Litigating a construction claim can be difficult. Figuring out which claims you have against the various parties can often times take months to figure out. A recent case out of South Carolina illustrates these difficulties.
In Ross Dress For Less, Inc. v. Lauth Const. Group, LLC, a developer hired a general contractor to build a warehouse. The general contractor hired a geotechnical engineer to inspect and test the soil to ensure it was appropriate for constructing the warehouse. The warehouse was built and sold. The buyer then discovered the soil under the warehouse was unsuitable. The buyer sued the general contractor, the grader and the geotechnical engineer; the grader filed a claim against its subcontractor; the general contractor filed a claim against the geotechnical engineer’s bond and its grader; and the geotechnical engineer filed a claim against the general contractor for indemnification.
Less than 60 days before trial, the parties were still trying to figure out which claims were viable against which contractor. The geotechnical engineer argued that the buyer could not sue it for negligence because the geotechnical engineer did not owe a duty of care to the buyer. Instead, the geotechnical engineer’s only duty was to the general contractor. The court agreed and dismissed the buyer’s claims against the geotechnical engineer. But, the geotechnical engineer still had to go to trial because the general contractor had claims against it.
So, the case is scheduled for trial this fall. That will be one full courtroom and the attorneys may outnumber the clients.
Craig, very interesting case and you are right – it really illustrates how much trouble a construction claim can be. It’s rare that these claims are worth it.