In 2022, Andresen was back in his office but was waiting for a new bathtub that was ordered in April 2021.
“It’s my own little supply chain problem,” said Andresen, a partner at Bassford Remele in Minneapolis.
For more than two years Andresen’s clients have struggled with shortages of materials and labor. They still are but now must add rising prices into the mix.
Andresen said he spends about a quarter of his time on disputes that relate to materials and force majeure issues in contracts that come into play when fulfilling the terms of the contract is impossible because of an “act of God.”
The supply problems are big, and huge if the material comes from Ukraine. Before the war reportedly the U.S. imported over $1 billion in base metals and other supplies, as well as agricultural products, from Ukraine. One particular problem is the price of post-tension concrete, which has steel cables in it.
Creative legal solutions are called for, Andresen said. Force majeure provisions can mean an uphill battle because the remedy is more time, not money, he said. But money is what’s at stake.
Some good news is that people are willing to negotiate, Andresen said. Participants in the construction industry are of similar mind, he said. “They’ve all been burned.”
And, he said, the backlog that COVID created means that lawyers, arbitrators and judges are very busy. Andresen said he has eight to 10 cases scheduled for trial in the ensuing four to five months. Whether they will be in person or by Zoom is up to the judges, who are inundated, he said.
Andresen will shortly move up to chair of the Construction Law section of the MSBA. He has some concerns about the practice as a result of Covid.
“I don’t think younger lawyers are getting the [courtroom] training and experience that they need,” he said. “I can see the difference and not just in my office. I’ve brought this up to judges.”
Andresen suggests that experienced lawyers bring newer lawyers to court appearances and other occasions where the new lawyer can gain some knowledge and exposure. He notes that there is camaraderie within a practice area such as construction, and without it, the dynamic is different. “If this keeps up there’s going to be a COVID generation of lawyers,” he said.
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