Johnson Law is seeking another great attorney as it continues to grow

We are a busy boutique law office focusing on construction defect law, general construction, and real estate nondisclosure law. We are currently seeking a full-time attorney to join our firm.

Responsibilities include:

  • Draft and respond to pleadings, discovery, and dispositive motions
  • Client coordination from initial representation letters through trial
  • Defend and take depositions
  • Prepare for and try your cases either as first or second chair

Requirements:

  • Strong attention to detail
  • Admission to Colorado bar
  • 2-7 years of civil litigation experience

We might be a good fit if you are someone who:

  • Prefers to represent people and small businesses rather than insurance companies and large businesses
  • Is a self-starter, has great organization skills, and superior customer service
  • Experience in construction defect, general construction, commercial litigation, and/or real estate nondisclosure law
  • Has deposition and trial/arbitration experience
  • Is familiar and comfortable with technology. Our office strives to be paperless

What we offer:

  • A flexible work schedule with ability to telecommute. Attorneys are currently only required to attend one in-office day per week.
  • Base salary in the $90,000-$115,000 range, depending on experience
  • The ability and expectation for you to earn significant bonuses beyond your salary
  • A health care benefits plan
  • A 401k plan with matching contributions
  • A comfortable, collaborative, and friendly work environment

We are committed to giving every client outstanding customer service, exceeding their expectations by being helpful, friendly, and having a positive attitude. If you share our commitment then we want to hear from you. Qualified candidates should respond with their resume and cover letter (with base salary requirements) to [email protected] All inquiries will be kept confidential.

What Non-Property Damages are available to Homeowners in Construction Defect Cases

Every homeowner whose home was built defectively understands the damage caused by negligent construction goes beyond repair costs or a drop in the home’s value. Defects harm a homeowner and their family in other ways. A homeowner may be unable to use of portions of the home, may be exposed to unsafe conditions, or may be affected by annoyance or inconvenience. In recognition of these harms, Colorado law allows recovery for these damages in addition to damages more directly related to the defective construction.

The Colorado Construction Defect Action Reform Act (“CDARA”) largely defines the damages a homeowner may recover. (The contract between the homeowner and builder may provide for additional recoveries, such as an award of attorney fees.) The primary category of damages relates to the damaged home itself or the corresponding loss in home value.

The relevant statute – C.R.S. § 13-20-802.5(2) – defines “actual damages” as the lesser of (1) the fair market value of the real property without the alleged defects, (2) the replacement cost of the real property, or (3) the reasonable cost to repair the alleged construction defects. In most cases, the cost of repair is the appropriate measure of damages and the homeowner retains an experienced contractor to prepare an estimate to quantify the cost of repair.

In addition to these property-related damages, a homeowner is entitled to recover for disruptions to the homeowner’s use of their home, as well as the emotional reactions attributable to the builder’s conduct. This is not a comprehensive list but identifies those areas of non-construction damages homeowners most often inquire about.

  1. Relocation Costs:

If a homeowner seeks the cost of repair as the measure of damages, the homeowner is entitled to relocation costs. C.R.S. § 13-20-802.5(2). These include the cost of replacement housing during any repair period, as well as the costs to move and store furniture and belongings during the repair period. In cases featuring biological growth such as mold, the contents of the home may need to be cleaned by a professional remediation company as part of the movement and storage, an expense falling within relocation costs.

  1. Loss of Use:

Negligent construction affects a homeowner’s use of their home in a number of ways. Often, homeowners must vacate portions of their home due to defects. For example, a damaged foundation wall may allow water to enter a finished basement, causing the homeowner to remove flooring and furniture and transforming a living area into an uninhabitable space. In effect, the homeowner loses use of their basement. C.R.S. § 13-20-802.5(2) provides compensation for such a loss, stating “other direct economic costs related to loss of use” are recoverable as “actual damages.”

Typically, homeowners quantify loss of use damages by multiplying the percentage of unusable square footage by the monthly rent for equivalent housing. If a homeowner cannot use 33% of their home and an equivalent rental property is $3,300/month, the homeowner can claim $1,100 monthly in loss of use damages until the defects are repaired. Where the entire home is rendered uninhabitable – as in cases featuring severe structural damage – the homeowner should seek the full cost of equivalent housing until the home is deemed safe for occupancy.

  1. Mitigation Expenses:

Mitigation expenses may be claimed as a form of damages. Absent unusual circumstances, Plaintiffs have a duty to mitigate their damages. In the construction defect context, this means that  a homeowner should take reasonable steps to prevent or minimize future damages attributable to the negligent construction. The homeowner can then seek expenses incurred during mitigation as damages. In the example of the damaged foundation wall, if the homeowner regrades a portion of their landscaping to move water away the foundation wall, the homeowner can request the regrading costs – landscaping material, time, etc. – as mitigation damages.     

  1. Annoyance, Inconvenience, Aggravation, and Discomfort:

Losing a portion of a home, dealing with related repair efforts, and the general uncertainty caused by occupancy and ownership of a defective construction all exact a non-economic toll on a homeowner. Colorado law permits a plaintiff to recover personal injury damages for “annoyance, inconvenience, aggravation and discomfort” and the CDARA does not prohibit recovery of such damages by a homeowner. The amount of these damages is capped at $250,000 by operation of the CDARA’s limitation of damages statute at C.R.S. § 13-20-806(4)(a).

Unlike the other damages discussed herein, there is no definitive formula to quantify these non-economic damages. Instead, the jury renders a relatively subjective determination based on the particular facts of a case. Although each case is different, it is extremely rare for non-economic damages to approach the $250,000 statutory cap in construction defect cases.

  1. Exemplary Damages:

As well, Colorado’s exemplary damages statute may provide an enhancement of damages, although no Colorado Appellate Court has confirmed that exemplary damages are recoverable in construction defect cases.

Exemplary damages are similar to punitive damages. Under C.R.S. § 13-21-102, if the jury determines that the builder’s conduct was “attended by circumstances of . . . willful and wanton conduct,” the jury has the discretion to award up to double the homeowner’s actual damages, a significant increase in the homeowner’s recovery. Willful and wanton conduct is characterized by reckless actions committed without regard to safety of others. In the construction defect context, such conduct may include installation of toxic materials or knowingly disregarding structural engineering requirements. These actions may result in an unsafe home that poses a health risk to its inhabitants.

Exemplary damages are also available in fraud cases. If a homeowner’s builder knowingly concealed defects from the homeowner in order to complete the home sale, exemplary damages may be recoverable.

As experienced construction defect lawyers, the attorneys at Johnson Law regularly represent homeowners in actions against their developer, builder, or general contractor. If you believe your home was negligently constructed or improperly renovated, please do not hesitate to contact the firm for a consultation.

When to call an attorney—real estate nondisclosure.

So, you’ve just bought your dream home and have settled in. You take a seat in your favorite chair and right before turning on the TV you notice it—a crack in the ceiling, right at the corner of the room. You get up and examine it and find that it looks like there was fresh paint and plaster covering it up. While annoyed, you make a mental note to call a painter.

A couple of months later…you have started to notice the little things—doors won’t stay closed, windows won’t open, and your nice concrete driveway is cracking. You finally conclude that while not a mobile home, your home is moving. You think of the astronomical cost to stop the damage, but then you remember the fresh paint…. It’s time to call an attorney.

Real estate nondisclosure is a form of fraud whereby a seller sells a home without disclosing a material fact that should have been disclosed. Specifically, to prevail on a claim for nondisclosure, you must demonstrate that the seller failed to disclose a past or present fact that he or she had a duty to disclose, with intent to induce you to take a course of action you would not otherwise have taken, and you justifiably relied on the omission.

In our example above, there appears to be evidence of concealment (an additional potential claim) of the cracks in the ceiling. This raises the question of whether the seller knew that the house was moving and tried to cover up the evidence.

If you find yourself in a situation where you think that your house is moving, or that you have any other material damage to the home, that you believe the seller, his realtor, or even a prior owner failed to disclose, then you should call an attorney. An attorney can use established connections with experts in the construction field to diagnose the issues at your home and their root causes. If it appears that the conditions that caused the damage existed prior to your ownership, and the seller (or others) had knowledge of it, then you may have a claim for real estate nondisclosure.

It is crucial that you have the knowledge to know when to call an attorney in the event that you find yourself in unknown territory regarding your biggest asset—your home.

Johnson Law is looking for its next great attorney to add to the team

We are a busy boutique law office focusing on construction defect law, general construction, and real estate nondisclosure law. We are currently seeking a full-time attorney to join our firm.

Responsibilities include:

  • Draft pleadings, discovery, and dispositive motions
  • Client coordination from initial representation letters through trial
  • Defend and take depositions
  • Prepare for and try your cases either as first or second chair

Requirements:

  • Strong attention to detail
  • Admission to Colorado bar
  • 3-9 years of civil litigation experience

We might be a good fit if you are someone who:

  • Prefers to represent people and small businesses rather than insurance companies and large businesses
  • Is a self-starter, has great organization skills, and superior customer service
  • Has great attention to detail
  • Experience in construction defect, general construction, commercial litigation, and/or real estate nondisclosure law
  • Has deposition and trial/arbitration experience
  • Is familiar and comfortable with technology. Our office strives to be paperless

What we offer:

  • A flexible work schedule with ability to telecommute
  • A base salary in the $90,000-110,000 range
  • The ability and expectation to for you to earn significant bonuses beyond your salary
  • A health care benefits plan
  • A 401k plan with matching contributions
  • A comfortable, collaborative, and friendly work environment

COVID-19 considerations: Mandatory vaccination policy required unless an exemption exists

We are committed to giving every client outstanding customer service, exceeding their expectations by being helpful, friendly, and having a positive attitude. If you share our commitment then we want to hear from you. Qualified candidates should respond with their resume and cover letter (with base salary requirements) to [email protected]. All inquiries will be kept confidential.

Chad Johnson to speak at Colorado Bar Association Continuing Legal Education Program on May 7, 2021

 

 

Johnson Law founder Chad Johnson has been selected to present at the Colorado Bar Association’s CLE program titled “Litigation Nuts & Bolts: Post-Trial and Appellate Issues.” Mr. Johnson was selected to educate Colorado lawyers regarding Colorado “Motions for Reconsideration – When, Why, and How.” For more information or to register for the event, please follow this link to the CBA CLE program website.

New Colorado Caselaw on Default Judgments

You file a lawsuit four days before your statute of limitations runs on your claims. The defendant is served, but the never responds to the suit. You request default judgment from the court. However, the court denies your motion for default judgment saying you failed to follow the default judgment rules. You file another motion for default judgment attempting to correct any perceived error and the court again denies your request, except this time dismisses your case. Your case is over and you have no further recourse on your claims. These facts were at issue in the recent Colorado Court of Appeals decision dated January 16, 2020 entitled Spiremedia, Inc., d/b/a Spire Digital v. Wozniak, Case No. 18CA2098. Prior to Spiremedia, Colorado courts had never determined the issue of whether a trial court is required to tell a party when it denies a motion for default and dismisses a case for failure to comply with the rules. ¶ 2. The Colorado Court of Appeals held a trial court must tell the party what is wrong with a deficient motion for default so the party can take necessary steps to correct the deficiencies, especially when the trial court takes the extraordinary measure of dismissing the case. Id.

In Spiremedia, the trial court denied Spiremedia’s motion for default judgment stating that the motion failed to comply with the applicable motion for default rules, specifically Colorado’s Rules of Civil Procedure 121, § 1-14. However, the trial court did nothing further to explain how the motion failed to comply with that rule. ¶ 5. Spiremedia filed a second motion for default judgment, guessing that the trial court was alluding to Spiremedia’s failure to include an affidavit. Spiremedia attached an “affidavit equivalent” under the Uniform Unsworn Declarations Act, § 13-27-104(1), C.R.S. 2019 to its second motion for default judgment. The trial court again rejected the motion and dismissed the case for failure to comply with the court’s delay reduction order. ¶ 6.

The Court of Appeals found that both of Spiremedia’s motions for default judgment were deficient as determined by the trial court because they lacked necessary information regarding the request for attorney fees. Interestingly however, the Court of Appeals held that an affidavit under the Uniform Unsworn Declarations Act is sufficient and does satisfy the requirement for affidavits under the rules for default judgment. ¶ 27.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in dismissing the case. The Spiremedia Court relied on the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure for default judgments stating that “[i]f further documentation, proof or hearing is required, the court shall so notify the moving party.” C.R.C.P. 121, § 1-14(2). Commentary for the adoption of this rule shows that its purpose was to minimize both court and attorney time by streamlining the motion for default process. The rule places obligations on both movants and judges and judges must explain their rationale especially when someone’s interests will be adversely affected without recourse. Thus, the Court of Appeals held that trial courts must “inform the parties of the defect that led it to deny the motion.” ¶ 33. Spiremedia must be permitted a reasonable opportunity to remedy any identified deficiencies before the trial court dismissed the case. Spiremedia represents the importance of knowing the rules defining the playing field before you jump in the game. It also highlights the importance and need for trial courts and parties to work together to prevent guessing games and, ultimately, injustice.

COVID19 and Construction Contracts

The world as we knew it changed in March 2020, the time many construction projects are gearing up for warmer more favorable weather. According to Colorado’s Public Health Order 20-24, construction was identified as a critical business that could remain open during the Stay at Home Order. However, construction was not immune from the economic fallout from COVID19.

Many construction contracts contain terms addressing unforeseen circumstances such as riots, government shutdowns, labor strikes, inability to obtain materials, etc. These contract clauses are often referred to as “force majeure” provisions. This contract clause becomes essential when the occurrence of an event, which is outside the reasonable control of a party, prevents a party from performing its contractual obligations.

A force majeure clause is interpreted within the context of the entire contract and may or may not expressly identify a global pandemic as a force majeure event. Thus, a construction professional who has experienced hardships due to the COVID19 pandemic is encouraged to review the contract for force majeure clause.

Even if the parties’ contract does not contain the term “pandemic” in the force majeure clause, the party looking for relief may want to argue the pandemic is an event beyond the reasonable control of the affected party preventing, impeding or hindering that party from performing its obligations. The affected party also wants to have taken all reasonable steps to avoid or mitigate the event or its consequences. A contractor may want to use this contract clause to renegotiate increases in contract time and contract price. An owner may argue the pandemic does not qualify as a force majeure event or negotiate an extension of time without increase in the contract sum.

While the full scope of the global pandemic has yet to be fully realized, having the right protections in your construction contract that protect you in unforeseen times may make all the difference for your business. Johnson Law regularly advises construction companies and drafts construction contracts to match company objectives. If you have any questions or concerns about how COVID19 has affected your projects or want to make sure your contract protects your company’s interest, Johnson Law’s attorneys are available for consultation.

Colorado Mechanic’s Lien Foreclosure Cases

Johnson Law assists its homeowner and construction professional clients with construction law, including mechanic’s liens and foreclosure cases. A lien is a legal right to the property of another until a debt is paid. There are many types of liens including those for unpaid taxes, mortgages, promissory notes, and judicial liens resulting from a judgment in a case. A mechanic’s lien is a statutory right that attaches an interest to the property of another for the non-payment of a debt owed to the party who improved the property of another through labor, materials, and equipment. See Johnson Law’s blog post regarding Mechanic’s Liens in Colorado.

While a mechanic’s lien is indeed a great tool in the tool box of every contractor, the mechanic’s lien must be enforced through a foreclosure action or the lien expires. Practically speaking, a contractor with a mechanic’s lien cannot take the mechanic’s lien to the debtor’s bank and get paid. Instead, the contractor must start a foreclosure case on the property identified in the mechanic’s lien to turn the mechanic’s lien into actual funds that will pay the outstanding debt.

A mechanic’s lien foreclosure case must start within six months after the later of the following: (1) the last date that work was performed; (2) the last date that materials were furnished; or (3) the date that the building or improvement on the property was completed. Mountain Ranch Corp. v. Amalgam Enters., Inc., 143 P.3d 1065, 1067 (Colo. App. 2005). The court will strictly apply the timelines for mechanic’s liens, which can get complex depending on the size and scope of each project. A contractor risks forfeiture of its mechanic’s lien rights should the mechanic’s lien or mechanic’s lien foreclosure action be untimely.

In addition to filing a case to foreclose on the real property at issue, the contractor must also record a notice of lis pendens in the real property records in the county where the property is located. The notice of lis pendens is a document that serves as notice to the public that a lawsuit is pending affecting interest in and/or title to the property. The notice of lis pendens must include the name of the court, parties, and a legal description of the real property at issue.

Starting a mechanic’s lien foreclosure action does not necessarily mean the property owner will lose title to his property, and potentially become homeless. The property owner has the ability to defend against a foreclosure action. The best immediate defense the property owner can take is to post a bond with the court in substitution of the mechanic’s lien. Such substitution bonds are typically 150% of the mechanic’s lien amount. The lien claimant then can substitute the bond for the mechanic’s lien that will clear up title to the real property. In other words, the case is no longer to force the sale of the home or property, it is now to get the bond money. If any defenses to the substance of the case still exist, those would still  be presented in a future court trial or arbitration to determine if all or part of the bond money is returned to the person who paid for it.

Substitution bonds are recommended for property owners with mortgages on their property because the terms of the mortgage often require that the property owner not allow any liens to be placed on the property. Some mortgagors go so far as charging the property owner the mortgagor’s attorney fees incurred in defending the mortgagor’s interest in the property against the mechanic’s lien by adding that amount to the mortgage. By substituting a bond for the mechanic’s lien a property owner is safeguarding his interest and the mortgagor’s interest in the real property.

During the foreclosure action, the contractor must prove the mechanic’s lien was perfected, meaning it is valid in notice, time, and amount as required by law. At the end of the foreclosure action, the court must find the mechanic’s lien is valid before sale of the property is authorized. The property subject to the mechanic’s lien is then sold at auction and the funds from the sale go to payment of the lien. Many cases do not reach this part of the legal process, but a contractor’s mechanic’s lien foreclosure action must establish the necessary elements at the beginning of the case should the case reach the point where title to the property is transferred so that a sale can occur and funds be collected in satisfaction of the mechanic’s lien debt.

With the short and strict deadlines as well as making sure anyone who has an interest in the real property is named in the foreclosure action, Johnson Law encourages those with mechanic’s lien rights or defending against a mechanic’s lien to consult with one of Johnson Law’s attorneys to discuss the facts of your case as soon as possible.

Statute of Repose Begins to Run Upon Completion of a Project as a Whole

In D’Allessandro v. Lennar Hingham Holdings, LLC, 2019 WL 5550629, *6 (D. Mass. Oct. 28, 2019), a Massachusetts court recently held that the improvement to real property for statute of repose purposes was the completion of an entire condominium project versus completion of each individual building.

The project at issue was a multi-phased 150 unit condominium project consisting of twenty-eight different buildings constructed between 2008 and 2015. For six of the buildings, the architect signed certificates of substantial completion and five of the buildings received their certificate of occupancy more than six years before the action commenced. Plaintiffs brought claims of negligence, among others, resulting in damage from deficient design and construction in the common areas of the condominiums.

The Massachusetts statute of repose prohibits actions in tort filed more than six years following substantial completion of the improvement and the taking of possession for occupancy by the owner. The D’Allessandro court considered what constituted an “improvement” that must be “substantially completed” for purposes of the statute of repose. More specifically, the court addressed the issue of whether a portion of a project can constitute completion of an improvement for triggering the repose period even while the project remains under construction. Plaintiffs argued the improvement was the condominium development as a whole and defendants argued each individual unit was the improvement for statute of repose purposes.

The court agreed with plaintiffs finding that the improvement was the condominium project as a whole because the scope of the project remained the same since inception; the same architect and general contractor were used throughout; and the project was defined legally as a single condominium with a single trust controlling the common elements. Thus, the project was not a series of improvements, but one improvement and the statute of repose commenced upon completion of the entire improvement. Partial completion of a project does not trigger the statute of repose when the overall project remains under way.

Colorado’s statute of repose is similar to Massachusetts. Colorado’s statute of repose states that claims shall not be brought more than six years after the substantial completion of the improvement to the real property which ultimately causes injury. Practitioners may consider similar arguments to those made in D’Allessandro when facing statute of repose arguments. Specifically, if a multi-unit project is defined as one whole project without discrete phases, an argument may be made the statute of repose is triggered upon completion of the entire project.

Colorado case law continues to develop regarding when the statute of repose commences and cases like D’Allessandro may provide guidance to Colorado courts in determining limitations issues. Johnson Law specializes in statute of repose and statute of limitations issues as they relate to construction. Contact a Johnson Law attorney today to discuss the facts of your individual circumstances.