The following summaries of assignments illustrate our professional experience in helping resolve design, construction and real estate issues:
Identified by City of Los Angeles as the largest commercial structure built on record without permit, the 100,000 square foot metals manufacturing facility was cited and its owner ordered to comply with all current codes. Working with our client, Building Department officials, staff attorney, inspectors and presiding judge, we successfully negotiated all non compliance issues, prepared new construction documents and secured permits to facilitate reconstruction of the 30 year old building and prevented a complete shut down of the entire property.
ACCIDENTAL and WRONGFUL DEATHS
On several occasions, we were retained to investigate injuries and accidental deaths, each separately alleged to have been caused by building code violations at a hospital, high rise hotel, sports arena and industrial buildings. After thorough investigation of these structures and respective building codes, we found critical pre-existing conditions at each location proved to have been in full compliance at time of construction and owners of these facilities were absolved of legal jeopordy.
AMERICANS with DISABILITIES ACT (ADA)
In 1990, Congress enacted legislation protecting disabled access to newly constructed and significantly remodeled facilities. Several years ago, we helped defend an owner of a restaurant and lounge located within one of Southern California's beach communities, both alleged in violation of ADA compliance. Quaint, old and situated on very steep terrain, these facilities nominally provided disabled access to its regular customers. Careful examination of State and Federal ADA standards revealed that full compliance was not required in this instance. In stead, the Act mandates that such standards apply only to; 1) newly constructed facilities, 2) where there is change in use occupancy, 3) major remodel or, 4) on voluntary compliance.
Helping defend a major structural engineering firm alleged to have caused more than $18 million in construction cost change orders for its design of a newly built detention facility, our own independent research backed by demonstrated evidence, cleared the professionals of all malpractice including cost overruns.
DESIGN and CONSTRUCTION DEFECTS
An owner of a custom built hillside home filed an insurance contract claim in connection with construction defects which caused sever flooding and degredation of the structure, damages estimated in millions of dollars. Careful inspection of actual site conditions revealed instead, the property to have been unkept, deteriorated from many years of willful neglect, improper maintenance and lacked the care required for such a residence. The construction defects case was tried and dismissed in Federal Court.
A group of homeowners residing at an exclusive beach community jointly filed legal action against the housing developer, claiming exterior wood products failures and construction defects. Based on detailed examination and research, we were able to demonstrate that developer's construction methods, quality of materials used and preservatives applied on the nearly 20 homes were not the cause of failures as claimed.
On a number of separate but similar construction accidents, we were retained to investigate and testify about relevant facts which occurred at each job site. Based on the facts, safety codes and good practice, the majority of such construction accident claims proved to be without merit and dismissed.
Commercial real estate developers retained professional services from a firm claiming to be an architectural company for the construction of several new retail shopping centers. Our developer clients discovered those designers were not architects nor engineers as represented. Instead and, on further investigation, it was learned the design firm “bought” the required signatures and official stamps of a retired architect who, in exchange for payments, signed off on drawings and calculations without having actually designed or supervised such work. By examining the Architects Practice Act and published standards of the profession, hired designers and the licensed architect were found to have committed professional malpractice.
FEDERAL COPYRIGHTS ACT INFRINGEMENT
On two similar but geographically separate cases, we were requested to investigate claims of copyrights infringement, one in connection with build-out of a high-rise luxury condominium and, the second, proposed development of a suburban hotel. After careful examination of design documents prepared for each separate project, related facts including the Copyrights Act, designers of the condominium were found not to have infringed on the former designer’s work. But, the architect which copied a prior professional's design prepared for the same suburban hotel property was deemed to be in violation of the Federal Copyrights Act.
Having commissioned remodel of a mid-rise headquarters office building, owners experienced significant construction delays, cost overruns, deficient design and serious defects, preventing owners from timely occupancy of the property. Examining design documents, project meeting minutes, permit application records and built conditions, we were able to demonstrate that the firm hired to undertake design of the project was professionally unqualified, poorly staffed and lacked related experience for the task.
STANDARD OF CARE
Over time, associations such as the American Institute of Architects and State licensing boards have established clear guidelines for professional practice including well defined standards of care. On a number of assignments, we investigated claims made against architects and affiliated engineers, measuring each performance with standards of care required by agencies having jurisdiction and authority-comparing such services to those rendered by their peers in the same geographical area, at approximate time and for similar project scope.
SLIP, TRIP and FALL
Typically helping defend clients against such legal actions, our own findings indicated that most claims of this nature lacked merit.