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    Fairfield, CT 06824

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    FAIRFIELD CONNECTICUT CONSTRUCTION EXPERT WITNESS
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    Is Your Website Accessible And Are You Liable If It Isn't?

    January 06, 2020 —
    To anyone who does business online - ­beware. While the ADA has been in play for years, it did not necessarily account for all the technological advances that have been made over time. Specifically, when it comes to accommodations - what accommodations can and should be made within a website, and whether accommodations should be made on all websites or just some. However, because of this, a new type of lawsuit has emerged, and is slowly becoming more prominent. Since the Supreme Court refused to clarify this particular area of law, we must turn to the recent Ninth Circuit Ruling in Robles v. Domino's for guidance. What Happened in Robles v. Domino's? As part of a spree of litigation, Guillermo Robles had sued Domino's Pizza due to the lack of accessibility for the Domino's smartphone application and website. Mr. Robles is blind, and neither the website nor application, which allowed users to order Domino's food for pickup or delivery, and offer exclusive discounts, were accessible to him. The Domino's website and application were both incompatible with his chosen software, prompting a lawsuit in 2016. After a short success in the trial court due to the lack of guidance given to websites and applications in how to accommodate for the ADA, the Ninth Circuit overruled the trial court, finding that: (1) the ADA applied to Domino's as there was a nexus between the Domino's website and app, and physical restaurants; and (2) the lack of guidance to Domino's did not violate its right to due process. The ultimate effect of Robles v. Domino's found that businesses cannot necessarily avoid ADA litigation, even though the federal government hasn't given guidelines on how to make a website or mobile application accessible. What Happened at the Supreme Court? Back in June, Domino's appealed the Ninth Circuit decision, prompting a flurry of amicus briefs. This was done, in part, because there is a circuit split between the Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits requiring that a website has a physical nexus to a place of public accommodation (i.e. a "brick-and-mortar" location), and the First, Second, Fifth and Seventh Circuits, which will rule that a website is a place of public accommodation if it does something a place of public accommodation would do (i.e. Netflix showing films). In addition, parties aside from Domino's have been looking for further guidance given the lack of comments from the Department of Justice and Congress. This is especially relevant because the Department of Justice has been considering the application of the ADA to the internet from 1996 to 2018, resulting in some inconsistent comments regarding the need for rule making. This had pushed Domino's and others to attempt to end the ongoing regulation through litigation and furthermore, due to the decision in the Ninth Circuit, to avoid the Domino's holding from creating a "defacto" requirement. How Do You Prepare? While there is an off-chance that this kind of civil ADA litigation will resurface to the Supreme Court, these claims tend to settle relatively quickly, and ultimately may prevent courts from providing any solid or concrete guidance on accessibility until either the Department of Justice provides guidelines or Congress amends the ADA to specifically address website accessibility. However, a determination of what is "accessible" may be put forward due to the new proposed regulations for the CCPA set forth by California's Attorney General. The proposed regulations specifically state that a privacy policy should be accessible to consumers with disabilities, and at a minimum, should provide information on how a consumer with a disability can access the notice in an alternative format. Importantly, this removes the arguments on whether or not the website would have to be a place of public accommodation. It is now widely applicable to every website. Given the CCPA is to be enforced by the Attorney General, this presents a possible situation where the state of California will determine what is accessible through enforcement actions. In the absence of guidelines however, you have four actions you can take to protect your business.
    1. Learn the standards. There are unofficial accessibility guidelines such as WCAG 2.0AA that are treated as an industry standard. While this may not completely protect you from claims made by litigants, this will help your business move towards compliance.
    2. Know and negotiate. When dealing with third party service providers or developers, make sure that accessibility is brought up, discussed, and addressed before moving forward with using that service provider or developer. If the developer or service provider cannot assure that their product is accessible, be prepared to walk away. A business may be found liable for the inaccessibility of an online service provider used by the business to provide the business's services.
    3. Beta test often. As technology changes or websites are updated to be more device-friendly, new code or functions may make a website less accessible for accessibility devices and software. In addition, just because a website meets the WCAG 2.0AA, this may not account for all accessibility issues, so it would be prudent and beneficial to be thorough.
    4. Get help. Consider hiring third parties to help you evaluate a plan for accessibility and keep you up-to date for online accessibility issues.
    Nonetheless, there is still a significant risk and uncertainty for anyone who does business online, as any business has to be aware of the current general framework of laws and industry accessibility guidelines to hope they meet the murky definition of "accessible." Kyle Janecek is an associate in the firms Privacy & Data Security practice, and supports the team in advising clients on cyber related matters, including policies and procedures that can protect their day-to-day operations. For more information on how Kyle can help, contact him at kyle.janecek@ndlf.com. Jeff Dennis (CIPP/US) is the Head of the firm's Privacy & Data Security practice. Jeff works with the firm's clients on cyber-related issues, including contractual and insurance opportunities to lessen their risk. For more information on how Jeff can help, contact him at jeff.dennis@ndlf.com. About Newmeyer Dillion For 35 years, Newmeyer Dillion has delivered creative and outstanding legal solutions and trial results that align with the business objectives of clients in diverse industries. With over 70 attorneys working as an integrated team to represent clients in all aspects of business, employment, real estate, privacy & data security and insurance law, Newmeyer Dillion delivers tailored legal services to propel clients' business growth. Headquartered in Newport Beach, California, with offices in Walnut Creek, California and Las Vegas, Nevada, Newmeyer Dillion attorneys are recognized by The Best Lawyers in America©, and Super Lawyers as top tier and some of the best lawyers in California and Nevada, and have been given Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review's AV Preeminent® highest rating. For additional information, call 949.854.7000 or visit www.newmeyerdillion.com. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of

    If You Purchase a House at an HOA Lien Foreclosure, Are You Entitled to Excess Sale Proceeds?

    February 03, 2020 —
    That pesky excess sale proceeds statute, A.R.S. § 33-727, is making waves again. We previously blogged about this statute here. In the prior post, we explained that excess sale proceeds (i.e., a foreclosure sale price greater than the lien being foreclosed) must be used to pay other lien creditors, in full, before the owner receives anything. Recently, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that creditors also take excess sale proceeds before the person who purchased the property at foreclosure. The case, Vista Santa Fe Homeowners Association v. Millan, No. 1 CA-CV 18-0609 (Ct. App. Oct. 15, 2019), is discussed below. The Facts In Vista Santa Fe, an individual bought a home secured by a first and second deed and trust. The homeowner defaulted on assessments owed to the Vista Santa Fe Homeowners Association (the “HOA”), and the HOA commenced an action to foreclose the resulting assessment lien. At the time, the HOA was owed approximately $14,000. Patterson Commercial Land Acquisition & Development, LLC (“Patterson”) purchased the property at the HOA’s sheriff’s sale for $42,000. After satisfying the HOA’s lien, the sheriff deposited the excess sale proceeds, in the amount of approximately $28,000, with the clerk of the court. Both Patterson and the second deed of trust holder, Bank of New York Mellon (“Bank”), submitted claims for the excess sale proceeds.[1] The trial court awarded the money to the Bank, and Patterson appealed. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Ben Reeves, Snell & Wilmer

    Sometimes a Reminder is in Order. . .

    February 18, 2020 —
    Recently, I was talking with my friend Matt Hundley about a recent case he had in the Charlottesville, VA Circuit Court. It was a relatively straightforward (or so he and I would have thought) breach of contract matter involving a fixed price contract between his (and an associate of his Laura Hooe) client James River Stucco and the Montecello Overlook Owners’ Association. I believe that you will see the reason for the title of the post once you hear the facts and read the opinion. In James River Stucco, Inc. v. Monticello Overlook Owners’ Ass’n, the Court considered Janes River Stucco’s Motion for Summary Judgment countering two arguments made by the Association. The first Association argument was that the word “employ” in the contract meant that James River Stucco was required to use its own forces (as opposed to subcontractors) to perform the work. The second argument was that James River overcharged for the work. This second argument was made without any allegation of fraud or that the work was not 100% performed. Needless to say, the Court rejected both arguments. The Court rejected the first argument stating:
    In its plain meaning, “employ” means to hire, use, utilize, or make arrangements for. A plain reading of the contractual provisions cited–“shall employ” and references to “employees”–and relied on by Defendant does not require that the persons performing the labor, arranged by Plaintiff, be actual employees of the company or on the company’s payroll. It did not matter how the plaintiff accomplished the work so long as it was done correctly. The purpose of those provisions was to allocate to Plaintiff responsibility for supplying a sufficient workforce to get the work done, not to impose HR duties or require the company to use only “in house” workers. So I find that use of contracted work does not constitute a breach of the contract or these contractual provisions.
    Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill
    Mr. Hill may be contacted at chrisghill@constructionlawva.com

    How a Robot-Built Habitat on Mars Could Change Construction on Earth

    October 14, 2019 —
    According to a 2018 report by the International Energy Agency and UN Environment, the global construction industry is responsible for 39% of energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions. That is a huge, scary number—but one that comes with an equally large opportunity to mitigate climate change. The 2015 Paris climate talks revealed that by using existing technology, construction could cut global carbon emissions by up to a third. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Drew Turney, ENR
    ENR may be contacted at ENR.com@bnpmedia.com

    Filling Out the Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit

    February 03, 2020 —
    When preparing a contractor’s final payment affidavit, I always suggest for a contractor (or anyone in privity of contract with the owner) to identify the undisputed amounts their accounting reflects is owed to ALL subcontractors, etc., regardless of whether that entity preserved their lien rights. If the contractor provided a payment bond, I footnote this simply to support that none of the lower-tiered subcontractors have lien rights or are the traditional “lienor.” (Thus, there is no prejudice to the owner if an entity is inadvertently omitted from the affidavit.) There are times, however, where a contractor does not identify a subcontractor that did not serve a notice to owner and, therefore, has no valid lien rights. Or, a contractor omits a lienor that actually did serve a notice to owner and preserve its lien rights; this happens. There was an older First District Court of Appeals case that harshly (and, quite, unfairly) held that the contractor must identify everyone in the final payment affidavit regardless of whether that entity timely served a notice to owner or their lien is invalid. This case, however, predated, a 1998 statutory change to Florida’s Lien Law. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of David Adelstein, Kirwin Norris, P.A.
    Mr. Adelstein may be contacted at dma@kirwinnorris.com

    The Need for Situational Awareness in Construction

    January 27, 2020 —
    Recent research backs up what we already know from practice: construction work is suboptimal. What happens on a construction site has not kept up with the demands of an increasingly complex work environment. Situational awareness could give on-site employees the necessary means to finally reap the productivity benefits of digitalization. Under the guidance of Professor Olli Seppänen, research teams at the Finnish Aalto University have delved into everyday conditions at a construction site. With the workers’ permission, they used video cameras, sensors, and surveys to locate the bottlenecks in productivity. The researchers also monitored the movement of products and materials on a construction site. The results are eye-opening. According to Aalto’s data, digitalization has not improved the productivity of construction foremen and workers. A typical worker still spends up to 70% of their time on activities that add no value: searching for information, unnecessary movement, and waiting. Construction materials are moved from place to place six times on the site before being consumed. In addition, especially on large construction sites, machinery often goes missing or is displaced. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Aarni Heiskanen, AEC Business
    Mr. Heiskanen may be contacted at aec-business@aepartners.fi

    Washington Supreme Court Finds Agent’s Representations in Certificate of Insurance Bind Insurance Company to Additional Insured Coverage

    February 03, 2020 —
    In T-Mobile USA Inc. v. Selective Ins. Co. of Am., 450 P.3d 150 (Wash. 2019) the Washington Supreme Court addressed whether an insurance company is bound by its agent’s written representation—made in a certificate of insurance—that a particular corporation is an additional insured under a given policy. The question arose in a case where: (1) the Ninth Circuit had already ruled that the agent acted with apparent authority, but (2) the agent’s representation turned out to be inconsistent with the policy and (3) the certificate of insurance included additional text broadly disclaiming the certificate’s ability to “amend, extend or alter the coverage afforded by” the policy. According to the Court, under Washington law the answer is yes: an insurance company is bound by the representation of its agent in those circumstances. Otherwise, the Court reasoned, an insurance company’s representations would be meaningless and it could mislead without consequence. At the heart of this case were two T-Mobiles entities: T-Mobile USA and T-Mobile Northeast (“T-Mobile NE”), which were distinct legal entities. T-Mobile NE engaged a contractor to construct a cell phone tower on a rooftop in New York City. The contract between T-Mobile NE and the contractor required the contractor to obtain a general liability insurance policy, to annually provide T-Mobile NE “with certificates of insurance evidencing [that policy’s] coverage,” and to name T-Mobile NE as an additional insured under the policy. T-Mobile USA was not a party to the contract, but was nonetheless aware of it and approved the contract as to form. The contractor obtained the required insurance policy from Selective. The policy provided that a third party would automatically become an “additional insured” under the policy if the contractor and the third party entered into their own contract that required the contractor to add the third party to its insurance policy as an additional insured. Because T-Mobile USA did not have a contract with the contractor, it did not automatically become an additional insured under the policy. Nevertheless, over the course of several years, Selective’s agent issued a series of certificates of insurance to “T-Mobile USA Inc., its Subsidiaries and Affiliates” that stated that those entities were “included as an additional insured [under the policy] with respect to” certain areas of coverage. The agent signed those certificates as Selective’s “Authorized Representative.” Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Jason Taylor, Traub Lieberman
    Mr. Taylor may be contacted at jtaylor@tlsslaw.com

    Traub Lieberman Attorneys Lisa M. Rolle and Vito John Marzano Secure Dismissal of Indemnification and Breach of Contract Claims Asserted against Subcontractor

    November 24, 2019 —
    On August 7, 2019, TLSS Partner Lisa M. Rolle and associate Vito John Marzano obtained a dismissal of all claims on behalf of their client, the subfloor subcontractor at the worksite, in a severed action filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Kings. In April 2014, plaintiff commenced suit against several defendants, including the general contractor, after he sustained an injury when he fell through temporary plywood while installing a staircase at a worksite in Brooklyn. In May 2018, plaintiff filed a note of issue and certified the matter as ready for trial. Immediately thereafter, the general contractor initiated a second third-party action against the subcontractor seeking common-law and contractual indemnification and breach of contract. The Court subsequently granted Traub Lieberman’s motion to sever the second third-party action and instructed the general contractor to file a new action. After the general contractor recommenced suit, Traub Lieberman, on behalf of its client, the subcontractor, immediately moved to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action. In relevant part, Traub Lieberman pointed to the deposition testimony of the general contractor’s principal to establish that the subcontractor had finished its work on the permanent subfloor no less ten months to over a year prior to plaintiff’s accident, and that the subfloor required no alteration, repair or maintenance prior to or as a result of plaintiff’s accident. Further, the general contractor’s testimony pointed to work performed by another subcontractor that directly resulted in plaintiff’s injuries. It was also brought to the Court’s attention that plaintiff had testified that he fell through a temporary plywood floor, and that the subcontractor had only installed a permanent subfloor. Reprinted courtesy of Lisa Rolle, Traub Lieberman and Vito John Marzano, Traub Lieberman Ms. Rolle may be contacted at lrolle@tlsslaw.com Mr. Marzano may be contacted at vmarzano@tlsslaw.com Read the court decision
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