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Construction Law

Florida’s Statutes of Limitations: Construction Cases

If you’re weighing legal action against a contractor, subcontractor, construction company or property owner in Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood, don’t make the mistake of thinking you have forever to file a construction lawsuit. Any such litigation in Broward County is subject to rules set forth at the Florida state level, and once the state-mandated period of time – known as the statute of limitations – has passed, it will be extremely difficult for your construction litigation lawyer to successfully file action on your behalf.

Florida's 2017 statutes can be confusing, and vary depending on the type of construction litigation case. It is imperative to know how your case is likely to be classified, and the best way to know with any degree of certainty is to ask an attorney who specializes in this area of law. Any construction lawyer worth his or her salt will offer you a free, no-obligation case evaluation to gain a better understanding of the facts behind the action.

Current Florida statutes

According to Florida Statute 95.11, the following deadlines apply to construction-related lawsuits, and are for "actions other than for recovery of real property:"

Four years: This includes action against contractors or construction companies for "design, planning, or construction of an improvement" resulting from defective materials. If the defects are deemed to be latent, the statute of limitations could be extended to 10 years. Also included in this time period are personal injury claims stemming from accidents that occurred at the construction site.
Two years: This deadline applies to the filing of wrongful death lawsuits caused by catastrophic accidents on the construction site.
One year: This is for cases involving foreclosures or lien filings. If a property owner refuses to pay a contractor or sub-contractor for services rendered per the terms of an agreed-upon and executed contract, a lawyer could file for a mechanic's lien against the property, forcing its sale and potentially distributing the proceeds to those who were not paid as promised in writing.

Statutes of limitation can be tricky, and there might be some overlap, depending on the unique circumstances surrounding your case.

Why you shouldn't file suit right away

There is no set period of time that one must wait before filing action in Broward County court. That said, it might save you time, money and sanity to attempt a few alternatives to litigation before embarking upon the lengthy – and potentially costly – fight in court. For example, one strongly worded demand letter from your Fort Lauderdale construction attorney could be enough to show the other party or parties that you are serious about litigation. We have witnessed – time and time again – how that one document could be all that's needed to light a fire under the other parties get you paid. Why file suit if there's a chance to resolve the matter quickly and without the hassle?

Why you should never wait till the last minute

It's startling how many would-be plaintiffs drag their feet when it comes to filing, only to find out the hard way that they misunderstood and miscategorized their case, and that the statutes of limitations for their true case type have already expired, neutralizing any claim to money they were sure would come someday. Time also tends to shroud evidence, and potential witnesses who could be instrumental to your case could become harder and harder to track down. Construction lawyers in Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale tend to stay busy, and there is no guarantee that counsel will have room on the schedule for a last-minute case, especially if said evidence and witnesses need to be gathered and tracked down.

David S. Tupler, P.A. has proudly represented Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale for more than 25 years. If you're involved in a construction dispute in Broward County, let us work to get you paid. Our initial consultation is absolutely free. Call today and discover why our law firm is the best fit for your unique case type.

Categories
Construction Law Lien Law

The Miller Act’s Impact on Fort Lauderdale Contractors

What is the Miller Act?

In 1893, the United States government enacted a law known as the Heard Act. This Act stated that any construction company performing work for the U.S. government must carry a performance bond. Later, this Act was changed to include a bond securing payment for all subcontractors performing on the contract. When these changes took place, the law became known as the Miller Act.

The Miller Act was established to protect the government from unexpected costs relating to construction projects due to non-performance or delays caused by the contractor. In addition, the government offered protection to all Florida subcontractors under this law in an effort to keep construction costs low. Subcontractors, under Sovereign Immunity, cannot have their Fort Lauderdale attorney place a lien on a government owned building for labor and material costs. The Miller Act guarantees that these subcontractors are paid for their supplies and services.

Construction contractors must comply

The first thing that every Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood construction company that bids on government jobs must understand is that complying with the Miller Act is mandatory. There are no exceptions. Broward County contractors who are awarded construction projects valued in excess of $100,000 that are meant to construct, alter or repair a Federal building will be required to meet the following obligations:

Performance Bond. The amount of the bond will be determined by the contract officer and will be based on the overall value of the contract and other relevant facts. Part of this bond must include coverage for payroll taxes. This bond must name the contact officer as the recipient of the bond if the terms of the contract are broken.

Payment Bond. A payment bond in the value of the entire contract must be taken out to protect employees, suppliers, and subcontractors from non-payment of monies due. The contractor has the ability to request a lower bond amount, based on actual anticipated costs of materials and labor. However, it is at the discretion of the contract officer to determine the amount of the bond necessary to cover all necessary payments.

Contracts that are values between $30,000 and 100,000 dollars have similar requirements for bonds. However, it is very important for contractors to verify the bond requirements prior to bidding on the job. Once a job has been awarded to a specific company, these bond requirements will go into effect. Failure to comply will cause the contractor to lose the contract and may ban them from future contract opportunities.

It should be noted that the Miller Act applies to Federal construction projects only. Construction contracts concerning state and local government entities will have their own bond requirements for their contracts.

Enforcement of the Act

Under the Miller Act, any party that hasn't received wages for work performed under the contract by the main contractor, or any supplier or subcontractor that has not received payment for their goods or services after 90 days of last providing those goods or services, has the right to sue for payment against the bond.

These lawsuits will name the U.S. government indirectly since it holds the bond. However, it will be the bond itself which is sue and will ultimately pay these outstanding balances. The insurer who issued that bond may seek damages against the contractor once the debts are paid. The U.S. government in no manner will be held accountable for these debts.

Understanding your obligations before You bid

The Miller Act plays a very significant role in any construction or renovation project that is conducted for a federal agency. Understanding how this Act affects your bidding is very important. Contractors seeking government work should become very familiar with this law as well as others that may apply for government contracts.

The federal government will strictly enforce all parts of their contract. It is mandatory that you understand every part of the bidding and acceptance process before submitting your bid. If you are unfamiliar with any part, speaking with a Hollywood or Ft. Lauderdale construction lawyer might be in the best interest of your construction firm.

Government contracts can be very lucrative for your Florida business. Once you have established yourself as a credible contractor, you will be able to bid on larger jobs that will increase your business size and profit. Approaching each of these bids carefully and with full knowledge will allow you to prosper as a government construction contractor.

REFERENCES

U.S. General Services Administration