Litigation costs are an important element in pursuing or defending any construction claim. There are ways in which you can help control and even reduce those costs.
Construction litigation can get expensive due to the extensive number of project documents that may be relevant to your claim or defense. One of the simplest methods to control your litigation costs is to actively assist your lawyer in obtaining and organizing the relevant information and documents. Not only will this help to control costs, but it will also avoid situations where important documents are undiscovered until well after the litigation is under way. The late production of documents can lead to a court excluding those documents, not on the ground of relevancy, but because they were simply found too late.
There are a number of “dos” and “don’ts” that can save time and money.
- DO designate a point person for the collection of information and documents required by your lawyer. The most logical person to collect information is the project manager. Don’t make your lawyer chase the project manager, the project engineer, the superintendent, or other key personnel to obtain information. It only takes more time and results in a disorganized and incomplete collection of relevant information and documents.
- DON’T collect the information in a piecemeal manner. This results in repetitive review of documents by your own personnel and your lawyer.
- DO have your point person collect all documents from every person or department involved in the project including estimating, engineering, accounting, and field personnel. This includes obtaining any notes, documents, or photos kept by any employee in all personal files. This also includes all documents and correspondence saved in computer files, most importantly e-mails.
- DO have these documents immediately organized into separate files, such as contract documents, addenda, correspondence, plans, sketches, submittals, field reports, requisitions, change orders, field directives, punchlists, photographs, and any other major category.
- DO scan or import these documents to a CD or USB drive. Reducing multiple boxes of documents to a few CD’s will ensure that your lawyer is able to easily and quickly access and search documents.
- DO prepare summary sheets of the contract, listing the original contract amount, approved change orders, the date and amount of each payment and a summary listing all disputed extras.
- DON’T be the judge of what is relevant. Collect and organize all documents so that your lawyer can determine which documents are relevant to the claim or defense.
- If subcontractors or material suppliers are involved, DO have your point person obtain the job records kept by that subcontractor or supplier.
Every step you take to assist your lawyer in the gathering and organization of information and documents means that your lawyer can spend their time concentrating on the legal issues. The bottom line is that time is money, and time saved is money saved.