Most construction lawsuits involve arguments over the meaning or legal effect of contract language. It is too easy for one side to pick and choose contract language that favors their position while ignoring contrary language. A contract’s meaning is not limited to what a few isolated sentences might say, but instead may depend on the effect of other clauses in the contract, terms implied by the law, and even what the parties have said or done both before and after the contract was signed. Before you throw in the towel on this issue, it may be worthwhile to have a lawyer to spend a few hours analyzing the facts surrounding your dispute in light of the applicable contract language, the law, and the parties’ words and conduct.
Frequently Asked Questions
Horizontal Directional Drilling Legal Disputes
We are involved in a dispute over our HDD contract. Some of the contract’s language appears to support the other side’s position. Is there anything more we can do?
Our customer refuses to reimburse us extra costs for differing site conditions (or changes or extras or delays) because we did not follow the contract’s written notice requirements. Is there a way we can still get paid?
Approaches vary across jurisdictions. Some courts take a very strict approach: failing to follow a contract’s written notice requirements can mean no recovery. Other courts take a softer approach and will permit the claim to go forward, especially in cases where the customer had actual notice of the claim and did not suffer any harm or expenses from the contractor’s failure to provide written notice.
Generally speaking, you should make sure it reflects your understanding of the deal. It’s always a good idea to have a construction lawyer take a look at an unfamiliar contract and walk through the provisions. It does not take much time and it can save you a lot of money down the road. I’ve written more about how I review HDD contracts here.
My customer is withholding payment for HDD work. I don’t agree with their reasons for doing so. Can I stop working? Do I have other options?
Caution is required anytime the termination or abandonment of a contract is considered. The answer to this question may depend on whether your customer’s non-payment is itself a “material breach” of your contract. This involves an analysis of your contract and the facts surrounding the relationship between you and your customer.
My company is in the middle of an HDD project and our customer wants to terminate the contract. What do we do?
By the time a contractor receives a notice of default or termination, it may be too late to save the parties’ relationship. Still, there are things you can do to better position yourself if there’s a lawsuit in the future. When asked to help on this issue, my approach is to review the contract and do what I can to clarify the reasons for the threatened default while exploring available options with my client.
We subtracted work to an HDD contractor. They are having problems performing the work and we are under pressure to do something. How do we handle an underperforming subcontractor?
While you may be tempted to kick your subcontractor off the project, an unjustified termination can expose you to legal liability for breach of contract. You are between a rock (your client) and a hard place (your subcontractor). Exercise caution and resist taking sides until you know all the facts. Because you may find yourself fighting a two-front war against your client and subcontractor, you need to be careful about taking a position before you understand all the facts.
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