7 Critical Mistakes Engineers and Architects Make During Project Negotiation and Execution: Mistake #4

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May 30, 2017
Author: Melissa Brumback

Author: Melissa Dewey Brumback is an AV-rated partner in the Raleigh, North Carolina law firm of Ragsdale Liggett, where she concentrates her practice on complex construction, commercial, and business litigation. For more information: https://constructionlawnc.com/contact-information/

Mistake #4 Failing To Have Good Change Order and/or Failing to Have a Good Request for Information Processes

As a design professional, you are well aware of the often voluminous Requests for Information (RFIs) or proposed Change Orders submitted by contractors.  Many of these are simply the result of the contractor not wanting to look at the design documents; many others are the result of unscrupulous contractors or subcontractors attempting to “change order” the project to death to make up for profit they may have conceded earlier to get the project.  Regardless, all change orders and RFIs need to be appropriately managed to avoid litigation.  You should review the contract requirements on how quickly you are required to turn around these documents and strive to stick to that schedule.  If the parties agree to hold off on a change order while additional data or pricing is obtained, that should be documented in the change order file. 

The thing that you do not want to do is to be casual with such requests since, if litigation ensues, the first thing the contractor or owner’s attorney will consider is how responsive you were to the change orders and RFIs.  If delays in response are appropriately documented at that time, you will have created a very nice business record and trial exhibit to explain to a jury why it appears you sometimes did not follow the contract requirements.

You also may believe that, if you receive an RFI for something that should be obvious, you do not need to respond, but you do.  Do not give
anyone a chance to say you were anything but thorough.  You may verbally respond to a written RFI while in the field.  That is fine, but be sure to document the verbal response once you return to the office.

Mistake #1 Not Treating The Contract Seriously
Mistake #2 Allowing Unfair Or One-Sided Contract Terms To Persist
Mistake #3 Not Choosing The Proper Dispute Resolution Method
Mistake #4 Failing To Have Good Change Order and/or Failing to Have a Good Request for Information Processes
Mistake #5 Failing To Have A Quality Document Retention System
Mistake #6 Failing To Respond Properly To Claims Of Errors & Omission
Mistake #7 Failing To Involve Insurance Company & Lawyer At First Time Of Trouble

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