Construction Law

What to Do When a Client Makes False Accusations featured image

What to Do When a Client Makes False Accusations

As a contractor, maintaining a positive relationship with your clients is important. However, it can be difficult when those relationships are tested by accusations of safety violations and construction defects by a client or property owner. In this post, a Jacksonville construction dispute attorney with Cotney Attorneys & Consultants shares tips on what to do if a client or property owner accuses you of safety violations, reports your job site to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or accuses you of a construction defect. 

How to Handle Reports of Safety Violations

If a client or property owner makes accusations of safety violations or safety issues, it’s important to address their concerns. They may be worried that they will be held liable for injuries or issues on a job site since they are the property owner. However, this responsibility usually falls on the contractors and subcontractors working on the job site. 

Not to mention the fact that many property owners are simply not familiar with the normal hazards of an active worksite and may mistake something that is completely routine — like scaffolding — for something inherently dangerous. If a client has made an accusation of a safety violation, you should speak with Jacksonville construction attorneys, who will advise you on how best to approach the situation. You may need documentation to prove to the property owner that you are in compliance with all legal requirements. 

Related: Tips to Avoid Workplace Accidents on Construction Sites and Resulting OSHA Violations

What to Do If OSHA Becomes Involved

If a property owner reports your worksite to OSHA, it is important to be aware of OSHA’s process and your legal recourse. With the help of a Jacksonville OSHA lawyer, you will be more prepared to interact with the compliance officer who will present their credentials. The OSHA process involves: 

  • Opening Conference: At this stage, the compliance officer will inform the employer of the reason for the inspection and will describe the inspection and walkaround procedures. You can, and should, contact an attorney to be present during this phase. 
  • Walkaround: During the walkaround, the compliance officer will inspect for hazards, review injury and illness records, and let the employer know about violations that can be corrected immediately.
  • Closing Conference: The compliance officer holds a closing conference to discuss the findings, course of action to be taken, consultation services, and employee rights with the employer and their representatives.

If violations were found, possible courses of action may include an informal conference or contesting the citations and penalties. Violation types include De Minimus, Other-Than-Serious, Willful, Repeated, and Failure to Abate prior violations. By law, OSHA must issue a citation and proposed penalty within six months of the violation. OSHA must also list proposed penalties and give the employer a deadline for correcting the violations.

If you have been issued an OSHA citation, you should contact an attorney immediately to discuss the best course of action. The deadlines to contest and/or correct a citation are very strict, and failure to do so within the allotted time frame may result in serious penalties. It’s imperative to meet all deadlines imposed by OSHA in order to protect your business. 

Related: Preparing for the OSHA Informal Conference

Tips to Handle Accusations of Construction Defects

A construction defect is any type of mistake made during the building process that results in a reduction in the value of the structure. Some construction defects are immediately identified (patent), whereas others may not be discovered until years later (latent). 

A construction defect can stem from a variety of issues, including:

  • Soil Problems: Before breaking ground, if an improper soil analysis was performed, this can result in foundation issues and a construction defect claim.
  • Strategy: Any failure in strategy during the planning phase, including the site selection, can result in a defect claim. 
  • Design: Whether it be an error or omission on the part of the architect, design gaffes can also lead to a claim. 
  • Poor Workmanship: Any form of substandard work performed during the building process by a contractor or subcontractor can result in a defect.  
  • Defective Materials: Any manufacturing defect with the building materials can result in a claim with the manufacturer or supplier being found responsible for the defect. 

A construction defect can be related to a variety of problems, including HVAC issues, mold or dry rot, an electrical or water problem, soil or drainage issues, or foundation problems. Foundation problems can be related to flooring, walls, or the roof. The main issue with these defects is that someone is liable for repairing them, and this responsibility may land on the contractor. 

Construction defect litigation requires expert testimony, which is why it’s crucial to contact a Jacksonville construction attorney immediately if a client makes accusations of defects. These accusations can turn into costly repairs if not defended properly. 

If you have concerns about accusations made by a property owner or client, it’s important to react respectfully in order to maintain positive relationships. One of the Jacksonville construction attorneys with Cotney Attorneys & Consultants can help you navigate tricky business relationships while protecting your assets and defending against wrongful OSHA citations. 

If you would like to speak with Jacksonville construction attorneys, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.