If a public works contractor constructs a facility in strict accordance with the design documents furnished by the project owner, as it must, should the contractor be liable to third parties injured by alleged shortcomings or defects in the design? Most state legislatures and courts say no—public works contractors are shielded from such liability.
A Texas appeals court recently had to interpret a statute protecting highway contractors. The statute was drafted in a way that could indicate protection only against injuries arising during active construction but not post-completion injuries. The 2-1 opinion reflects the close question.
The second case in this issue addresses the use of a mechanic’s lien filing as leverage in negotiating a payment dispute. Did the other party have any recourse—a way to force the discharge of the lien? Could the lienor just leave the filing on the books, clouding title to the project owner’s property, without actually filing suit to enforce the lien?
The third case involves some do-it-yourself lawyering gone awry. A construction lender mistakenly filed a “claim of lien” to secure the promissory note. Was a subsequent purchaser of the property expected to know of the lender’s purported security interest?