As we learned during the flooding in South Louisiana in August of 2016, the help of our neighbors and friends in Texas and around the country strengthened us, and allowed our communities to rebuild and flourish. That’s part of the reason Kean Miller donated a total of $25,000 this week to the Greater Houston Community Foundation, the United Way of Greater Houston, and the American Red Cross in lieu of our fall client event originally scheduled for today, September 16th.

Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends, colleagues and peers in Houston and Southeast Texas today, and in the weeks and months ahead.

People First.

Flag Art (FINAL)

By Mallory McKnight

Under the “design-build” construction method, the property owner enters into one contract with a single entity that provides the owner with both design and construction services. The advantages of “design-build” include faster construction and delivery, slower cost and schedule growth, and the elimination of potential disputes between the designer and contractor. Due to these advantages, the design-build method is becoming increasingly more common on private construction projects.

However, with respect to state-owned public construction projects, the design-build construction method is heavily disfavored—if not completely prohibited—under Louisiana state law. Two recent Attorney General opinions serve to reiterate that the Louisiana Public Bid Law continues to be driven instead by the traditional “design-bid-build” project delivery method. “Design-bid-build” is the traditional method of project delivery whereby the public entity/owner enters into two separate contracts, one with the design professional and one with the contractor. (1)

Under the Louisiana Public Bid Law, construction contracts for “public works” (2) are generally awarded to the contractor who is the “lowest responsible and responsive bidder,” (3) while the design professional is selected “on the basis of competence and qualifications for a fair and reasonable price.” (4)  The purpose of competitive bidding in the public construction arena is to protect taxpaying citizens “against contracts of public officials entered into because of favoritism and involving exorbitant and extortionate prices.” (5) Contrary to the objective selection process involved in competitive bidding, the “design-build” method of project delivery allows for subjective considerations based on qualifications and/or performance.

The 2014 Louisiana Legislative Session passed a new statute providing for the “construction management at risk” (CMAR) project delivery method. (6)  The advantages of CMAR over the traditional “design-bid-build” are that the public entity/owner is able to select the contractor based on more than price and that the design professional and contractor are able to work together during the design phase to minimize design disputes. The benefits of CMAR are limited in nature because La. R.S. 38:2225.2.4 only applies to projects worth $25 million or more. More importantly, CMAR still does not provide all of the advantages of “design-build” because the public entity/owner is still required to enter into separate contracts with the design professional and contractor.

Two recent Louisiana Attorney General Opinions discuss the lack of authority of a public entity to enter a “design-build” contract for a public work under the Louisiana Public Bid Law. Specifically, the two Opinions discuss La. R.S. 38:2225.2, which states:

Neither the state nor any local entity, unless specifically authorized by law, may execute any agreement for the purchase of unimproved property which contains provisions related to the successful design and construction of a construction project prior to the transfer of title to the state or local entity.

In Louisiana Attorney General Opinion No. 13-0182 (Nov. 26, 2013), the Attorney General stated that the Houma-Terrebone Airport Commission (H-TAC) is a public entity subject to the Louisiana Public Bid Law, which requires the “design-bid-build” method for projects exceeding $150,000. The Attorney General interpreted La. R.S. 38:2225.2 as expressly providing that “unless specifically authorized by law, a public entity has no authority to enter into a design-build contract.” Therefore, the Attorney General’s opinion was that the H-TAC could not enter a design-build contract for the construction of its capital improvement project because it had no special statutory authorization.

In Louisiana Attorney General Opinion No. 14-0033 (Mar. 31, 2014), the Attorney General was asked to state his opinion on whether the Orleans Judicial District Court Building Commission (Commission) could enter a design-build contract for the construction of its new courthouse. The Commission, like the judiciary, is a “public entity” subject to the Louisiana Public Bid Law. As in Op. No. 13-0182, the Attorney General interpreted La. R.S. 38:2212 to provide that the Commission could not enter a design-build contract because it had no special statutory authority to do so. In addition, the Attorney General found that the Commission acted contrary to the Louisiana Public Bid Law by hiring a consultant pursuant to a Request for Qualifications, by which the consultant would be expected to provide additional services including architectural design and construction. Therefore, the Attorney General stated that the Commission must contract with separate entities to provide the design and construction services, pursuant to the Public Bid Law.

As interpreted by the Attorney General, La. R.S. 38:2225.2 expressly prohibits the use of “design-build” contracts for the construction of “public works” unless specifically authorized by statute. Currently, Louisiana provides specific statutory authorization for “design-build” contracts to the Department of Transportation and Development pursuant to La. R.S. 250.2, to Port Commissions pursuant to a pilot program established under La. R.S. 34:3523, and to certain New Orleans public entities pursuant to La. R.S. 38:2225.2.1 “in the construction or repair of any public building or structure which has been destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, or both or any public building or structure to be constructed or repaired to meet a homeland security or criminal justice need pursuant to a hurricane recovery plan.” (7)  In conclusion, the majority of projects under the Louisiana Public Bid Law continue to be contracted under the traditional, competitive bidding process of “design-bid-build,” and the possibility of “design-build” seems to be a distant reality.

____________________

(1) DBIA: Design-Build Institute of America, What is Design-Build?, available at http://www.dbia.org/about/Pages/What-is-Design-Build.aspx.
(2) La. R.S. 38:2211(A)(12): “‘Public work’ means the erection, construction, alteration, improvement, or repair of any public facility or immovable property owned, used, or leased by a public entity.”
(3) La. R.S. 38:2212(A).
(4) La. R.S. 38:2318.1(A).
(5) La. Atty. Gen. Op. No. 13-0182 (Nov. 26, 2013), 2013 WL 6410534.
(6) La. R.S. 38:2225.2.4.

(7) La. R.S. 38:2225.2.1(A)(1).

By Angela W. Adolph

The Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005 (the “Act”) added several new sections to the Internal Revenue Code that provide certain tax benefits for affected hurricane disaster areas. Section 1400N(a) authorized the issuance of Qualified Private Activity Bonds (“Qualified Bonds”) to finance the construction and rehabilitation of residential and nonresidential property located in the Gulf Opportunity Zone (“GO Zone”). The Act gave private business owners and corporations the opportunity to borrow capital at favorable tax-exempt rates to acquire, construct, reconstruct or renovate qualified property in the GO Zone. The deadline for the issuance of GO Zone Bonds was extended through the end of 2011. However, the Act did not address the current refunding of Qualified Bonds after the applicable issuance deadline had passed.  

In a refunding, an issuer sells bonds and uses the proceeds to redeem outstanding debt that typically has higher interest rates. In a current refunding, the issuer uses the refunding bond proceeds to redeem the outstanding debt within 90 days. On December 23, 2011, the Internal Revenue Service released an advance copy of Notice 2012-3, which provides guidance on current refunding of outstanding prior issues of Qualified Bonds, including GO Zone Bonds and Hurricane Ike Bonds.

A current refunding of Qualified Bonds that meets the conditions of Notice 2012-3 may be issued after the applicable deadline and still be treated as Qualified Bonds. The conditions include that the original Qualified Bonds must have been issued before the deadline for the issuance of such bonds. The issue price of the current refunding issue must be no greater than the outstanding stated principal amount of the refunded bonds. And, the current refunding issue must meet all applicable requirements for the issuance of tax-exempt private activity bonds, including that the average bond maturity must be no longer than 120 percent of the average reasonably expected economic life of the facilities financed or refinanced.

Additionally, as long as the original Qualified Bonds satisfied the designation requirement, no further designation or official state or local governmental action is required for a current refunding of such bonds.

Notice 2012-3 will appear in Internal Revenue Bulletin 2012-3, dated January 17, 2012.

By Mark D. Mese

The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals has issued the first Appellate Court decision dealing with the Louisiana New Home Warranty Act and its application to Chinese Drywall claims in the case of Jennifer L. Caminita, wife of/and Frank L. Caminita v. Regina, wife of/and Barney Core, Smith and Core, Inc., et al., State of Louisiana Court of Appeals, First Circuit, 2010 CA 1961.

The First Circuit has ruled that the periods of limitation set forth in the New Home Warranty Act provide the exclusive periods by which claims can be brought against home builders for alleged defects related to the installation of Chinese Drywall in new homes. In the Caminita case the First Circuit specifically found that the one year preemptive period provided by La.R.S. 9:3144A(1) was applicable to claims related to Chinese Drywall incorporated into new homes. Based on this finding, the court dismissed the action against the home builder.

This ruling by the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals is the first Louisiana case reported at the appellate level on this issue and is in line with decisions by district courts last year which were also reported on the Kean Miller blog.
 

By R. Lee Vail

On June 1, 2011, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) issued a notice to Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf Region (GOMR) lease and pipeline right-of-way (ROW) holders on reporting hurricane and tropical storm effects. Specifically, the recent notice, designated NTL No. 2011-G01(1), requires four reports, as appropriate:

  • Evacuation and Production curtailment statistic report – partially evacuated platforms are not considered evacuated
  • Facility shut-in reports – including facilities that are partially shut-in
  • Facility damage reports – including platforms, rigs and pipelines
  • Pollution reports – facility discharged or continues to discharge oil during or as a result of the event
     

The Evacuation and Production curtailment statistic report and the Facility shut-in report overlap in subject matter. They differ in that the first report is general and requires overall company statistics (number of facilities evacuated or not evacuated, overall production shut-in); the second report is specific, requiring statistics platform by platform. Facility damage reports are to be submitted as soon as the information becomes available. Other reports are to be submitted daily as long as the condition exists. Reports may be submitted by e-mail or through the BOEMRE GOMR internet-based Permitting and Reporting System (eWell). Although the notice outlines the specific information and instructions required when the transmission is by e-mail, BOEMRE GOMR strongly encourages use of eWell to transmit the required data.

The eWell system, described in NTL No. 2007-G15 (2), was developed to increase efficiency of well permitting and reporting transactions between OCS lessees and operators and the GOMR by both reducing the time (and cost) required to process data and to reduce input errors. The system is designed to simplify submittal of multiple reports and subsequent daily reports. Interested lessees and operators and pipeline ROW holders must apply to BOEMRE GOMR for access to the eWell system.
 

[1] BOEMRE, Hurricane and Tropical Storm Effects Reports, NTL No. 2011-G01, http://www.gomr.boemre.gov/homepg/regulate/regs/ntls/2011NTLs/11-G01.pdf (last visited June 10, 2011).

 

[2] BOERME, eWell Permitting and Reporting System, NTL- No. 2007-G15, http://www.gomr.boemre.gov/homepg/regulate/regs/ntls/2007NTLs/07-g15.pdf (last visited June 10, 2011).

 

 

By Kevin C. Curry

On September 30, 2010, the Internal Revenue Service issued guidance providing relief to homeowners who have suffered property losses due to the effects of certain imported drywall installed in homes between 2001 and 2009.  In particular, the IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2010-36 which enables affected taxpayers to treat damages from corrosive drywall as a casualty loss and provides a ”safe harbor” formula for determining the amount of the loss.

Continue Reading IRS Issues Safeharbor Relief for Those Impacted by “Chinese Drywall”

By Mark D. Mese

Judges in East Baton Rouge and St. Tammany Parish have issued two of the earliest rulings on the impact of the Louisiana New Home Warranty Act on claims by homeowners against contractors for damages related to Chinese Drywall. Both state district court judges have found that the Louisiana New Home Warranty Act is the exclusive remedy as between a builder and a homeowner for damages caused by Chinese Drywall. Both judges have also ruled that the Chinese Drywall incorporated into homes in Louisiana is not a structural component of the home and is thus subject to a one year warranty period.

In both of the district court cases, the courts dismissed the plaintiff’s case because the suits against the contractors were brought more than one year after the homes were occupied by the original owners.

The rulings by the district court judges should have no impact on homeowner claims against suppliers and manufacturers of Chinese Drywall as the Louisiana New Home Warranty Act only applies to the relationship and rights between a home builder and a home owner in Louisiana.
 

By Michael J. O’Brien

In Solana v. GSF Development Driller I, et al., 587 F.3d 266 (5th Cir. 2009), the United States Fifth Circuit reiterated the longstanding rule that generally, a seaman belonging to a vessel in peril cannot claim a salvage compensation for saving his vessel.

The facts in Solana are quite interesting.  As Hurricane Katrina approached the Gulf Coast, Global Santa Fe (GSF) evacuated its jack-up and anchored rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, which included the Development Driller I (DDI), a $350 million dollar semi-submersible drilling rig. The DDI’s power was shut off and its crew was evacuated.  Solana, a 20 year GSF employee and Offshore Installation Manager (OIM) of the DDI, and Lally, a ballast control operator and senior dynamic positioning operator, were among those employees who were evacuated from the rig.
 

Continue Reading United States Fifth Circuit Reiterates Rule That Crew Members Are Not Entitled to a Salvage Award for Assistance Rendered to Their Own Vessel

Throughout 2004–2007 a housing boom along with a series of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico combined to create a shortage of drywall in the United States.  Needing drywall to build the homes that were much in demand, suppliers turned abroad. Chinese manufacturers stepped in, providing cheap and readily available material.  This influx of Chinese drywall was concentrated in Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi; the states most affected by Hurricanes Wilma, Katrina, and Rita.  Since 2006, it has been estimated by some sources that more than 550 million pounds of drywall have been imported from China.  There are reports that some 100,000 homes could possibly be affected nationwide. 

Continue Reading What does the Transfer of Chinese Drywall Cases by the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation Mean?

By G. Trippe Hawthorne

The Louisiana Legislature has adopted House Concurrent Resolution No. 185, authored by Representative Tim Burns.  The resolution urges and requests that the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Deptartment of Insurance, in consultation with the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors, investigate the health risks associated with living in homes that contain drywall imported from China, study the potential homeowners insurance coverage issues, including triggers, endorsements, and exclusions to policies that are related to drywall imported from China, and determine whether such material should be identified as a substandard, unsafe building material.  The resolution goes on to request a report of the findings and recommendations of this study to the legislature prior to the convening of the 2010 regular session.

A copy of the enrolled version of the resolution can be seen here: Download file