R. Thomas Dunn

Highlights from the AAA’s New Publication on Discovery Best Practices

The American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) released recommendations for AAA Construction Advocates and Arbitrators with regard to best discovery practices and tips for Construction Arbitration.  See American Arbitration Association Discovery Best Practices for Construction Arbitration (“Best Practices”).  Through the AAA National Construction Dispute Resolution Committee, our own John Bulman played a key role in drafting these guidelines.  The 7-page guideline provides a bullet point, practical summary of information exchange in arbitration.  It is a helpful resource to counsel, clients, and arbitrators to understand the ground rules in an arbitration proceeding.  In this post, I summarize some of the key takeaways from the Best Practices.

Document Exchange

Generally, parties are entitled to examine an opposing parties documents; however, “the scope of documents should be narrowly tailored and proportionate to the disputes at hand.” To achieve this goal, parties should each submit detailed statement of claims and defenses as early as possible to narrow the issues,

Be Careful What You Offer in Your Next Offer of Judgment!

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The Federal and most state rules of civil procedure contain an offer of judgment provision.  It allows a defendant to issue an “offer of judgment” to a plaintiff to settle the case.  It is designed to create a pause with the plaintiff to assess her case and decide whether she wants to proceed forward with the litigation or resolve it.  The purpose of the rule is to encourage prompt and early resolution of disputes.  A defendant utilizing the rule has an incentive to make a realistic offer that is inclusive of accrued interest and other litigation expenses (such as attorney’s fees where there is a fee shifting provision).  If an offer of judgment is not accepted, it potentially creates a cost shifting provision in favor of the defendant if the plaintiff does not recover an amount greater than the amount offered.  It also sets up an opportunity for the defendant to assert that no attorney’s fees should be

Time to “Pay” Attention to Payment Provisions for Construction Contracts in Massachusetts

Practice area:

I know what you are thinking . . . payment provisions have ALWAYS been key components of construction projects.  Owners want to understand what they are paying for and that they are not over-paying.  Contractors want prompt payment provisions and limitations on an Owner’s ability to withhold payment.  Lower tier subcontractors and suppliers want clarity, information and remedies, other than what can be a cumbersome mechanic’s lien process, to ensure that they will get paid in the event of a dispute.  So, I absolutely agree, payment provisions are essential.  If payment is not made or the payment applications are not provided per the terms of the contract, it can cause delays and additional costs for all project participants.

A number of years ago, Massachusetts passed the Massachusetts Prompt Pay Act, G.L. c. 149, §29E (the “Act”).  The purpose of the Act is to create some ground rules that are read into each private construction contract that is $3,000,000 or more.  It

The Massachusetts Statute of Repose Comes Marching One Building at a Time

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Have you ever wondered when Massachusetts’ 6-year statute of repose for defective design, planning and construction is triggered when dealing with the construction of a multi-building, multi-year condominium construction project?  

If you haven’t thought about such an issue that’s okay, neither had the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, nor the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.  However, luckily for us, the Supreme Judicial Court recently tackled this very question in D’Allessandro v. Lennar Hingham Holdings, LLC, 156 N.E.3d 197, 198 (Mass. 2020).

Photo from the Hewitts Landing Condominium website, found at https://www.livehewittslanding.com/hingham/hewitts-landing/photos/

In D’Allessandro, the Hewitts Landing Condominium project (the “Project”) consisted of 150 condominium units and twenty-eight buildings. D’Allessandro, 156 N.E.3d at 199.  The Project was built over the course of twenty four different phases between 2008 and 2015; however, as individual units were

A Certain Degree of Control Could Save You From Suit

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Here is the fact scenario:  A contractor employs certain employees that are union members or employees that have a tendency to “roam” and/or be “loaned”—i.e. the employee technically works for one entity, but also performs work for another affiliated company.  The employee is injured while working for the affiliated entity and not his actual employer.  The employee collects workers compensation insurance benefits from his actual employer and then tries to file suit against the affiliated company.

Question:  Is the employee entitled to collect workers compensation benefits from his actual employer, and then file a lawsuit to collect damages from the affiliated company?

Answer: Not according to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

In Selby v. Baird, the plaintiff arrived at a residential home to begin his job as the foreman of a tree removal crew for a tree removal company.  While the crew was setting up their equipment at the job site,

Rhode Island Removed From Massachusetts “Lower-Risk States” COVID Travel Exemption Effective August 7, 2020

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Effective August 7, 2020, Massachusetts removed Rhode Island from one of its “Lower-Risk States” COVID Travel Exemption.  This applies to Massachusetts recently imposed travel restrictions that commenced on August 1, 2020.

The impact of the order means that a Rhode Island resident that travels into Massachusetts must quarantine for 14 days unless one of the following can be established:

(1) Person is coming from a lower risk-state – does not apply to persons coming from Rhode Island;

(2) Negative COVID test taken within the previous 72 hours; or

(3) Meets the exemption criteria.

The exemption criteria includes:

    • Transitory travel — passing through Massachusetts
    • Persons commuting for work or school – only permits travel from a person’s residence to a “fixed place” to attend school or work.  Does not apply to “travel to any place that is not their home state

Virtual Arbitrations/Trials — Should You Use An Expanded Witness Oath?

For arbitrations and trials that are pending and/or are scheduled for the near term, the judges/arbitrators/counsel/parties are now confronting the decision on whether to proceed forward with conducting the proceedings remotely.  If they decide to proceed forward, there will naturally be some reluctance to proceed forward.  The reluctance is because it is new and unfamiliar.  It is because there is a sense that it may be more challenging to evaluate a witness’ credibility and veracity.

There are also technological concerns of virtual hearings — both as to functionality (testing the video/audio connection) and the integrity of the testimony.  In this post, I am sharing a contribution from my Pierce Atwood law partner John Bulman, FCIArb who regularly serves as an arbitrator handling construction and commercial cases domestically and internationally.  In his post below, John addresses specifically the issue of additional measures that should be considered by arbitrators, attorneys, and witnesses to ensure the integrity of the virtual arbitration process.

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Construction Shutdown is Lifted in Massachusetts

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Non-essential private construction projects were suspended on March 31, 2020 in Massachusetts.  That suspension has been in place for the construction industry until today — May 18, 2020.

As part of the first phase of the Four-Phase Approach to Reopening Massachusetts, Governor Baker announced that the construction industry may commence work provided the mandatory safety standards and protocols can be followed.  See Report from the Reopening Committee.  Before a project may reopen, each business must have a COVID-19 Control Plan in place and posting of posters.

Three resource documents were distributed

The safety standards include social distancing (crews 6 feet apart at all times) and no meetings of more than 10 people.  Where social distancing is not possible, PPE (face covering, gloves, and eye protection) must be used.

Cloth Face Masks Required for Rhode Island Employees Through May 18, 2020

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On April 14, 2020, Governor Raimondo issued the Twenty-First Supplemental Emergency Declaration — Requiring Cloth Face Masks At Work.  The Order is effective Saturday, April 18 and continues through May 18, 2020.

Cloth face coverings are required for any Rhode Island employee working at a customer/client-facing business, non-profit organization, office-based businesses, and any other such business category as determined by the Department of Business Regulation (DBR) that is still in operation.  Previously, on March 22, 2020, the Governor ordered all Rhode Island employees that can work from home to work from home.

Cloth face coverings are not required if an employee can “easily, continuously, and measurably maintain at least six (6) feet of distance from other employees for the duration of his or her work (e.g. solo office) or unless doing so would damage the employee’s health.  Thus, if an employee has a dedicated office with the doorway six feet away, a face covering would not be required while

Virtual Mediations Are Zooming Forward . . . Jump on Board

With most of the country on stay at home orders of some variety and court closings, parties to claims, litigation, and arbitrations are adapting quickly to virtual litigation activities that are customarily done in person.  This includes virtual depositions, mediations, arbitrations, and trials.

In this post, I will talk about virtual mediations.

Contractual mediation is a requirement in many construction contracts to proceeding forward with litigation/arbitration.  There is often a period of time in which the mediation should be concluded before a party may proceed to the next step of dispute resolution.

No matter the parties to the case, it is customary for parties, their counsel, experts, and insurance representatives to meet in-person at the mediator’s office, one of the law firms, or some neutral location like JAMS and/or AAA’s offices.  The physical presence is an advantage in that it gets parties and their counsel together at the same place with one objective in mind — settle