Lawsuit Over LEED Documentation

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A case filed last week in a California court is a prime example of the importance of contract documents in a LEED project.

Earlier this year the City of Palo Alto gave notice firing Flintco Pacific, Inc., the general contractor responsible for construction of the Mitchell Park library, a proposed LEED Platinum project. With a performance bond in place, the City and the surety announced in early March that they has negotiated a takeover agreement that will allow a new contractor to complete construction.

But the current dispute playing out in letters between counsel for Palo Alto and Flintco is the claim by the City that when Flintco’s contract was terminated, it did not turn over the documentation necessary to pursue LEED certification. In a letter reprinted in part in the local print media, Assistant City Attorney Cara Silver said, “very little of the LEED documentation appear to be present.” And in a follow up letter from the City’s outside counsel, David Ginn to Flintco, also made public, Palo Alto further claims the missing documents relate to the “source and specific type of materials incorporated into the project, methodologies employed by the contractor to reduce waste and impact, and a significant number of other requirements.” Flintco responded that it had made all of the documents in its construction trailer available to the City and that these documents are responsive to all the deliverables identified in the construction contract.

And while Flintco argues that its contract was improperly terminated after the building was more than 97% complete that dispute may have to wait for another day.

It is disputes and differences over the documentation necessary to pursue LEED certification that apparently lead Flintco to commence a Petition for Writ of Mandamus against Palo Alto (.. yes, the general contractor sued the City) in Flintco Pacific, Inc. Vs City Of Palo Alto, filed July 17, 2014 in the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, asking the court to declare that the City is violating the California Public Records Act and to command the City to produce all records relating to Flintco’s information request for 49 categories of documents related to the construction including writings related to LEED certification.

While the merits of the construction dispute are beyond the scope of this blog post, this matter is significant because if highlights the importance of construction contracts expressly providing for who owns the LEED documentation. A common contract provision, but not found in the contract in this instance, provides,

Any LEED certification plan and materials prepared to support the LEED certification application are intended for use by the Owner with respect to this Project. [LEED Consultant] grants the Owner a nonexclusive license to utilize, including reproduce, the plan and those materials for purposes related to the building that is the Project. [LEED Consultant] shall be deemed the author and owner of the LEED certification plan and the materials prepared to support the LEED certification application, and shall retain all common law, statutory and other retained rights, including copyrights.

Do you know who owns the LEED documentation on the project you are working on?

About Author

Stuart Kaplow is an environmental attorney and the principal at the law firm that bears his name, Stuart D. Kaplow, P.A.