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Construction companies dispute question of right to jury trial

1/24/2013 | Construction Blog, Real Estate Blog

Construction contracts, as our readers know, can sometimes involve disputed questions. When parties to a contract cannot agree on what was actually agreed to, it may become necessary to litigate the matter.

SFL Construction, a Philadelphia-based company, filed a suit back in June 2010 against New Jersey-based Tosa Construction and other parties, alleging breach of contract, promissory estoppel, violations of the Contractor-Subcontractor Payment Act and unjust enrichment. A month later, an amended complaint was filed in an attempt to make shareholders for the defendants personally liable. SFL also demanded a jury trial.

The latter request was opposed by the defendants, who argued that SFL Construction waived its right to a jury trial under the terms of a subcontracting agreement between SFL and Tosa. SFL argued, though, that the subcontracting agreement was unclear, and that it consequently did not waive its rights to a jury trial. According to sources, some of the alleged ambiguities relate to whether any potential legal proceeding would be decided under the laws of Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

Earlier this month, the judge in charge of the case ruled that the agreement between the parties clearly waives any request for a jury trial in any potential legal proceeding. Further, the judge ruled that SFL Construction waived any right to a jury trial with respect to the other defendants, since they were not parties to the agreement in question.

Because construction contract disputes sometimes involve difficult questions of law upon which a significant amount of money depend. Having a strong advocate in such disputes is essential.

Source: Pennsylvania Record, “Phila. judge denies plaintiff’s request for jury trial in construction contract case,” Jon Campisi, January 23, 2013