Let’s Sue the Bastards!

Image of man hitting his thumb instead of nail

{3 minutes to read}  One of the brighter aspects of economic activity in New York during the Covid pandemic was the ongoing construction activity that took place.  While buildings remained empty and ground floor retail spaces were withering from the lack of business, construction sites always seemed to be buzzing with activity.  Once the need for masks and social distancing was figured out, construction work began opening up much sooner than other businesses.  Of course, large construction projects are years in the making and financing is not contingent on last month’s revenues.  

On a smaller scale, there was a flurry of activity in home renovations.  People who had been putting off remodeling or putting on an addition figured they might as well do it now. 

Which means somewhere along the line, someone was unhappy with how a particular project was going, or went, and wanted to sue the bastards. 

With regard to the larger projects, construction contracts routinely have paragraphs requiring arbitration of disputes, and increasingly they have paragraphs requiring mediation before arbitration or litigation can take place.  Mediation can be especially effective in resolving construction disputes.  There are often lots of players: developers, contractors, sub-contractors (and sub-sub-contractors), architects, and lessees, which means lots of people to point fingers at other people.  There can also be pressures on everyone to resolve a dispute because not only is time money but various people are usually owed money. And a project slowing down is bad for everyone.

The finger-pointing always raises certain questions.  Were plans followed?  What about the realities of what was discovered during building?  Decisions often have to be made on the spot, and even with proper consulting at the time, after the fact, someone may be unhappy.  The tiles from Italy didn’t show up on time.  Or were defective.  Maybe the ones from New Jersey are really just as good, and if they’re not put in now, the electrical work will get backed up by two weeks.

Informal mediation often takes place on the spot in these situations.  If one needs to decide whether to use the New Jersey tiles instead of the Italian ones, you can’t start a lawsuit to figure it out.  Do insurance companies need to be consulted or brought in?  Or can that wait until later?  There are always incentives to move a project along.  But later on, someone may want an accounting.  

Smaller projects often raise the same issues, and a contract for a new kitchen or bathroom can have a clause requiring mediation before anyone can go to court or arbitrate.  Whether the work costs $100 million or $5,000, a mediated resolution will save everyone time and money.  So, hold on to that summons for the time being.  You can always sue the Illegitimate sons of whomever later.

Gary Shaffer Gary Shaffer
Shaffer Mediation
Gary@ShafferMediation.com

About Us

An honors graduate of Harvard University and the Cardozo Law School of Yeshiva University, where he also served on the Law Review, Gary brings more than 30 years of litigation and negotiation experience to his practice as a mediator. He has successfully negotiated and mediated resolutions in family matters, employment cases, commercial disputes, personal injury cases, and major civil rights matters.

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