Cybersecurity on Your Project: Why Not Follow National Security Strategy?

By Rick Erickson

In its recent Cybersecurity Strategy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defined “cyberspace” as “the independent network of information technology infrastructure, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computers, information and communications systems, and embedded processors and controllers.”  To DHS, protecting cyberspace includes threats against “federal and nonfederal information systems.”  In other words, both private and public interests are at risk.  In his 2018 National Defense Strategy, U.S. Department of Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, essentially concurred in declaring cyberspace a “warfighting domain” and promising to “invest in cyber defense, resilience, and the continued integration of cyber capabilities into the full spectrum of military operations.”

The construction industry is a key player in cybersecurity because contractors, designers and owners are responsible for building and delivering projects providing critical public services like national defense, health care, law enforcement, transportation, and utilities.… Read More »

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When Does a Contractor Legally Abandon a Construction Project?

By Rick Erickson

Lately, we’ve been spending more time as litigators pursuing and defending claims of abandonment against contractors. It has become apparent that abandonment is often misinterpreted in its legal meaning and effect.  Here are some thoughts on abandonment to consider.

On its face, the concept of abandonment is simple enough. For any number of reasons, a contractor abandons a project when the contractor stops showing up.  Abandonment is major concern for all players on the project because it causes critical path delays and significant costs to replace the contractor with another contractor, many times at a much higher cost than the original contractors’ bid.… Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court Confirms a Prevailing Homeowner Can Recover Fees on Implied Warranty Claims

By Rick Erickson

On August 9th, in Sirrah Enterprises, L.L.C. v. Wunderlich, the Arizona Supreme Court settled the question about recovery of attorneys’ fees after prevailing on implied warranty claims against a residential contractor.  The simple answer is, yes, a homeowner who prevails on the merits can recover the fees they spent to prove that shoddy construction breached the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability.  Why?  Because, as Justice Timmer articulated, “[t]he implied warranty is a contract term.”  Although implied, the warranty is legally part of the written agreement in which “a residential builder warrants that its work is performed in a workmanlike manner and that the structure is habitable.”

In other words, a claim based on the implied warranty not only arises out of the contract, the claim is actually based on a contract term.… Read More »

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Appeals of Rulings by The Registrar of Contractors Must Be Timely Filed in Superior Court.

By Rick Erickson

Recently in Johnson v. Arizona Registrar of Contractors, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of a homeowner’s late appeal of an adverse decision by the Registrar of Contractors (“Registrar”).  After successfully pursuing a complaint to suspend a roofing contractor’s license, the homeowner tried but failed to get her roofing repair costs from the Registrar’s Recovery Fund.  The homeowner sent her appeal to the Registrar.  However, the governing Arizona statute, A.R.S. § 12-904(A), clearly required the homeowner’s appeal to be filed in Superior Court, not with the Registrar.  Once the homeowner realized her mistake, her appeal to Superior Court was a day late. … Read More »

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Common Law Indemnity Claim Affirmed on Justifiable Beliefs

By Rick Erickson https://www.swlaw.com/people/rick_erickson

Yesterday, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued an interesting opinion in Hatch Development v. Solomon. Hatch illustrated two key points in real estate and construction litigation: (1) a contractor’s indemnity does not always require an expressly written obligation; and (2) when facts are undisputed that a contractor is solely at fault for a construction defect, a property owner can be indemnified after paying a neighboring property owner for damages caused by the contractor’s defective work.

Hatch was a homeowner who hired Solomon to install sewer lines. After installation, heavy rain led to muddy water in the sewer lines, suggesting a defect in the installation. … Read More »

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Tips on Pursuing and Defending Complaints against Contractors

By Rick Erickson firm bio

The often staggering cost of litigation has prompted an equally staggering amount of regulatory complaints against contractors in recent years. Why? Because filing a complaint against a contractor may not cost a complainant anything but time. And any litigation expenses are mostly borne by the contractor/respondent, who is anxious to defend and protect their license and reputation (i.e. their livelihood).

Here are some tips for pursuing or responding to a complaint and getting the best out of your state’s contractor regulatory agency (in Arizona, the Registrar of Contractors):

(1)        Respect the Registrar. Your regulatory agency is probably understaffed and overworked.… Read More »

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Upheld: Injured Subcontractor’s Lent Employee Has No Claim Against Landowner or General Contractor After Choosing Workers’ Compensation and Failing to Prove Landowner Controlled the Work

By Rick Erickson (http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/rick_erickson)

On this Memorial Day 2015, I write in honor of my U.S. Marine Corps colleague, Megan McClung, who was killed in Iraq nine years ago this December.  Major McClung and I served together in Anbar Province in 2006.  She was the first female Marine Corps officer to be killed in Iraq and the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to be killed in action.  She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

In Lee v. M and H Enterprises, Inc., — P.3d —- (decided Apr. 21, 2015), the Arizona Court of Appeals recently clarified why, in most cases, landowners and general contractors are not liable when subcontractor employees are injured or killed on construction projects.… Read More »

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Transfer of Property Title to a Holding Company Did Not Divest Landowner of Owner-Occupant Status Under A.R.S. § 33-1002(B)

By:  Richard G. Erickson

Recently, in Marco Crane & Rigging Co. v. Masaryk, 703 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 29 (Dec. 30, 2014), the Arizona Court of Appeals established that a subcontractor on a residential project has no lien rights against an owner-occupant, even though the homeowner transferred the property’s title to a holding company (an Arizona limited liability company) after the subcontractor commenced work.

In other words, the lien protections afforded to owner-occupants are determined, at the latest, when a contractor records its lien.  After the contractor commences work and records its lien, the homeowner’s actions in negating owner-occupant status do not divest the homeowner of statutory protections against lienholders. … Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court to Contractor: Sorry But Equitable Subrogation of a Bank’s Later Deed of Trust Trumps Earlier Mechanics’ Lien Rights

By Rick Erickson

http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/rick_erickson

The smoke has finally cleared in a hard and long-fought battle between a bank and contractor both claiming priority to foreclose millions of dollars on a Phoenix condominium project. The project, well-known as Summit at Copper Square in central Phoenix (“Summit”), went broke in 2007. The foreclosure case began in 2008, and the construction and real estate industries have been keeping a close eye on the outcome. In the end, the Arizona Supreme Court weighed in for its “first opportunity to address the interplay between equitable subrogation and the priority granted to mechanics’ liens by [Arizona Revised Statutes] § 33-992(A).”

The Arizona Supreme Court issued its decision in The Weitz Company L.L.C.… Read More »

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The Registrar is Changing the Game for Complaints Against Arizona Contractors

By Rick Erickson http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/rick_erickson

Sweeping changes at the Registrar of Contractors have the construction and real estate industries concerned and curious.  The Registrar recently received some poor performance reports by the Auditor General and State Ombudsmen.  As a result, the Registrar overhauled its procedures for handling complaints and adjudicating contested cases against Arizona contractors.  You should be following these changes before the Registrar rolls out its new approach this summer.     

The Registrar regulates contractor licensing and enforcement of workmanship standards against thousands of licensees throughout Arizona.  In doing so, the Registrar dictates administrative remedies available to property owners on residential and commercial projects. … Read More »

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