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Niel Franzese represents owners, contractors, subcontractors, sureties, and design professionals in all matters of construction contract drafting, negotiation, and construction-related litigation. He handles a variety of claims, including defective design and construction, change orders and delays, mechanics' liens, bid disputes, and surety bonds. View his full bio here.

Below is an excerpt of the “Legal Column” published in the Summer 2021 issue of PE Magazine, the flagship publication of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).

Prior to COVID-19, the term “design to budget” was probably not a scary concept. After all, modern designers always consider the client’s budget when putting our Leroy

Anyone monitoring construction industry trends is aware that the prices of raw construction materials, particularly steel and lumber, have been rapidly increasing since early 2020. Earlier this year, Associated Builders and Contractors reported that iron and steel prices were up 15.6 percent from January of 2020 to January of 2021, and that softwood lumber prices had increased by as much as 73 percent during the same period.

The reasons for these price increases are varied (ranging from supply chain and shipping disruptions to the increased demand for new home construction), and many have their roots in changes introduced to the global economy by the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the explanations for the price increases, the reality is that builders and owners are more frequently facing busted budgets and difficult conversations, sometimes resulting in litigation, about which party is responsible for absorbing the increased costs. As is often the case, the answer to resolving these disputes likely lies in the particular provisions of the contract for construction.


Continue Reading Revisiting Price Escalation Clauses in a Time of Skyrocketing Material Costs

Published in the “Legal Beat” column of the Winter 2021 issue of PE, the flagship publication of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), this article focuses on COVID-19’s impact to the common law as it affects the design professional’s standard of care. Joe and Niel offer a primer on the design professional’s standard of

Changes are made to the scope of work on construction projects every day. In some cases, the contract party being asked to accept these changes is reluctant to do so, viewing the changes to be so substantial as to result in a scope of work radically and materially different than what it originally agreed to perform. Faced with these circumstances, the decision to refuse to perform the extra work and walk away from the project can be a tempting one.

The “cardinal change doctrine” is a tool available to address these situations. The doctrine provides that, when changes are made to a contract which are so disproportionate to the original scope of a contractor’s work that they constitute an abandonment of the original agreement by the other party, the contractor is relieved of further performance obligations.
Continue Reading Connecticut Appellate Court Recognizes Cardinal Change Doctrine for the First Time

In an effort to prepare to restart construction on suspended projects after imposing pandemic-related restrictions on construction deemed nonessential, the City of Boston recently issued its revised “Temporary Guidance for Construction in the City of Boston,” which took effect on April 27, 2020.

Last week, the City indicated that this new policy is effective for active permitted projects, and for all future permit applications moving forward, including Alterations, Amendments, Erect Building, Use of Premises, Short Form, Electrical (Temp Service, Low Voltage, Fire Alarm, and general), Plumbing, Gas, Sprinkler, Sheet Metal and Trench permits.
Continue Reading Boston Issues New COVID-19 Guidelines Applicable to All City-Permitted Projects

As we began to describe on March 18, the economic impacts of the ongoing coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic on the construction industry are becoming more severe as the pandemic continues and spreads. Substantial uncertainty remains, however – as of the date of this post, the “peak” of the pandemic in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts is expected to occur (depending on which reports you read) in mid-April, late-April or May, respectively. It appears increasingly likely that proactive, protective measures in these states, along with their restrictive effects on the economy and construction activity, will continue through the end of April and into May.
Continue Reading Ongoing Impacts of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Construction Projects in Major Markets

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread and the governmental and private sectors formulate their responses, it has become apparent that the associated economic impacts will be significant and affect all sectors of the economy, including construction. Robinson+Cole’s Construction Group has been monitoring these developments and is already seeing preliminary notices being sent out by

As all members of the construction industry know, the prevention of the occurrence of work-related injuries and illnesses is a constant concern, and one that can have serious implications for the various contractual relationships on a construction project. To address these concerns, construction industry employers often implement incentive programs to award both the reporting of injuries or illnesses and the lack of occurrence of reportable incidents. In addition, both before and after injuries or illnesses occur, many employers have drug testing policies which are implemented with the goals of preventing and/or discovering the causes of work-related injuries and illnesses.
Continue Reading OSHA Clarifies Position On Anti-Retaliation Rule

As we have written about previously, this past Spring the New York State Legislature and New York City Council adopted broad new requirements to combat workplace gender-based harassment. Adopted in April and May by the New York General Assembly and New York City Council, respectively, the sweeping sexual harassment laws represent a renewed and comprehensive program to end workplace sexual harassment.

In addition, the New York City Commission on Human Rights published a mandated sexual harassment poster, which is now required to be posted conspicuously, both in English and Spanish, in covered workplaces.
Continue Reading New York Requires Sexual Harassment Policies in Compliance with New Requirements to Be Distributed by Tuesday, October 9, 2018 (But Deadline Extended for Newly Mandated Training)