Legal disputes and litigation over HDD projects
In addition to years of practicing construction law, I have litigated a variety of claims involving HDD projects, including:
- Differing site conditions
- Payment disputes
- Wrongful termination
- Misrepresentation and fraud
- Builder’s risk insurance coverage
Most legal disputes on construction projects–trenchless and non-trenchless alike–are the result of a simple recipe: take one or more problems costing significant money and add one or more disagreements over the parties’ contract. This recipe covers most legal claims involving HDD, including delays, defective work, differing site conditions, and even insurance coverage (builder’s risk and commercial general liability, for example).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, most problems start underground. HDD, like other forms of underground construction, is risky business. Adverse subsurface conditions will always pose a threat to a project’s success and profitability. And while geotechnical investigations can help, HDD contractors can never be entirely certain about what they will encounter once drilling starts. But subsurface conditions, which often lead to claims for differing site conditions, are not the only reason HDD projects end in lawsuits.
Sometimes a contractor’s biggest problem is not the project’s conditions, but the owner, engineer, or even another contractor or subcontractor. An owner or engineer may fail to disclose important information about the work, intentionally or unintentionally. Fights can break out over the product being installed. Who is to blame when pulled pipeline emerges from a hole with damaged coating? The contractor because of its poor workmanship or the owner who supplied a defective product? Meanwhile, a subcontractor who is unable or unwilling to perform can put a contractor between a rock and a hard place, forced to deal with a problem subcontractor while under pressure from those upstream.
Finally, there are problems and losses that should be covered by insurance purchased for the project (or which should have been purchased, but was not). Unfortunately, some insurance companies are all too willing to deny claims without good reason. They may deny a claim while pointing to confusing language in the policy that appears to make no sense. Or they may deny coverage under a policy exclusion, like “faulty workmanship.”
Such problems, left unresolved, can lead to even bigger problems. Payment is often withheld. A contract may be terminated or abandoned, sometimes without legal justification. Losses can mount as the project is delayed until a new contractor can be hired and mobilized. Liens are filed. Bond claims are made. Any of this sound familiar?
Other Construction Litigation
In addition to my experience with HDD projects, I have nearly two decades of experience litigating a variety of construction and contract disputes, including:
- Bid mistakes,
- Payment and collection disputes,
- Lien and bond claims, including claims under the Miller Act,
- Claims of defective and nonconforming work,
- Delays and inefficiencies,
- Differing site and subsurface conditions,
- Contract defaults and wrongful terminations,
- Insurance coverage under CGL and builder’s risk policies,
- Misrepresentation and fraud,
- Claims under the federal False Claims Act, and
- Claims arising out of the 2007 35-W Bridge collapse in Minnesota.
through a proactive approach to litigation
I strive to deliver value to my clients through early case evaluation and planning, combined with a proactive approach to each stage of a lawsuit. An early and focused investigation of the facts and law ensures that my time and your money are spent on claims and defenses with the highest probability of success, and not wasted on frivolous legal arguments and other dead ends.
My proactive approach to litigation means working with clients to identify their specific goals and then developing a plan to reach those goals efficiently and effectively. This approach minimizes surprises and surprise bills. It also helps clients understand in advance: (1) what I plan to do, (2) why I am doing it, and (3) what it will likely cost.
If you are interested in working with me, I would like to hear from you. You may contact me by phone or email. You can also schedule a free consultation by clicking here.
For the uninitiated, HDD is a way to install pipeline and other forms of conduit underground, without the need to dig a trench. Instead of a trench, a contractor uses a drilling rig to bore a tunnel underground in a long shallow arc, eventually resurfacing at a predetermined endpoint. The pipeline or conduit, having been stationed at one end of the bore, is then installed by pulling it back through the hole.
As an alternative to excavation, HDD offers many advantages. For example, an HDD contractor can install pipeline and conduit in areas where digging a trench would be too expensive (airport runway or dense urban area); undesirable (natural habitat); or impossible (rivers, lakes, and waterways).
Those interested in HDD can read more about it here. In addition, there exist a number of industry groups that support and advocate for HDD and other forms of trenchless construction. Those groups include the North American Society of Trenchless Technology (NASTT), the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA), and the Distribution Contractors Association (DCA).