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October 2016 Archives

Jury Trials

Generally, civil attorneys work long hours and even weekends, but come December, the entire civil justice system essentially shuts down. That is, all except for our office where we have been asked to show up through Christmas Eve. I bring up the subject only to point out that I am at the office with rare "free" time. Instead of reading dry CLE handouts, I've downloaded a copy of "The Common Law" by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. As with any book worth reading, I found it difficult to get through even the first chapter without stopping to ponder the passages I find particularly relevant. In the first lecture of the book, Holmes begins by discussing the origins of law, couched in vengeance and a need to remedy injury inflicted by intentional acts. He points out that while we tend to think of ancient civilizations and their laws as barbaric, it was also unlikely that an individual would be punished for acts that were not intentional or for acts that led to unintended consequences. Vengeance, though now considered base, is generally justifiable:

Fraudulent Liens In Texas

In response to the routine practice by inmates and a separatist group known as the Republic of Texas in filing bogus liensagainst police officers and government officials purely for retaliatory reasons, the Texas Legislature enacted Civil Practices and Remedies Code Section 12.002 ("Chapter 12"). Chapter 12 provides a specific cause of action for money damages from a person who files a fraudulent lien. Damages must be paid to EACH injured person for the greater of $10,000 or actual damages incurred, plus court costs, reasonable attorney's fees, and exemplary damages as determined by the court. A person asserting a claim under Chapter 12 must establish three elements:

Change Orders

I. The Importance of the Scope of Work Most small subcontractors understand that there is little room for negotiation when it comes to the terms of a construction contract. Arbitration clauses, indemnity provisions and even the contract price are often "predetermined" for the Project. This reality makes it imperative that a subcontractor understand the provisions of the contract, even if he cannot change them.
The scope of work defines your responsibility, and therefore, your liability in the event of a dispute. It will govern whether you are entitled to additional funds for a change made during construction. The more general the scope, the less likely you will be able to obtain a change order when the unexpected happens and the less likely you will be entitled to payment for any additional costs. The scope of work can even determine liability for a charge back. Again, the more general the scope, the easier it is to be held responsible for issues that technically fit under your scope's description.
For example, suppose you contract to "install a flat roof on a building in accordance with Exhibit A - The Plans." Then after commencement, the plans are changed to include a vaulted roof. Because this is a significant change, not contemplated in the scope of work, you would be entitled to submission of a change order for the additional cost of the vaulted roof. However, if your scope of work was simply "install a roof to the GC's standards," or "provide all labor and materials necessary to install the roof," you may not be entitled to a change order under the contract. You may also be charged back for any other expenses connected to the roof, even if those expenses were not supposed to be a part of your responsibility on the Project.
It's important to keep in mind that side agreements or communications outside of the written contract may not be enforceable and you should try to make sure your scope of work is as clear as possible, without alienating your GC. A few things you should always clarify:

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Contact our law firm in Houston to speak with a lawyer who is intimately familiar with the law related to mechanic's liens, collections and contract disputes. Call 713-715-7334 to schedule a free consultation. We accept credit cards, and Spanish translation is available.

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