A property owner is generally liable for hazards on the property that injure others. On construction projects, this presents a significant risk for owners because there are multiple hazards present, and the owner, generally, has little control or knowledge of all the work being performed. Chapter 95 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code alleviates some of this risk by limiting a commercial property owner's liability for personal injury claims by contractors and subcontractors under specific circumstances.
In November 2020 the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court's decision which dismissed a contractor's differing site conditions claim on a sewer replacement project. In TSI Construction, Inc v Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District, the appellate court concluded that the contractor's failure to comply with contractual provisions necessary to preserve its claim were fatal to its lawsuit.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently determined that a builder who fails to comply with state licensing requirements may still pursue a negligence claim against design professionals. The case emphasises that contractors should ensure that they comply with state licensing laws before bidding a project and that designers should note when contractors performing work on their projects obtain the necessary licences.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals recently upheld a contractor's immunity from suit for negligence, where the contractor complied with the contract and construction specifications provided by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Divisions of Construction Procurement. The case arose from a collision between a motorcycle and a car at an intersection where construction was being performed.
Michigan has joined the majority of jurisdictions in holding that a general liability policy may provide coverage for claims for property damage allegedly caused by a subcontractor's defective work. In a unanimous decision reversing the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court held that a subcontractor's unintentional defective work was an accident and, thus, an occurrence covered under the subcontractor's commercial general liability policy.
Given the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought to federal projects, it is imperative now more than ever that contractors preserve rights to potential claims at all turns. Fortunately, with careful reading and documentation, contractors can satisfy the government's desire for releases while preserving their claims. A recent Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals decision is yet another caution for any contractor that signs a release without preserving claims.