Friday, October 2, 2015

Belt & Suspenders: The Preferred Style for Your Construction Contract

new MDB bio picGuest Post Friday is back with a vengeance as we welcome back Melissa Dewey Brumback.  Melissa is a partner at Ragsdale Liggett in Raleigh, North Carolina. The bulk of her practice is representing architects and engineers, helping them to avoid litigation and representing them whenever litigation is filed. She writes a blog on risk avoidance and other legal issues for construction professionals at

Belt & Suspenders. It is a fashion faux pas, but in the world of construction law, it is always in style. That is, you should embrace the concept of having everything spelled out in your construction documents—the more details and repetitions, the better, so long as you are being clear and consistent.

Here’s an example from a hotel I stayed in recently, providing the hours of their breakfast buffet. Notice anything a little funny? Even though the hours are the same, 7 days a week, they have listed them separately for weekdays and weekends. Is there *any* doubt what time breakfast ends? Nope, not at all.

MDB Breakfast Hours Photo

Sure, the sign seems a tad redundant. But it answers the unasked question about possibly different weekend hours for the buffet. And it prevents any confusion. A sign that simply said the hours were daily? Would find the desk clerk answering that yes, daily meant every single day. Sundays too. Over and over again.

Back to construction again. Do you clear up any possible points of confusion in your contracts, or do you “wing it” with contracts that you’ve used in the past? Do you bother to read through your entire project and consider areas that might create conflict later? If not, you should. Consider both your “Scope of Services” AND a separate “Excluded from Scope of Services” section to your contract. That way, you lessen the chance of confusion, disappointment, and litigation later on. Take some time to do this on all of your contracts to minimize your risk of being dragged into painful, expensive, and risky litigation.

Better yet, have your lawyer help you evaluate your contract for each project. Lawyers live for details, and we also have a pretty good idea of where things can, and often do, go wrong.

As always, Melissa and I welcome your comments below.  Please subscribe to keep up with this and other Guest Post Fridays at Construction Law Musings.

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