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Construction & Public Contract Law Section | State Bar of Wisconsin​ Blogs

Latest from Construction & Public Contract Law Section | State Bar of Wisconsin​

This past summer, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion in Coolidge A L.L.C. v. City of Waukesha,1 a case involving claims of negligence against both the City of Waukesha (City) and a contractor working for it, D.F. Tomasini Contractors (Tomasini). The Court of Appeals determined that the City was shielded from the negligence claim by governmental immunity, and that Tomasini, as an agent of the City, also was shielded. The court’s decision reminds construction attorneys, and particularly those who handle injury claims for their insurance carriers, that clients working for municipal entities are often provided a…
Wis. Stat. section 895.447 has existed in its current form since passage in 1977, without having been subjected to serious judicial scrutiny. The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent decision in Rural Mutual Ins. Co. v. Lester Buildings, LLC,1 provides some clarity as to the statute’s intended effect, but also calls into question the enforceability of other common risk transfer and limitation clauses in construction contracts – namely, limitation of liability clauses, waiver of consequential damages clauses, and additional insured requirements.2 History Wis. Stat. section 895.49,3 the precursor to today’s section 895.447, was first introduced in 1977, and appears to…
The construction lien law is one of the most powerful payment collection tools available to construction contractors. Yet, while most contractors know it exists, very few know enough about it to use it effectively. All too often, that lack of knowledge results in an unfortunate and unintended loss of valuable legal rights when too much time passes without exercising them. On troubled projects, a construction lien could make the difference between a contractor getting paid and not getting paid. With the ongoing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, construction contractors need to be more vigilant regarding their lien rights, and…
On April 22, 2020, the Court of Appeals District II issued an opinion in the case of Mechanical Inc. v. Venture Electrical Contractors, Inc.1 This case, commenced in 2015, involved one subcontractor suing another for negligence, and is the latest in the line of Wisconsin cases extending the economic loss doctrine into the field of construction law. (The authors were attorneys for Mechanical Inc. throughout these proceedings.) Background The facts of this dispute are important to a complete understanding of how the Court’s holding will impact Wisconsin contractors. Mechanical, Inc., (Mechanical) was the HVAC subcontractor to J.P. Cullen &…
The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent decision in Hinrichs v. Dow Chemical Company1 highlights extra-contractual liability for common law misrepresentation and statutory misrepresentation in violation of Wis. Stat. section 100.18, which may be pursued against construction parties. Hinrichs v. Dow Chemical Company Plaintiff Chris Hinrichs and his company Autovation, Ltd. (Hinrichs) develops, manufactures, and installs a product called “JeeTops,” an after-market acrylic skylight panel which can be installed on Jeep Wranglers with a certain type of hardtop. Installation of JeeTop involves application of an adhesive manufactured by Dow Chemical Company (Dow), which had the function of attaching the JeeTop panel…
When I elected to cover this topic in early March 2020, few anticipated the breadth and scope of the crisis facing the construction industry. So, I hope I can be forgiven if anything that follows is no longer relevant or topical. But, here we go. What started as an overseas health crisis has quickly escalated into a global pandemic. Local, state, and national responses are widespread, total, and indefinite, leaving construction contractors and the business community at large analyzing the next right move and the long-term consequences. In the following best practices and analyses, perhaps some value can be gleaned,…
It is March 20, 2020, and there is much ado in the news about the coronavirus outbreak that is spreading worldwide. The volume of material on this topic already is staggering. We’ve read a lot of it so you don’t have to. Looking at the here and now is essential, but it is also important not to be myopic – and to use some of our time to plan for when we come out the other end … and we will come out the other end. Very little of what we have seen addresses this topic. If we had a…
3D printing is sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing, because of the ability to create three-dimensional solid objects by layering materials on top of one another. While 3D printing was once futuristic technology, it is now commonplace throughout a variety of industries. Because 3D printers can print any shape that can be imagined, the applications are almost limitless. Many toys, models, and knick-knacks can be simply designed and quickly mass produced.1 The automotive industry has started using 3D printing for certain vehicle parts and even entire cars, starting with “Strati,” the first 3D printed electric car printed…
Encountering environmental issues during a construction project can lead to costly delays for your clients, whether the clients are contractors who might have to suspend work on the project while awaiting a solution or owners who need a project to be completed by a certain date. Furthermore, environmental issues may require additional costs for the client, including site remediation or cleanup, environmental consultant fees, contaminant disposal fees, monetary penalties for violations, and litigation expenses. Reviewing and understanding environmental requirements before a construction project begins will help identify potential issues in advance. However, no matter how thorough environmental due diligence is…
Gov. Tony Evers’ first state budget proposal included many of his campaign promises, some of which were construction-related initiatives, namely: an overall spending increase of over 8%; a 10-cent gas tax increase with an automatic inflationary increase; and the rollback of labor reforms enacted during the Walker Administration. Republicans, who control both houses of the Legislature, made significant changes to Evers’s original proposal. On June 26, the Senate narrowly approved its version of the state budget on a 17-16 vote, with all Democrats and several Republicans voting against. Construction-related changes that the Legislature made to Evers’s original proposal included:1
Roll out the orange barrels – it’s construction season again in Wisconsin. Construction contractors expanding their workforce by hiring seasonal workers may be tempted to classify their workers as independent contractors, rather than employees, to avoid paying unemployment insurance taxes and worker’s compensation premiums. But misclassification exposes employers to fines, interest, and other penalties. Misclassification of workers is not an isolated problem for Wisconsin’s construction employers. Over the past three years, the Department of Workforce Development conducted 1,963 investigations that found 5,841 workers misclassified and underreported gross wages of almost $70 million.1 In 2018 alone, the Unemployment Insurance Division…