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South Florida water district settles lawsuit with contractor

Say you're a construction contractor and you've been hired by a municipal government to handle a large portion of a major construction project, but the district overseeing the plan is slow to act. The timeframe for the agreed-upon work stretches far beyond initial estimates, and on top of that, your company has come from another state for the job. In other words, you've spent time and resources that weren't covered in the initial contract.

Many Florida contractors know that this scenario is not a mere thought experiment, and sometimes a construction lawsuit is the only way to recoup costs after a deal goes bad. That was the case in South Florida, where a contractor was strung along for years, waiting for the water management district to make up its collective mind about an $800 million reservoir about as big as Boca Raton.

A company out of Kansas was contracted to design bridges and pumps for the waterworks project. Initially the job was supposed to last 11 months and pay $3.4 million. But in 2008 the district stopped work on the project. The cancellation was an attempt to funnel funds to a costly restoration project in the Everglades.

Meanwhile, the contractor's 11-month job turned into a two-year engagement, and in 2009 the company sued the district, seeking $2.4 million in addition to the original payment.

Just recently, the water management district agreed to settle the lawsuit and pay the company $450,000, which isn't all the company was asking for, but at least some of the extra cost will be covered.

Construction disputes can have a wide variety of outcomes, and given the moneys and reputations at stake, sometimes the outcomes don't seem fair. To achieve the best results, Florida residents considering a construction lawsuit should have experienced legal guidance in their corner.

Source: The Palm Beach Post, "Water district in 450k settlement with contractor on canceled reservoir," Christine Stapleton, Oct. 10, 2013

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