Thursday, April 24, 2008

DWSD Receives $316 Million Low Bid for Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel (South) Project

Earlier today, the City of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) received bids from two contracting teams for the Upper Rouge CSO (South) Tunnel, Contract PC-764.

A low bid of $316,170,200 was submitted by Kenny Construction/Obayashi, JV. The second bidder was Traylor Brothers/Jay Dee, JV at $352,416,600.

The North Tunnel will be bid later this year.

Read Here for more information about the Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel project.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Supreme Court Limits Grounds for Reviewing Arbitration Awards Under FAA

On March 25, 2008, in a 6-3 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Sections 10 and 11 of the Federal Arbitration Act provide the exclusive grounds for vacating or modifying an arbitration award.

Contractual arbitration agreements providing for judicial review broader than the grounds in the FAA are not unenforceable under the FAA, the Court held. Rather, when the FAA is invoked, a court "must" confirm an arbitration award unless it finds that one of the grounds set out in Sections 10 and 11 for vacating or modifying awards is applicable.

Hall Street Associates, L.L.C. v. Mattel, Inc., No. 06-989, 552 U.S. ___, 2008 WL 762537 (March 25, 2008).

Because the particular arbitration at issue was part of a U.S. District Court trial, the Supreme Court remanded the case for determination of whether the arbitration agreement, as drafted, should be enforceable not under the FAA but under the U.S. District Court's inherent authority to manage its own cases. The Supreme Court also declined to extend its holding outside the realm of the FAA, noting that its ruling did not apply to enforcement under state statutes or the common law.

Elevated Lake Level Damages -- Time for Bringing Claim is 3 Years, Michigan Court of Appeals Rules

A lawsuit brought by plaintiffs claiming that defendants flooded their property and caused trees to die by wrongfully raising the level of a lake, and seeking money damages under theories of negligence, negligence per se, nuisance, trespass, and civil conspiracy, should have dismissed under a three-year statute of limitations ruled the Michigan Court of Appeals in a recent published decision.

In Terlecki v Silver Lake Property Ass'n of Indian River, ___ Mich App ___ (2008); plaintiffs complained that defendants caused Silver Lake in Cheboygan County to rise, flooding plaintiffs’ low-lying forested property. The defendants' actions, however, occurred more than three years before the plaintiffs filed their lawsuit. The Court of Appeals concluded that "the plain text of MCL 600.5805(10) and MCL 600.5827 bar plaintiffs’ claim for money damages under any of plaintiffs’ liability theories."

Click here for the full text of the opinion.

Bill to Amend Michigan Business Tax Approved by Senate

On April 22, 2008, the Senate approved S.B. 1217 on a roll call vote of 250-38. The bill now goes to the House Committee on Tax Policy.

As noted in an earlier post, S.B. 1217 is designed to correct problems with the Michigan Business Tax as it affects construction contractors.

Monday, April 21, 2008

22 Billion Gallons!

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Sunday, April 20, 2008 that a mistake in calibrating a gauge that measures lake water resulted in the release of 22 billion gallons from Atlanta's principle source of drinking water in 2006.

"More than a year before Georgia's historic drought demanded the Atlanta area's attention, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accidentally released about 22 billion gallons of water downstream from Lake Lanier in 2006, while trying to save taxpayers $138."

Neighbors apparently noticed the water level dropping in Lake Lanier, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers didn't realize the problem due to staffing changes.

For the rest of this incredible story, Read Article.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Michigan Construction Law, Contractor's Guide Available from AGC of Michigan

In 2005, the AGC Legal Advisory Committee published an updated "Contractor's Guide to Michigan Construction Law," which is now available on the AGC of Michigan's website in the Legal Resources section.

The Guide was written by members of the AGC Legal Advisory Committee, and is is divided into 17 Chapters --
  1. The Contract for Construction: Standard Forms and Common Risk Transferring Provisions
  2. Bids, Bidders, and Bid Protests (by Thomas Keranen and Peter Cavanaugh)
  3. Defective Plans/Specifications
  4. Contract Changes/Differing Site Conditions (by Peter Cavanaugh)
  5. Delay in Contract Performance
  6. Remedies for Payment Disputes
  7. Dispute Resolution Mechanisms
  8. Overview of State and Federal Prevailing Wage Law
  9. Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA)
  10. Hiring and Terminating Employees in Michigan
  11. Environmental Law: A Brief Overview for the Construction Contractor
  12. Bankruptcy in a Construction Setting
  13. Dealing With the Media and Press in Corporate Crisis Situations
  14. Bonding and Insurance
  15. Subcontractors, Rights and Remedies
  16. Michigan Construction Defect and Mold Litigation
  17. Information Technology and Construction Law

Bill to Amend Michigan Business Tax for Construction Firms Inches Forward

On April 17, 2008, a bill to fix the Michigan Business Tax for construction contractors moved closer to passing the Michigan Senate. S. B. 1217 was placed on order of third reading with substitute S-1.

S.B. 1217 would amend Section 113(6)(e) of the Michigan Business Tax (MBT) Act (MCL 208.1113) to include in the definition of "purchases from other firms", for certain builders and contractors, direct material costs for a construction project under a contract specific to that project.

The MBT currently imposes a modified gross receipts tax on every contractor with nexus in the State. The tax is imposed on the modified gross receipts tax base, after allocation or apportionment to the State at a rate of 0.8%. The tax base is a taxpayer's gross receipts less purchases from other firms before apportionment.
The definition of "purchases from other firms" includes payments to subcontractors for a construction project under a contract specific to that project. Under the bill, "purchases from other firms" would also include direct material costs for a construction project under a contract specific to that project. "Direct material costs" would mean the amounts paid for materials that are deductible on the taxpayer's Federal income tax return as purchases under the cost of goods sold.

To track the progress of S.B. 1217, you can follow the bill on the Michigan Legislature's website here, or contact Bart Carrigan or Damian Hill with AGC of Michigan, who are following S.B. 1217 closely on behalf of the construction community.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mediation of Construction Disputes, AAA Updates Mediation Services

The American Arbitration Association recently updated its Mediation Services and now devotes a separate website to its mediation offerings. The new website is appropriately named

Among the changes are the following --

New Pricing Structure
  • AAA has eliminated the up-front filing fee
  • The "mediation" rate designated on the Mediator's resume is a combined rate for the AAA and the Mediator
Revised Mediator Resumes

The AAA now provides the following new information about the Mediators on its Panel:
  • Years of Practice as a Mediator
  • Total Number of Cases Mediated
  • Settlement Rates
  • Statement of Philosophy
  • Multi-Party Experience
  • All Mediator Resumes are Posted On-Line
Choice of Administration
  • Parties have the choice of filing their Mediation Cases locally (through the AAA Offices in Southfield), or at one of the Case Management Centers.
  • Parties can also file their Mediation Cases through the AAA Mediation Website.
  • Note: From my experience, the AAA's Southfield Office is much better at handling AAA matters than the Case Management Center in Rhode Island, which is the office otherwise assigned to handle mediation and arbitration cases from Michigan. Janice Holdinski and her Staff do a great job and I highly recommend that you file your Mediation Case through the Southfield Office. For more information, contact Janice Holdinski at (248) 352-5509. (pjc)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Contract Documents Seminar, Tom Keranen and Fred Butters to Speak on April 29, 2008

On April 29, 2008, Attorneys Thomas M. Keranen, PE, and Frederick F. Butters, FAIA, will speak about the ConsensusDOCs contract documents and the AIA 2007 Contract Documents at a seminar sponsored by AIA of Michigan.

Mr. Butters will address the substantial changes made to the AIA documents, and compare the 2007 and 1997 versions. Mr. Keranen will discuss the new ConsensusDOCS contract documents. This seminar will be held at Laurel Manor in Livonia.

For more information, contact Tom Keranen or Fred Butters at (248) 647-9653, or AIA of Michigan at (313) 965-4100 or on their website to sign up for this seminar .

Note: The introduction of the ConsensusDOCS contract documents was discussed in an earlier post.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

PDF for Legal Professionals

Adobe Acrobat (PDF) has become the de facto standard in the legal profession for filing documents electronically with federal courts using the PACER system, and increasingly state courts.

Adobe sponsors an excellent blog -- Acrobat for Legal Professionals -- that is geared for lawyers who use PDF documents in their practice, whether it be for filing documents or using PDF to manage large document collections.

One of the most useful aspects of Adobe Acrobat, which is only found in the Professional version, is the OCR function, which can turn a large scanned document into a full-text searchable one. This is particularly useful for finding specific provisions in large contract documents.

Adobe Acrobat is also a very easy way to present exhibits during trial. For my last several trials, I converted all of my exhibits, both documents and photographs, to PDF and was able to present the information with little problem. The annotation and full-screen display features of Adobe Acrobat also help to highlight and make sense of text documents.

During a recent arbitration, I used a laptop computer hooked to a 20" flat screen display to display my exhibits using PDF. I was able to keep my client's photographs in front of the arbitrator through most of the proceeding. Opposing Counsel had nothing similar to present his evidence, and conceded afterwards that the photographs had tipped the outcome of the case in favor of my client.