As Olympian Jesse Owens said, “It starts with complete command of the fundamentals.” With our “Law 101” posts, we’ll define terms, phrases, or concepts with the goal of conveying core information in order to set the stage for more involved and complex discussions.
So what is construction law? Merriam-Webster defines construction as the act or process of building something. There is beauty in the simplicity of this definition. But to say that construction law is the law that governs “building things” wouldn’t be very helpful. Wikipedia says:
Construction law is a branch of law that deals with matters relating to building construction and related fields. It is in essence an amalgam of contract law, commercial law, planning law, employment law and tort.
That clears things up, doesn’t it? To an experienced eye, this definition is better than our last one. But what about to inexperienced eyes? Well, let’s search it on Google. Hmm. About 210,000,000 results when one searches the phrase “what is construction law.” That’s a lot of good reading. But perhaps too much.
In a nutshell, “construction law” is a phrase used by lawyers to describe and compartmentalize the many legal issues that arise in the design, engineering, financing, building, improving, renovating, finishing-out, and demolishing processes. It is similar to the phrase “employment law,” which could describe anything from drafting employment contracts to litigating workplace harassment claims. So even this definition isn’t wholly explanatory. In order to better explain what “construction law” encompasses, we need to explore how various laws and obligations are generally created, applied, and enforced and how that translates specifically to the “construction” industry.
In our next post we’ll elaborate on this definition, discuss how legal obligations are generally created, applied, and enforced, and examine some of the legal issues that often emerge in the “construction” industry. We’ll also try to use fewer quotation marks.