Construction Litigation

Construction Law

yellow hard hat on construction siteRepresenting Consumers and Contractors in Legal Issues

Our experience in construction litigation is supported by our general litigation experience, which has been a hallmark of our practice since 1924. Related areas of our practice include consumer protection, corporate law, commercial litigation and real estate, all of which provide us a solid foundation in addressing the many issues that arise in construction disputes. The attorneys in our construction litigation practice have represented property owners, general contractors and subcontractors in disputed matters involving both residential and commercial projects. Our attorneys have substantial experience advising clients with respect to construction liens in both private and public settings. We have a thorough knowledge of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and its provisions and regulations that apply to residential home improvement contractors, which has enabled us to secure excellent results for our clients. We have successfully represented numerous homeowners’ associations in claims against developers, subcontractors, material manufacturers and design professionals (architects and engineers) arising from both construction/design defects and accounting irregularities. We have recovered large sums of money for our clients in these “transition litigation” matters. Our attorneys also have the knowledge and experience to address the unique and challenging insurance coverage issues that arise from these types of claims. We have successfully handled numerous declaratory judgment actions filed by insurers seeking to avoid covering such claims. If you need the legal services of our construction litigation practice, contact Cohn Lifland today.

Construction Litigation Matters

The two most common types of cases we handle are construction defect cases and contract disputes. A common example of a construction defect case is when a property owner is faced with defective and dangerous workmanship. For example, if new windows leak because of the hasty work of a contractor, you can hold them responsible for their work. Individuals who own homes and homeowners associations have the legal entitlement to hold contractors responsible for any defective work.

Another common type of construction litigation matter is called a contract dispute. When a property owner and contractor (or two contractors, or a design professional and contractor) disagree about issues related to a contract that is active or just completed, they may have a dispute as to the progress, the quality of the work or payments. For residential construction, a contractor is required by law to have a written contract with very specific language in it. Many construction disputes involve liens that can be placed on the property by contractors, architects/engineers and material suppliers under New Jersey’s construction lien laws.  Those who provide work or materials and aren’t paid may place a lien on the owner’s property and seek to foreclose on it to secure payment. The law imposes some very strict requirements on anyone placing a construction lien on property.  If you believe you are entitled to a lien, or have received a notice of a lien on your property, you should seek legal counsel immediately.

Consumer Fraud Act

New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act is in place to protect consumers from fraud, deception and misrepresentation in consumer relations. It contains provisions that apply specifically to residential construction.  A home improvement contractor must be registered with the Division of Consumer Affairs. A contractor must have a written contract for any home improvements that cost more than $500, and the contract should include the legal name and business of the contractor, the start and completion date, a description of the work and a total price.  The law also requires disclosure of a right to cancel the contract. In addition to contract requirements, contractors are prohibited from making misrepresentations, for example, if a contractor states in a contract that they will install name-brand windows, but use inferior material to save the cost.  There are a number of very specific requirements that many contractors either ignore or simply do not understand.  However, a contractor who violates any of these regulations, even unintentionally, could be liable for three times a harmed consumer’s damages, plus attorney fees. Contractors who do residential improvements should have their documents reviewed by competent counsel.  Homeowners who have a dispute with a contractor should seek the advice of an attorney who is familiar with these regulations, as they may have substantial rights and remedies.

Representative Matters

  • Won a $2 million arbitration award before the American Arbitration Association on behalf of a commercial property owner against a general contractor hired to build a 100,000 square-foot powersports sales and service facility. The general contractor initially filed a complaint against our client, seeking to foreclose on a $750,000 lien he had lodged against the property. As part of the award, the lien was removed. The award included prejudgment interest and counsel fees.
  • Obtained millions of dollars in settling condominium cases, including successfully representing a condominium association in claims against the developer, general contractor and numerous subcontractors on a 62-unit townhouse development. We won a substantial settlement on our client’s claims by, in part, successfully addressing the action brought by the developer’s insurance company to avoid providing coverage.
  • Won summary judgment on behalf of a Sussex County homeowner for a substantial sum against the contractor he hired to install an in-ground pool and perform extensive landscaping work. We secured for our client a complete refund of the amount paid to the contractors and a dismissal of the substantial claim the contractor first filed against our client. The contractor was ordered to pay our counsel fees pursuant to the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act based on the contractor’s failure to have a written contract for the project.
  • Successfully represented unit owners in Somerset County against a developer, architect, general contractor and subcontractors for personal injury sustained by a family as a result of exposure to toxic mold caused by design and construction defects.
  • Litigated and negotiated a favorable settlement on behalf of a Morris County homeowner against a general contractor that breached a major renovation contract.

Contact Cohn Lifland

Cohn Lifland is proud to be a legal resource to the people of New Jersey. Our construction litigation practice serves the needs of property owners and contractors facing litigation matters. We have years of experience representing clients with both defect cases and contract disputes, and have the breadth of experience to address all issues that arise in those cases, including construction liens, consumer fraud and suretyship matters.. Cohn Lifland has the skill and knowledge to review your case, guide you through your legal options and effectively litigate the matter on your behalf if you need to bring or defend a lawsuit. We also review and draft durable construction contracts for our clients. If you are a consumer who is asked to sign a contract or a contractor who needs to draft or revise one, contact our firm. Cohn Lifland has served New Jersey with quality legal services for over 90 years. If you need our help, don’t hesitate to call.

Contact:

Andrew R. Macklin

Charles R. Cohen

Cohn, Lifland, Pearlman, Herrmann and Knopf LLP
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