Virginia Construction Disputes: What happens if a building contractor’s work is allegedly defective?

This article is written to briefly explain what the remedies are when there is a dispute over whether a building contractor has used defective materials work for workmanship. My office is available to represent both plaintiffs and defendants in construction contract cases. Give my office a call to discuss your specific facts.

Virginia Warranties Covering a Contractor’s Work
In Virginia, when a building contractor’s work gives rise to an automatic implied warranty of workmanship. Any implied warranty does not need to be stated in any contract and is automatically assumed for a building contractor’s work. The Supreme Court of Virginia has held that a building contractor has the implied contractual duty to build a house in a workmanlike manner. Mann v. Clowser, 190 Va. 887, 901, 59 S.E.2d 78, 84 (1950). Of course, they may also be express warranties contained in the contract between the parties. You would have to read the contract more carefully to determine if such express warranties exist.

The contractor defaults/breaches the contract if they use defective materials or poor workmanship. The question of whether a builder has used defective materials or workmanship is a questions of fact. Typically, these types of cases require expert testimony from other contractors as to how the materials or workmanship were defective.

What damages may a building contractor be liable for in these cases?
This is a contract law question. Typically, the damages available to the aggrieved party will be expectation damages. This means that the court would determine compensation based upon the amount of money required to put injured (non-breaching) party in the same position they would be in if the contractor had performed the work properly. The exact dollor figure for expectation damages will most likely be the reasonable cost of completing or correcting the faulty materials or workmanship. Mann, 190 Va. at 90. Once again, this requires expert testimony as contractors will often arrive at different amounts for what is “reasonable costs.”

I have often been asked whether there are other damages available to the aggrieved party in these construction breach of contract cases. The other type of damages which may be available is consequential damages. Consequential damages are damages that arise from special circumstances actually foreseen or reasonably foreseeable by the parties when they made the contract. Virginia Tech. v. Interactive Return Service, 267 Va. 642, 654, 595 S.E.2d 1 (2004). Many times, individuals get confused by consequential damages. This is not a chance to pile on every imaginable harm that might have stemmed from the contractor’s work. In order for the aggrieved party to be awarded consequential damages, the contractor must have actually or reasonably foreseen that these extra damages might have occurred at the time of contract.

If you have any questions about the above article, please contact my office. I am available to represent both contractors and those who feel that defective materials or poor workmanship were used. I look forward to hearing from you and learning how I may be of assistance.

Ryan C. Young |  Richmond, Virginia Attorney

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