When Construction Defects Appear, Don’t Choose Between Rebuilding and Building Your Case

Crack going through house

Before tearing out or fixing defective work, consider the need to allow the opposing party to inspect, test and document it.

October 11, 2021
Curtis Martin - ConsensusDocs

When construction defects occur during construction, they intensify pressure from a schedule that may already be tight. Defects must be analyzed, confirmed, removed, and replaced and this can be time consuming. Or course, a construction schedule rarely anticipates defects, demolition, and rework and the owner will still expect the project to be completed on time; however, pressing forward with immediate remediation may have unintended consequences.

Before starting demolition, consider the evidentiary doctrine of spoliation. Spoilation occurs when a party destroys or unreasonably deprives another party of evidence and courts have imposed sanctions on a party that deprives an opponent of evidence. The doctrine has historically concerned documents, but its application has extended to electronic data, and courts also apply it to building conditions in construction defects cases. So, before tearing out or fixing defective work, consider the need to allow the opposing party to inspect, test and document it.

Imagine this scenario. The concrete in a slab placed by your subcontractor shows low compressive strength results in the 28-day cylinder tests. Tearing out the slab and replacing it will put you at least a month behind schedule and you don’t want to waste any time before removing and replacing it. Nevertheless, while you’re rebuilding the defective slab, be mindful that you are also building a case. If you plan to recover the costs you incur because of the defective concrete from the responsible parties, you should allow the subcontractor (and possibly the concrete supplier and other implicated parties) to examine, preserve, and/or test the work in question. Failure to do so may subject you to spoliation sanctions and jeopardize your right to recover damages.

Mr. Martin may be contacted at cmartin@pecklaw.com


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