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Florida Construction Law News

23MAR 2017

Useful Life: A Valuable Theory for Reducing Damages

by Brooke E. Beebe, Esq.

The situation is one all too familiar to construction defect litigants. A homeowner contracts with a roofing contractor to install a new roof with a life expectancy of ten years.[1] After only five years, the homeowner brings a claim for construction defects in the roof alleging that the roof requires complete replacement due to water intrusion. The homeowner seeks damages for the full replacement cost of the roof. However, under a “useful life” theory, the homeowner would not be entitled to damages for the full amount of the replacement cost. Instead, the homeowner would be entitled to one-half of the cost of the replacement roof, taking into account the fact that he or she had been deprived of only five, rather than ten, years of use.

23FEB 2017

The Burden of Betterment

by Ryan M. Charlson, Esq.

The concept of betterment has long been used by defendants in cases involving defective design or construction to limit the damages awarded to a plaintiff.[1] The theory behind betterment is that: “if in [the] course of making repairs [an] owner adopts a more expensive design, recovery should be limited to what would have been the reasonable cost of repair according to original design.”[2] Betterment is often raised as an affirmative defense, requiring a defendant to prove that the plaintiff has received a good or service that is superior to that for which the plaintiff originally contracted. A recent South Florida case seems, at first blush, to suggest the burden of establishing the value of betterments may fall to the plaintiff, although a closer reading indicates the decision is likely to have limited applicability.

10DEC 2016

The Importance of Contractual Protections Requiring Notice and Opportunity to Cure

by Todd A. Macleod, Esq.

We have previously discussed the intent of Chapter 558, Florida Statutes, which is to provide parties with opportunities to avoid the commencement of litigation by providing a mechanism for them to enter into discussions through pre-suit notices of claim. Among other things, Chapter 558 requires the notice of claim to “identify the location of each alleged construction defect sufficiently to enable the responding parties to locate the alleged defect without undue burden.” However, contractors can further protect themselves from the commencement of litigation without inadequate notice by requiring notice of alleged defects, as well as the opportunity to cure those defects, as a matter of contract.

02OCT 2016

Stealthy Arbitration Clauses In(Deed)

by Jennifer E. Lulgjuraj, Esq.

Subcontractors beware — the “boilerplate” arbitration clauses in those standard-form subcontracts used by large scale homebuilders may be broader, and ultimately more costly, than you realize. It is not unusual for a builder to require a homebuyer to arbitrate construction defect claims. Likewise, it is not unusual for a builder to include within its standard-form Read More…

17AUG 2016

Eleventh Circuit Considers Whether the Chapter 558 Process Is a “Suit”

by Matan A. Scheier, Esq.

Recently, in Altman Contractors, Inc. v. Crum & Forster Specialty Ins. Co., the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed an issue of first impression.[1] In Altman, the Eleventh Circuit evaluated whether an insurer has a duty to defend and indemnify an insured who receives a Notice of Claim pursuant to Chapter 558, Florida Statutes (“Notice of Claim”). The Southern District of Florida previously ruled that a Notice of Claim did not constitute a suit, and thus, does not trigger a duty to defend and indemnify. The insured then appealed that ruling to the Eleventh Circuit, which ruled that the terms “suit” and “civil proceeding,” as found in the subject Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance policies, may be ambiguous as used in the policies.[2] Due to important public policy considerations, the Eleventh Circuit certified the following question to the Florida Supreme Court: “Is the notice and repair process set forth in Chapter 558 of the Florida Statutes a ‘suit’ within the meaning of the GCL policies issued by C&F to ACI?”[3]

01JUL 2016

Florida Appellate Court Holds Four-Year Statute of Limitations Applicable Irrespective of Contractor Licensure

by Clay H. Whittaker, Esq.

In Brock v. Garner Window & Door Sales, Inc.,[1] Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal rejected a novel attempt to circumvent Florida’s well-established four-year statute of limitations for all actions founded on the construction of an improvement to real property.  Plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract as a result of water intrusion damage Read More…

02MAY 2016

CSK Construction Group Prevails in Another Jury Trial

by George Truitt, Jr., Esq.

Cole, Scott & Kissane, P.A. (“CSK”), is pleased to announce another significant win after a three and one-half week jury trial in Key West, Florida, where George Truitt, Esq., and Daniel Levin, Esq., defended a general contractor (the “Contractor”) in a suit filed by a condominium association (the “Association”). In 2007 and 2008, the Contractor Read More…

15APR 2016

Federal Court Recently Finds No Coverage Under “Your Work” Exclusion

by Craig S. Distel, Esq.

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently rendered a decision in Auto-Owners Insurance Company v. Elite Homes, Inc.[1] addressing the duty to defend when a “your work” exclusion exists in Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy. In Elite Homes, Joseph and Emily Crozier sued Elite Homes, Inc. (“Elite”) in state court Read More…

01APR 2016

Risks to Consider When Entering into a Coblentz Agreement

by Albert Li, Esq.

When entering into a consent judgment that purports to assign rights under an insurance policy, both the assignee and insurer should be cautious of various issues that could preclude coverage. Some of these issues include whether the insured was an additional insured under the policy, whether the judgment is for damage/loss covered under the policy, Read More…

18DEC 2015

Proposed Legislation on Statute of Repose: Clarifying that the Statute Runs from Completion of Performance

by Christie Bredahl

As Florida’s 2016 Legislative Session approaches, two companion bills have been introduced – Senate Bill (“SB”) 316 and House Bill (“HB”) 297.  These bills seek to address the interpretation and application of the statute of repose set forth in § 95.11(3)(c), Florida Statutes. Intended to impose finality on the availability of claims for latent defects, the statute Read More…