Practice/Industry Group Overview
Since Ropers, Majeski’s inception, the firm has had a significant practice involving counseling, planning, and litigation relating to construction matters. The growth in recent years of both residential and commercial construction in California has served to expand the firm’s commitment to providing a broad range of assistance to its clients in this field. Some of the areas in which the firm has extensive experience include:
- Representation of owners, developers, general contractors, subcontractors, architects, designers, and engineers (civil, structural and soils).
- Client counseling with the goal of reducing the costs of construction and risk exposure.
- Representation of surety companies and their principals and obligees in construction bond matters and litigation.
- Representation of clients before all state and federal courts, government or regulatory agencies and the defense of professional malpractice claims.
- Representation of clients in alternative dispute resolution proceedings including all forms of arbitration and mediation (the head of this practice group has served as a Special Master, mediator, and arbitrator in construction cases).
Well armed with extensive trial, arbitration and mediation experience, RMKB has been retained in litigated matters, pre-litigation, and even pre-claim counseling to represent a wide variety of design professionals in claims of professional negligence. These professionals include: architects, structural engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, geotechnical engineers, soils engineers, traffic engineers and civil engineers. RMKB attorneys have represented their design professional clients in residential, public works and commercial project disputes. Due to its vast experience and number of offices in California, RMKB is familiar with the design and construction industry statewide and has established relationships with key players in this industry. The New York and Boston offices also have attorneys with professional negligence defense experience. Unlike most construction attorneys, various RMKB lawyers have experience in the construction industry as contractors and thus can perform an early evaluation of a claim or case without the retention and expense of consultants.
Commercial, Residential and Public
The construction-defect team handles a significant number of the largest commercial and residential construction cases in California. Our clients include two of the largest developers in the state, as well as many prominent architects, engineers, and general contractors. We also have considerable experience representing public entities in cases involving public buildings, highways and other types of construction.
The cases we handle involve issues as diverse as fire safety construction in condominiums, design and installation of jail-cell doors in the world's largest maximum security prison, underground garage cracks in a mid-rise commercial building, and the explosion of a major water pipeline. We also handled a sizable number of residential soils cases, many involving the total loss of homes because of landslides. We are experienced in the areas of seismic design and earthquake damage and recently negotiated a settlement involving earthquake damage to one of the Bay Area's major hotels. Within the last five years our construction defect attorneys have represented clients in cases venued in most of the western United States.
In addition, we have handled many construction-accident cases involving personal injury and property damage. In recent years, as claims of emotional distress have become a larger factor in construction-defect cases, we have developed effective strategies for countering these claims.
Construction-defect cases tend to be lengthy and document-intensive, involving multiple parties and large numbers of depositions. RMKB takes an aggressive approach to minimizing costs. Wherever possible, we use the services of a special master - a retired judge or court-appointed attorney who acts as a referee - to hear motions and establish an efficient discovery plan. We have found that the special-master system can dramatically reduce both the time and money spent on construction cases. In addition, the head of our practice frequently serves as special master in cases which we are not directly involved.
We have also pursued, and won, statutory remedies for the problem of increasing costs. A landmark case we took before the California Supreme Court established a new precedent, limiting plaintiffs to a single action against a single developer of mass-produced housing. Before this ruling, plaintiffs sometimes waited years before adding new claims to an existing action, causing a significant cost-control problem.
We also look for ways to keep legal fees reasonable and fairly apportioned among the responsible parties. An approach we pioneered uses a "relative share of liability" principle to spread the liability for legal fees among all the subcontractors involved in an action. Using this method, we have succeeded in recouping as much as 80 percent of legal fees for our clients. RMKB's construction-defect team includes several senior partners who are available as industry consultants. For example, we provided consulting assistance to a client on construction and design issues regarding the effects of Hurricane Andrew in Florida. Our construction-defect attorneys participate actively in the annual "California Law Seminar: The Year in Review," offered by the firm, and can provide shorter follow-up seminars on specific issues at our clients' request. They have also lectured at the American Institute of Architects conferences, the American Bar Association Convention, the University of California School of Engineering, and a variety of industry conferences. Some partners serve as special masters and experts in construction-defect matters.