach of Contract
Construction projects typically involve numerous contracts, and sorting out each party’s rights against the others can often be a challenge. While some breach of contract claims will involve straightforward disputes between two parties, subrogation and indemnification clauses can quickly add several layers of complexity. As a result, when facing a contract-related construction dispute, one of the first issues to resolve is determining which parties should be included. From there, you can address the substantive issues in the dispute, such as:

  • Breach of representations and warranties
  • Change order deficiencies
  • Conditional rights or obligations
  • Delays in delivery or construction
  • Failure to perform in accordance with the scope of work
  • Notice and acceptance issues
  • Performance bond claims and lien rights

Construction Defects
Many construction-related disputes arise out of claims involving construction defects. In the context of a construction dispute, “defect” is a broad term that encompasses various types of deficiencies in the quality of materials supplied, services rendered, or work performed. Construction defect litigation commonly involves issues such as:

  • Questions of structural integrity
  • Mechanical and electrical defects
  • Water intrusion and moisture protection issues
  • Quality of construction and finishing
  • Use of inferior or defective materials
  • Defective design and engineering

Insurance Coverage
Insurance coverage disputes are common in the construction and engineering industries. When a defect or other issue triggers potential liability, determining who is liable will often be a matter of contractual interpretation – both with regard to the disputing parties’ written agreement and their respective insurance policies. We have extensive experience in insurance coverage disputes within the context of construction litigation, and our attorneys are very familiar with the unique insurance issues involved in construction-related claims.

Mechanic’s Liens and Payment Disputes
Payment disputes and issues involving mechanic’s liens account for a significant portion of all construction-related disputes. Whether you need to enforce your right to payment or defend against an unjustified claim for compensation, we can assess your rights under your contract and South Carolina law – and swiftly pursue a favorable resolution.

Professional Negligence
We represent parties on both sides of professional negligence lawsuits involving construction defects and other construction-related issues. These disputes involve a unique blend of construction and professional standards, and our attorneys have the knowledge required to assess design and engineering professionals’ obligations with regard to residential and commercial projects.

Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation
On construction sites, accidents happen. Despite builders, contractors, and subcontractors’ best efforts to mitigate against the risk of jobsite hazards – to a certain extent, falls, equipment and machinery related accidents, and other harmful incidents will simply be unavoidable. In addition to representing clients against other commercial parties in construction litigation, we also provide defense representation for personal injury and workers’ compensation claims.

South Carolina Construction Litigation FAQs

Q: What is the difference between a “pay-if-paid” clause and a “pay-when-paid” clause in a construction contract?
“Pay-if-paid” and “pay-when-paid” clauses are commonly used in construction contracts to shift the risk of non-payment between contractors and subcontractors. When a contract includes a “pay-if-paid” clause, the risk of non-payment falls on the subcontractor. The subcontractor is only entitled to payment if the contractor receives payment from the property owner (or another payor). Under a “pay-when-paid” clause, however, the risk of non-payment rests with the contractor. The when aspect of the clause presumes that the contractor actually collect for the job – and even if the contractor is not paid, it must still compensate the subcontractor within a stipulated time frame.

While there are standardized “pay-if-paid” and “pay-when-paid” clauses available for use in construction agreements, the nature of a subcontractor’s right to payment will not always be clear. As a result, payment disputes between contractors and subcontractors are common; and when the parties cannot agree on an appropriate interpretation of their agreement, litigation may become necessary.

Q: Do state courts or federal courts have jurisdiction over construction-related disputes?
Determining whether a dispute is subject to state or federal jurisdiction requires an understanding of the legal issues involved, the amount in dispute, and certain other factors. While construction-related disputes will often qualify for federal jurisdiction, this jurisdiction may not be exclusive. It may be in one or both parties’ best interests to keep their dispute in state court. However, construction contracts frequently include clauses that stipulate to jurisdiction and venue for dispute resolution, and looking at your agreement may provide the answer to where you need to file your claim or defend against the allegations against you.

Q: Are mandatory mediation and arbitration provisions in construction contracts enforceable?
Generally speaking, yes. In addition to stipulating jurisdiction and venue in the event that a dispute goes to court, construction contracts often include mandatory mediation and arbitration provisions as well. If your dispute is subject to mandatory mediation, then both parties must engage in the mediation process in good faith according to the terms of your agreement. If you are required to arbitrate, the outcome of your dispute will be decided by an arbitrator (or arbitration panel) unless you reach a settlement prior to the close of the arbitration hearing.

Q: Does commercial general liability (CGL) insurance cover liability for construction defects?
The answer to this question depends on the specific terms of your policy. Some CGL policies expressly provide coverage for certain types of construction defects, some designate construction defects as exclusions, and others leave the answer to a matter of contractual interpretation. With the increasing volume of construction defect litigation, this is a rapidly-evolving issue in the area of insurance and construction law. With our extensive experience in construction and insurance-related matters, we are uniquely positioned to help insurers and policyholders resolve these types of complex issues.

Q: When can a contractor, subcontractor, or supplier enforce a mechanic’s lien or materialman’s lien?
Mechanic’s liens and materialman’s liens present unique enforcement issues under varying circumstances. As a general rule, these liens arise automatically upon the performance of work or delivery of materials; and if the property owner or contractor fails to pay, then enforcement proceedings can begin. However, there are statutory requirements for the timely enforcement of mechanic’s liens and materialman’s liens; and the parties’ contract may determine if and when a lien can be enforced as well. These are issues that require careful analysis by an experienced construction law attorney.

Contact Us about Your Construction Dispute in South Carolina

When disputes arise during construction, prompt intervention can be crucial to limiting the project and litigation costs involved. If you are facing a potential dispute, we encourage you to contact us promptly to discuss your situation. We can help you assess your options and formulate a cost-effective strategy for enforcing your rights or mitigating your potential exposure.

To speak with our team of construction litigation attorneys, please call our Columbia office at (866) 207-6209 or our Charleston office at (877) 216-6970, or email one of our attorneys directly. If you call, we will schedule your initial consultation as soon as possible.

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