The impact of COVID-19 on construction projects continues to evolve as an increasing number of are issuing orders suspending construction. While complying with obligations in the face of a project being shut down, parties should not lose sight of actions that will best position them when construction resumes. In “So the Government Shut Down Your Construction Project—What Next? colleagues Matthew Stockwell and Laura Bourgeois LoBue discuss the legal issues that may come into play in the event of a COVID-related shutdown.
The global effect of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is still unknown, and the progress of many large-scale construction projects has been affected by “Shelter in Place” orders, although some states and localities have classified construction projects as “essential.” Just last Friday, New York shut down all construction, with few exceptions.
Due to pressure from construction workers, officials, and some construction workers having tested positive for COVID-19, the Empire State Development Corp. (acting on behalf of Governor Cuomo) has frozen all construction in New York today, with the exception of work on hospitals and health care facilities, transit facilities, roads and bridges, affordable housing and homeless shelters.
As a result, commercial construction and condominium projects are on hold, with the exception of work that must be completed to prevent unsafe conditions. Until now, construction has been considered “essential” in New York.
Naturally, this will cause delays and have financial impacts on owners and contractors alike. Contractors will need to secure their sites, document additional costs incurred, and determine the rights they have with regard to payment, delays, and suspension of work in accordance with their contracts. Contractors are also likely to face claims from downstream subcontractors. Owners will have to also review their contractual rights, particularly with regard to suspensions and the circumstances under which the owner may suspend without an increase in the contract sum. Owners in most cases will suffer a loss of revenue and increased interest and soft costs as a result of the suspension, and should look for sources to recover those losses, including business interruption or civil authority insurance coverage.
We are monitoring for further developments, and will be posting more information on this and other similar suspensions and how owners and contractors can protect themselves, shortly.
In a letter ruling published March 16, 2020, the Tennessee Department of Revenue concluded that a contractor’s purchase of materials and equipment for use in the construction and installation of a new steam production facility at a federally owned manufacturing plant was exempt from Tennessee sales and use tax. Tenn. Letter Rul. No. 20-02 (issued Feb. 10, 2020).
If the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread in the United States as it has in other countries, drastic expansions of hospital and quarantine facility capacity are likely to be necessary. In the hard-hit Seattle area, several temporary facilities are already under construction, including a 200-bed temporary quarantine and isolation center built on a soccer field. China’s response to the initial outbreak in the city of Wuhan demonstrates how rapidly authorities can add capacity in an emergency.
Surprisingly, heretofore, English law provided no clear answer to this seemingly straightforward question, and inconsistent case law over the past century has left a trail of confusion. Given the widespread use of English law in international construction contracts, this uncertainty had gone on far too long.
The good news is that drafters of construction contracts throughout the world can now have a well-deserved good night’s sleep courtesy of the English Court of Appeal’s March 2019 decision in Triple Point Technology, Inc. v PTT Public Company Ltd  EWCA Civ 230.
LODGING Magazine recently published an article by Pillsbury attorneys Brian Finch and Zack Kessler titled Modernizing Hotel Security Protocols To Protect Against 21st Century Threats. The article discusses the recent bombings and shootings at high-profile hotels in the U.S. and abroad, and how the hospitality industry can benefit from risk management tools available under the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002 (the SAFETY Act), enacted as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Public Law 107-296.
On March 19, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Air & Liquid Systems Corp. v. Devries, affirming the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in this maritime tort case involving the availability of the “bare-metal defense.” The bare-metal defense’s basic idea is that a manufacturer who delivers a product “bare metal”—that is without the insulation or other material that must be added for the product’s proper operation—is not generally liable for injuries caused by asbestos in later-added materials.
The Court confirmed that
“maritime law’s special solicitude for the safety and protection of sailors counsels us to adopt a standard-based approach to the bare-metal defense that permits a plaintiff to recover, at least in negligence, from a manufacturer of a bare-metal product when the facts show the plaintiff’s injuries were a reasonably foreseeable result of the manufacturer’s conduct.”
Today, Pillsbury attorneys Julia Judish and Rebecca Carr Rizzo published their Client Alert titled How Employers Should Respond to the Trump Administration’s Proposed Overtime Rule. The Alert discusses the Trump Administration’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for amending the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) so-called “white collar” exemptions. The new rule would formally rescind the Obama Administration’s 2016 Final Rule.
The Obama Administration 2016 Final Rule would have more than doubled the minimum salary level for executive, administrative, and professional employees to be classified as exempt from overtime and minimum wage requirements (the EAP exemption) and increased the minimum salary level by a third for highly compensated employees (the HCE exemption), with automatic increases every three years (the “2016 Final Rule”).
On February 26, 2019, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a joint memorandum (Memo) clarifying how state transportation departments that have been delegated responsibility under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) should implement federal directives to streamline the environmental review and approvals of major infrastructure projects. While the Memo establishes no new affirmative duties on these state agencies, it reflects yet another step in the Trump administration’s continued efforts to ensure collective adherence to its goal of expediting environmental review under NEPA.