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    Fairfield, CT 06824

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    Salem, CT 06420

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    School’s Lawsuit over Defective Field Construction Delayed

    New Tariffs Could Shorten Construction Expansion Cycle

    California Clarifies Its Inverse Condemnation Standard

    Maryland Legislation Prohibits Condominium Developers from Shortening Statute of Limitations to Defeat Unit Owner Construction Defect Claims

    Federal Court of Appeals Signals an End to Project Labor Agreement Requirements Linked to Development Tax Credits

    NTSB Issues 'Urgent' Recommendations After Mass. Pipeline Explosions

    Insurer Rejecting Construction Defect Claim Must Share in Defense Costs

    Nevada Supreme Court Clarifies the Litigation Waiver of the One-Action Rule

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    Traub Lieberman Attorneys Recognized in 2019 Edition of Who’s Who Legal

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    FAIRFIELD CONNECTICUT BUILDING CONSULTANT
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    The Fairfield, Connecticut Building Consultant Group is comprised from a number of credentialed construction professionals possessing extensive trial support experience relevant to construction defect and claims matters. Leveraging from more than 25 years experience, BHA provides construction related trial support and expert services to the nation's most recognized construction litigation practitioners, Fortune 500 builders, commercial general liability carriers, owners, construction practice groups, and a variety of state and local government agencies.

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    Fairfield, Connecticut

    Congress Passes, President Signs Sweeping Energy Measure In Spend Bill

    January 04, 2021 —
    The end-of-the-year spending package passed by Congress on Dec. 21 includes the first major energy legislation to be enacted in more than a decade. Reprinted courtesy of Corinne Grinapol, ENR, Tom Ichniowski, ENR and Pam Radtke Russell, ENR Mr. Ichniowski may be contacted at ichniowskit@enr.com Ms. Russell may be contacted at Russellp@bnpmedia.com Read the full story... Read the court decision
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    Everybody Is Going to End Up Paying for Texas' Climate Crisis

    March 29, 2021 —
    Fallout from last month’s deadly deep freeze in Texas has quietly spread to people living hundreds of miles away. Minnesota utilities have warned that monthly heating bills could spike by $400, after the crisis jacked up natural gas prices across the country. Xcel Energy’s Colorado customers could face a $7.50 per month surcharge for the next two years. This is a subtle demonstration of the way Americans already share the collective financial burden of climate change, even if we don’t realize it. The national bill for global warming is here, and it’s rising. Perhaps it’s easier to see this dynamic playing out beyond February’s Texas cold snap. That disaster left dozens dead, stranded millions in dark homes, and sent a shockwave of higher gas prices across the nation. But since there remains scientific uncertainty over the role of global warming, let’s examine two other calamities for which the climate link is clearer: wildfires and tropical storms. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of David R Baker & Mark Chediak, Bloomberg

    2021 California Construction Law Update

    December 29, 2020 —
    This Christmas looks to be a Blue Christmas as the nation grapples with rising infection, hospitalization and death rates due to COVID. But there’s always 2021 to look forward to, which, of course, also means new laws impacting the construction industry. Due to COVID there were two unscheduled breaks during the second half of the 2019-2020 legislative session as legislators sheltered-in-place. As a result, there were fewer bills introduced and enacted than in previous legislative session. A total of 2,223 bills were introduced in 2020 compared to 2,625 bills in 2019, of which 428 bills made it to the Governor’s desk, and 372 were signed into law. Among the bills signed into law were bills, unsurprisingly, related to COVID. In addition, the 2020 legislative session saw the passage of legislation creating a new licensing classification for residential renovation contractors, new laws expanding and clarifying when prevailing wages are required to be paid, and legislation extending the period during which seniors can cancel certain contracts. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Garret Murai, Nomos LLP
    Mr. Murai may be contacted at gmurai@nomosllp.com

    Connecticut Appellate Court Breaks New Ground on Policy Exhaustion

    April 26, 2021 —
    The Connecticut Appellate Court recently issued a wide-ranging opinion, Continental Casualty Co. v. Rohr, Inc.,[1] which significantly extended the current restrictive view on when a general liability policy can be considered exhausted so as to trigger overlying excess coverage. The case marks a further step away from Judge Augustus Hand’s almost-century-old ruling in Zeig v. Massachusetts Bonding & Ins. Co.,[2] which held that an underlying policy could be “exhausted” by a below-limits settlement as long as the insured was willing to “fill the gap” between the settlement amount and the limits of the policy.[3] In recent years, courts in California and elsewhere have increasingly walked back Zeig’s broad ruling – holding in Qualcomm v. Certain Underwriters,[4] for example, that an insured’s below-limits settlement with primary carriers does not exhaust the limits of primary coverage, or allow the insured to access overlying excess coverage.[5] Reprinted courtesy of Eric B. Hermanson, White and Williams and Austin D. Moody, White and Williams Mr. Hermanson may be contacted at hermansone@whiteandwilliams.com Mr. Moody may be contacted at moodya@whiteandwilliams.com Read the court decision
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    Getting U.S to Zero Carbon Will Take a $2.5 Trillion Investment by 2030

    December 29, 2020 —
    It’s going to take $2.5 trillion in spending over the next decade to get the U.S. on a path to a carbon-free economy, but the transition will help to pay for itself, Princeton University researchers say. Achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 -- a central goal of President-elect Joe Biden’s climate plan -- would require expanding renewable-energy systems, building more efficient homes and putting 50 million electric cars on the road, according to a report released Tuesday. The effort, two years in the making, is the first major assessment since the election detailing how the U.S. can transition to an energy system that satisfies scientific guidance for keeping the climate livable. While the upfront costs are significant, they would be offset by savings associated with switching to cheaper electricity and the creation of as many as 1 million new jobs, according to the researchers, who shared an earlier draft with Biden’s transition team. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Will Wade & Eric Roston, Bloomberg

    Feds, County Seek Delay in Houston $7B Road Widening Over Community Impact

    March 15, 2021 —
    The Federal Highway Administration has asked Texas to delay issuing requests for proposals and pause ongoing contracting on a $7-billion, three-phased highway expansion project in metropolitan Houston as it evaluates complaints that up to 1,000 homes and multifamily buildings and 350 businesses would be condemned to build the project. Reprinted courtesy of Mary B. Powers, Engineering News-Record ENR may be contacted at ENR.com@bnpmedia.com Read the full story... Read the court decision
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    Rebuilding the West: Construction Considerations After the Smoke Clears

    December 21, 2020 —
    Wildfires have always been a part of life in the western United States, but, in recent years, the frequency and size of wildfires have become staggering. Oregon, Washington, and—in particular—California face drier conditions, making wildfire season longer and more intense. In these states, among others, prescribed burns (designed to reduce wildfire ignition sources and spreading potential) have been limited or cancelled altogether as the air pollution emitted by these burns may worsen the impact of COVID-19, a respiratory illness in its essence, as noted recently by Science magazine. These circumstances, further compounded by the severe shortage of housing, have created a “perfect storm” in California, which has seen new and denser construction deeper within wildfire-prone areas, prompting a number of key legislative proposals that will impact the rebuilding process after the smoke clears. The infamous 2018 Camp Fire in northern California made international headlines for decimating the town of Paradise. While the cause of the Camp Fire was determined to be faulty electrical transmission equipment, unusually dry conditions allowed the fire to spread to just over 150,000 acres, and the fire took 17 days to contain. Then, five of the 20 largest wildfires in California history occurred during the 2020 wildfire season, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). The Camp Fire was eclipsed by the August 2020 Complex Fire, which is the largest wildfire ever recorded in the state, growing to just over one million acres in size until it was finally contained on Nov. 15. Legislative Response The Camp Fire and other 2018 wildfires displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes throughout California. The unprecedented scale of both the 2018 and the 2020 wildfire seasons in California has spurred legislators in Sacramento to draft a number of important bills that will undoubtedly impact rebuilding efforts. California AB 38 was prompted by the 2018 California wildfire season and was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2019. It requires the state fire marshal, the Office of Emergency Services, and Cal Fire to work together to develop and administer a comprehensive wildfire mitigation program, including "cost-effective structure hardening and retrofitting to create fire-resistant homes, businesses, and public buildings." Unfortunately, the well-intentioned program has yet to be funded, and may be relying on federal hazard funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency at a future date. In light of the crippling economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal funding is likely the only viable source for this important item of legislation. California SB 182 would enact new building regulations in high fire-risk areas (as determined by the state fire marshal), including new standards for fire-resistive construction, evacuation routes, defensible space, and available water and firefighting resources. It would also prohibit municipalities from approving new construction in high fire-risk areas unless wildfire reduction standards are satisfied. In effect, the bill would discourage new construction in high fire-risk areas. After passing through both legislative houses, Newsom vetoed the bill, citing its negative impact on the state's strained supply of affordable housing. However, the bill is likely to be revisited in the 2020-2021 legislative session. California AB 1516 is a comprehensive bill that would:
    • Create new defensible-space requirements for both new and existing construction in high fire-risk areas.
    • Create a grant-assistance program for fire-prevention education, inspections, and technical assistance.
    • Direct Cal Fire to develop vegetation management recommendations to minimize flammability.
    Additionally, the bill would allow insurers providing course of construction coverage for a project to request, from the owner, municipal certification that the structure to be built complies with existing and new building standards. Newsom vetoed this bill, cautioning that a "one size fits all" approach to wildfire management may not be appropriate, given that each individual community's needs differ. California AB 2380 focuses on the development of standards and regulations for a relatively new and growing phenomenon: the rising use of private firefighting personnel, particularly by wealthy homeowners. Several prominent and well-known carriers offer homeowners-insurance policies that provide for private firefighting personnel, as well as preventative services (wildfire hazard inspections and clearing defensible space), and expected post-incident services (clean up and removal of fire retardant and similar substances). AB 2380 was signed into law by Newsom at the tail end of the 2018 wildfire season, and it now requires Cal Fire, the governor's Office of Emergency Services, and the board of directors of the FIRESCOPE Program (designed to coordinate firefighting resources among different agencies) to develop standards and regulations for privately contracted fire fighters. Housing Shortage and New Construction These legislative efforts are underscored by the worsening housing crisis, which has both strained existing supply and increasingly pushed new construction into areas known as the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). WUI areas are designated as either "interface" or "intermix:” Interface WUI areas have little to no wildland vegetation, but are near large wildlands. By contrast, in intermix WUI areas, structures are mixed with wildland vegetation. A recent study by the U.S. Forest Service found that, as expected, WUI areas are the hardest hit by wildfires. However, the study also found that, contrary to popular belief, wildfires cause greater damage in interface WUI areas than intermix WUI areas- in other words, wildfire damage is greatest where there is little to no wildland vegetation. The study concludes that wildfires in WUI areas are fueled more by human-made fuels as opposed to natural vegetation. These human-made fuels include building materials and landscaping. It may not come as a surprise that a growing body of scientific literature has ascribed more severe and frequent wildfires to climate change. However, what may be less appreciated is the profound impact of building in the WUI. By 2050, an estimated one million new homes are projected to be built in California WUI areas. In light of this, as well as the recognition that wildfire risk is determined, in large part, by construction standards and the fire resistivity of materials as opposed to natural vegetation, California has developed a special building code for WUI areas: Chapter 7A of the California Building Code- Materials and Construction Methods for Exterior Wildfire Exposure. California is one of the few states to have a unique building code for WUI areas, and, in light of the recent wildfires, California officials are developing stricter WUI building standards. The constituents of State Sen. Bill Dodd in Napa County and surrounding areas have faced some of the state's most devastating wildfires. Dodd is at the forefront of significant fire-related legislation, and was responsible for the passage of the Insurance Adjuster Act of 2019, which sets regulations for insurance-claim adjusting in emergencies. Dodd also spearheaded the passage of SB 190, which was enacted in late 2019. The law requires, among other things, the state fire marshal to develop suitable materials and products for building in WUI areas with respect to exterior wall siding and sheathing, exterior windows, doors and skylights, vents, decking, treated lumber and ignition-resistant materials, and roofing materials. The state fire marshal's office found that roofing material is among the most important factors in a structure's fire resistivity, and slate, metal, and tile roofs have the highest fire resistance rating of "A:” As of July 1, 2021, wood-shake roofs will no longer be allowed by the California Fire Code. The state fire marshal also cites non-combustible siding as an important building element. Wildfire-Resistant Construction A recent study prepared by Headwaters Economics and commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service, WR Foundation, and Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety analyzed cost differentials between traditional construction and wildfire-resistive construction as they relate to the four most fire-critical assemblies of a structure: roofs, exterior walls (including windows and doors), decks, and landscaping. Wildfire-resistant roofing, vents, fascia, and gutters were estimated to cost about 27 percent more than traditional components. However, the wildfire-resistant roofing materials feature lower maintenance requirements and longer lifespans. Wildfire-resistant exterior walls were estimated to cost 25 percent less than traditional components, due in large part to the substitution of true wood siding with fiber cement siding. Wildfire-resistant decking involves the use of composite boards, foil-faced bitumen tape on support joists, and the creation of non-combustible space beneath decking. This type of construction was estimated to cost approximately 19 percent more than traditional decking construction. Wildfire-resistant landscaping has the most significant cost difference as compared to traditional landscaping construction, with the former costing about double the latter. Landscaping fabric can minimize the growth of weeds and thus reduce fire hazard, as does the use of rocks instead of mulch. While certain components of fire-resistant construction may have increased costs, the benefits far outweigh these increases: longer life cycles and less maintenance of the components, and, most importantly, greatly increased fire resistivity of the structure itself and thus its life cycle. As construction in WUI areas is expected to grow substantially in the coming years, so too are fire-resistive construction standards and material requirements. These standards and requirements are part and parcel of a more comprehensive and deliberate set of land use planning, vegetation management, and emergency-response regulations and policies that California will develop by necessity to meet the growing demand for housing in WUI areas, and also to rein in the staggering costs of wildfire suppression. Thus, construction in WUI areas, and, to a lesser degree, in non WUI areas, will be subject to more exacting standards in the years to come. As the science of wildfire prevention and suppression advances, so too will the technological innovations that will allow for safer, longer-lasting and ecologically sensitive construction. As in many other fields, California is expected to emerge as a leader in wildfire resistant building and material requirements, and will undoubtedly play a key role in shaping fire policy throughout the United States. Richard Glucksman is a partner, and Ravi Mehta is senior counsel, at Chapman Glucksman Dean & Roeb. rglucksman@cgdrlaw.com; rmehta@cgdrlaw.com Read the court decision
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    Time is of the Essence, Even When the Contract Doesn’t Say So

    January 11, 2021 —
    Welcome to 2021! As often happens here at Construction Law Musings, the year starts with a few posts on notable construction law cases that dropped in the past year or so. Not only does this review hopefully help you keep up, but helps me keep up with the latest developments (one of the reasons why I keep blogging). The first of these cases is Appalachian Power Co. v. Wagman Heavy Civil, Inc. out of the Western District of Virginia federal court. In this case, Wagman Heavy Civil, Inc. (“Wagman”) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (“VDOT”) contracted for the design and construction of a highway interchange project (the “Project”). Wagman and the Appalachian Power Company (“APCO”) entered into a written contract (the “Written Contract”) for APCO to remove and relocate its utility structures (the “Work”) in order to facilitate construction for the Project. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill
    Mr. Hill may be contacted at chrisghill@constructionlawva.com