The Construction Expert

By Robert Clifford, author of Qualifying and Attacking Expert Witnesses

In large complex construction projects, a “critical path” method is frequently employed. Essentially, the “critical path” method is an efficient way of organizing and scheduling a complex project which consist of numerous interrelated separate small projects. Each subcontractor-project is identified and classified as to the duration and precedence of the work (e.g. one could not carpet an area until the flooring is down and the flooring cannot be completed until the underlying electrical and telephone conduits are installed). The data is then analyzed by construction experts, usually by computer, to determine the most efficient schedule for the entire project. Although many subcontractor-projects  may be performed at any time within a given period without any effect on the completion of the entire project, some items of the project have no leeway and must be completed on schedule. A delay by a contractor or material supplier can prove critical to the success of the project. The items of work are on the critical path and a delay or acceleration of work will affect the entire project. See Haney v. United States (Ct Cl 1982) 676 F. 2d 584, 595.

Experts familiar with large scale construction projects and with experience in the diverse crafts involved in the project are essential to determine the reasonable critical path of the project. In the event a delay in the project should occur, experts are required to estimate the number of days of delay that are attributable to the various subcontractors. Experts will consider the categories of delay such as the failure to comply with government regulations and inspections, the failure of a contractor to fully man the project with competent workers, the failure of a contractor to retain skilled subcontractors, the failure to assure the timely delivery of necessary material.

Experts are necessary to ascertain, compute and opine as to the extent of the failures and the extent of the delay and the effect upon the critical path that was caused by parties other than the contractor. For example, the owner may have required unreasonable change orders and may have failed to provide needed material.

Bob Clifford, author of Qualifying and Attacking Expert Witnesses, resides in Carmel, California. He serves as a consultant to law firms and as an arbitrator and mediator in insurance and litigation matters. He has been the senior partner of an Oakland, California law firm where he specialized in general litigation, including real property disputes, personal injury litigation, insurance matters, contract disputes, will contests and estate matters.

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