Harrison Law Group December 2018

Te Contractor’s Advantage

December 2018

www.HarrisonLawGroup.com (410) 832-0000 jwyatt@harrisonlawgroup.com

When the Going Gets Tough

T here’s something to be said about working in business and construction law. For a long time, I’ve been fascinated with the entire process of construction. And right now, just outside my office window, I get to watch a building site come together in real time. Every day, there’s something new to see. And with every new case, I have the benefit of learning something new about construction and everything that goes into it. There are so many details that go far beyond the law. I love seeing how things work from the inside and learning about how our modern life is built. It’s truly remarkable and something a lot of people don’t notice in their day-to-day lives. I’ve had the opportunity to see some very interesting things happen outside of our office building over the past several months. The construction crew nearby is on their second try with a mixed-use commercial project. The first time, they encountered unexpected bedrock when digging for the foundation, and the project had to be put on hold. Eventually, it got off the ground (or into the ground) after they were able to get a blasting crew in to take care of the bedrock. Since then, the project has been coming along nicely. Back in the office, cases can be just as complicated. I work with a lot of skilled subcontractors who take jobs with one major expectation: They’re going to be paid for their service. It’s an expectation we all have as professionals. When the hiring party refuses to pay the contractor or subcontractor, that’s where I come in. No one should have to come to me in order to get paid. They shouldn’t need an attorney to fight for them to get what they’re owed for labor and materials. The reality is that they should have been paid to begin with so

that they could move on to the next project while maintaining their livelihood.

businesses to run, people to pay, and materials to buy. They can’t let a legal hiccup get in the way, because work can’t stop. When they know they’re going to get paid, that’s a big burden off their shoulders and their bottom line. I’m glad I get to be here for the people who need someone on their side to fight for them when the situation gets tough.

Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. All too often, we don’t have the luxury of living in that ideal world. Somewhere along the line, money gets held up. Someone backs out of a project, money runs dry, or something disrupts the process. One of the biggest reasons I got into law, and why I continue to love it so much, comes down to the investigative side of the job. It often involves combing through document after document. In construction, the documents almost always tell the tale. When one side says one thing and the other side says another, the documents have a habit of revealing the truth. At the end of an investigation and as a case comes to a close, it doesn’t get much better than when I get to call a client and tell them the good news. These are folks who have

-Jeremy Wyatt

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The idea of love at first sight is wonderfully romantic. Two strangers see each other across a crowded room. There’s an instant, magnetic attraction, and suddenly they’ve found their match for all of eternity. In a world in which dating often requires a lot of work —work that comes with disappointment, rejection, and uncertainty — falling in love at first sight has strong appeal. But can it actually happen? Can your eyes tell you anything about love? The connection between the eyes and love has been described in poetry and prose since time immemorial — it’s the stuff of heroic epics and fanciful fairy tales. And evidence has increasingly shown that the human brain is hard-wired to both display and notice visual cues when gazing at a potential love interest. Enlarged pupils are one such cue. When you survey a person or object you are interested in, your brain releases a surge of dopamine — a chemical that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers —which causes your pupils to dilate. In this sense, beauty really is “in the eye of the beholder.”

For example, Sears allegedly sold a Kenmore washing machine at a “sale price” of $999.99, compared to a “regular price” of $1,179.99. The problem was the so-called sale price was actually the price that product was offered at every day. Therefore, it wasn’t actually on sale. Duping your customers is a bad business practice, but what makes it illegal? Well, California law requires that retailers post a retail price no higher than what the product was sold at within three months prior to the ad. “Families today … are striving to get the very most they can get from an extremely hard-earned holiday shopping dollar,” said LA City Attorney Mike Feuer. “They deserve to make an informed decision.” After the suit was brought against them, the retailers all quickly moved to settle, promising to never engage in false reference pricing again. Most retailers offer discounts around the holidays to encourage shoppers to come into their stores or visit their Promotions and sales are great tools in any business’s arsenal, provided they aren’t out to mislead customers. Big-box stores may try to manipulate innocent people, and it’s up to aggrieved customers to hold those corporations accountable. Nearly every year, you’ll read about a class-action lawsuit that develops in response to the shady tactics of businesses eager to secure those holiday shopping dollars. Are there great bargains to be had on Black Friday? Of course. But if something sounds too good to be true, it very well might be. Keep your eyes peeled and don’t let retailers trick you into a purchase you wouldn’t make otherwise. In the last decade, researchers have determined that from a romantic and reproductive standpoint, both men and women are attracted to partners with bigger pupils. Studies demonstrate that when women are at their peak fertility, they might subconsciously be more attracted to a person with sizable pupils because it could indicate a partner’s attraction to them. Likewise, researchers have reported that men seek out women with dilated pupils due to the association of larger pupils with youth and longevity. The connection between the eyes and enthrallment has inspired some of Shakespeare’s most iconic sonnets, and the science behind our eyes validates some of the Bard’s romantic claims. But does this connection between larger pupils and attraction corroborate the idea of love at first sight? If you believe that attraction equates to true love, then absolutely. But if your definition of love requires a little more depth, then you may have to toss aside the idea of love at first sight and instead view your partner’s eyes as mere “windows” to their soul.

Fake Discounts and Angry Shoppers A MASSIVE BLACK FRIDAY LAWSUIT

Shoppers flock to retailers every Black Friday in hopes of securing the best deals on the year’s hottest products. There are many nasty aspects of Black Friday — the long lines, the overzealous shoppers, the limited stock of items — but phony pricing and fake sales shouldn’t be among them. But that’s exactly what happened to folks in Los Angeles during the 2016 holiday season, leading to the biggest Black Friday lawsuit in history. In December of 2016, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office sued J.C. Penney, Sears, Macy’s, and Kohl’s for a practice called “false reference pricing,” a nefarious tactic whereby retailers lie about the original price of an item to make a discount appear bigger than it actually is.

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How to Indulge Your Sweet Tooth With Less Sugar SURVIVING THE SEASON OF SWEETS Cookies, cakes, and pies, oh my! The holiday season is brimming with sweet treats of all kinds. Sometimes it can feel like candy and sugary desserts are around every corner, and yet you still want to indulge. However, when you consider that over 50 percent of Americans are insulin-resistant, prediabetic, or diabetic, that piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream starts to look more dangerous than appetizing. During the holidays, how can you satisfy your sweet tooth without worrying about consuming excessive sugar and calories? Skip the candy and go for the fruits and nuts. Keeping a bowl of fruit and nuts nearby can help keep sugar cravings at bay. Dried fruits, such as cranberries, pineapple, or apricots, are both sweet and nutritious. Just be sure to check the packaging for added sugars. You can even make your own dried fruit with a food dehydrator. This way, you are completely in control of the ingredients. No matter what you do, just be mindful not to overindulge. Dried fruit is high in sugar and calories, but the fiber and vitamins make fruit much healthier than just about any other sugary treat. Another way to cut down on your sugar intake is to use dark chocolate in all your chocolate-based treats. Dark chocolate has about half as much sugar as milk chocolate, twice as much healthy fat, less cholesterol, 4–5 times more iron, twice as much potassium, fewer carbs, and more flavonoids and theobromine. The antioxidant properties of the theobromine and flavonoids make dark chocolate as good for your heart as it is for your soul. If you have a recipe that calls for chocolate, reach for the dark stuff, whether it’s dark chocolate chips, cocoa powder, or baking chocolate. While it may seem as though everyone and their grandma is overindulging in sugar this season, know that you have the choice to opt for healthier sweets. And come NewYear’s, you won’t have to spend the first fewmonths of 2019 working off that extra cookie weight.


Looking for an easy holiday roast that still feels elegant enough for the occasion? Look no further than this delicious prime rib flavored with garlic, thyme, and red wine.


1 bone-in prime rib (6–7 pounds)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 cups red wine

4 cups beef stock


1. 30 minutes before cooking, remove roast from fridge and let sit until it reaches room temperature. 2. Heat oven to 350 F. 3. Make small slits in prime rib and stuff with slices of garlic. Liberally season with salt and pepper. 4. Place a rack inside a roasting pan and roast prime rib for 2 hours, until medium-rare. 5. To make au jus, place roasting pan with drippings from roast over 2 burners on high. Add wine and scrape pan as liquid reduces. Add beef stock and cook until reduced by half. Finally, sprinkle in thyme. 6. Slice roast and serve topped with au jus. Inspired by Food Network

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Jeremy Wyatt jwyatt@harrisonlawgroup.com www.HarrisonLawGroup.com (410) 832-0000

Special Holiday Issue


40 West Chesapeake Avenue, Ste 600 Towson, MD 21204


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When the Going Gets Tough

What Your Eyes Can Tell You About Love Te Biggest Black Friday Lawsuit in History Holiday Roast Prime Rib Surviving the Season of Sweets


Everything You’ll Need for an Ugly Sweater Christmas

* Level With Me: Increase Year-End Cash Flow

Ugly Sweater Parties A Fun Trend You Can Easily Follow!

store to pick one up. However, if you have a sweater that’s been cozied up for years in the back of your closet or a drawer, now’s your chance to give it new life. Arm yourself with a hot glue gun, thread, and needle, and patch Santa, Rudolph, or Frosty on it. And let it be known that an ugly sweater isn’t complete without sparkles, beads, and sequins galore. WHAT EXACTLY IS AN UGLY SWEATER PARTY? It’s rather simple — slip on your favorite Christmas sweater, gather all your friends and family members, make sure there are plenty of refreshments and games, and you’re guaranteed to have a top-tier party. A few ugly-sweater-themed games that should be on the agenda include an ugly gift exchange, which is similar to the white elephant exchange, except with the gaudiest gifts you can find; an

ugly photo booth, complete with terrible, tacky props; and, of course, an ugly sweater contest.

This is the only time of year when slipping into a lurid red sweater with a stuffed Santa sewn on the front is considered trendy. So adorn yourself in the frumpiest, tackiest sweater you can find, and have some fun this December!

It’s speculated that the first ugly sweater party took place in Vancouver, Canada, back in 2001. Since then, the trend has become one of the most popular holiday party themes. Come Thanksgiving, you’ll start to see racks in all types of clothing stores lined with hideous sweaters. If you’re ready to jump on the ugly-sweater-party bandwagon this Christmas season, here are a few things to keep in mind. YOUR VERY OWN UGLY SWEATER Ugly sweaters come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. You can head to H&M or a local thrift

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December 2018

Level With Me By JeremyWyatt

What You Can Do Right Now to Increase Year-End Cash Flow

Bills; bonuses; payroll; taxes; holiday parties; PTO; weather-related project costs. The end of a year is an expensive time, and more so if your customers aren’t paying fully and on time. I get to work with contractors every day of the week to get them paid for monies overdue and unpaid. But hiring outside help has its obvious costs, and sometimes it is best when contractors can engage in educated “self-help” in collecting stubborn debts.

months ago? You may still be owed 10% of your contract, and that’s real money!

Follow the Rules —Make sure that you aren’t the cause of any payment delay. Does your contract require payment applications to be submitted by the 20th of each month? Then make sure yours are in by the 19th. Are you required to submit written proof for all change order work? Then don’t drive an extra screw without a signed work ticket. And never, NEVER sign a lien release without carving out unpaid amounts. If you have a legitimate claim, then ignoring the requirements in your contract is no better than throwing up roadblocks in your own path. Use Your Tools . . . On Time — If you’ve followed the rules and still can’t get paid, it may be time to escalate. Contractors have two crucial tools in escalating a pay- ment dispute . First, for most private projects, you can file a mechanics’ lien. This is a powerful tool because it puts pressure on the project owner and any funder (like a bank) to fix your payment problem on pain of foreclosure. The other crucial tool is payment bond claims. On most public projects and some private projects, you can access the general contractor’s payment bond to recover unpaid monies. Here’s the catch — both of these tools have very tight timeframes, and if you miss the deadline, your rights typically are gone.


So here are five things you can do without calling your lawyer that can increase your cash flow as we sprint to the end of 2018:

Bill, Bill, Bill —The first step is making sure you’ve actually asked to be paid everything you are owed. Did you perform extra work on that one project? Submit a change order request, and then bill for that extra work. The same goes for acceleration, delays, and any other costs that you haven’t submitted as of today. Capture all of your project costs, because you can’t get what you don’t ask for. And don’t forget retention! Remember that project you finished 9 “If you have a LEGITIMATE claim, then ignoring the requirements in your contract is NO BETTER than throwing up roadblocks in your OWN path” 1


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Get Creative — Not everything needs to be a fight, however. Read the room and check on what the actual cash flow issue is. For example, if you are a project subcontractor and your payment is being held up by a dispute between the general contractor and owner unrelated to your work, you may be able to get paid “on the side” via a joint check from the owner to you and the general contractor. Most problems are open to creative solutions that may not involve litigation or parties going for each other’s throats. Follow up or fail — It’s cliché but true: The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Whatever happened to that proposed change order you submitted six months ago? What about your customer’s promise to call about last month’s invoice? People are busy, and so often we forget about the issues that aren’t right in front of our faces. If you do one thing today to get paid, let it be this: look at your biggest or most difficult receivable, decide who is the person that can move the ball forward on payment, and then pick up the phone and call that person to see what the real problem is.


“Follow up or fail — It’s cliché but true: the SQUEAKYWHEEL gets the GREASE. ”


If you want to learn more skills and tips about getting paid what you are owed on construction projects, you can receive a free copy of my book, The Subcontractor’s Roadmap to Getting Paid for Extra Work by emailing me at jwyatt@harrisonlawgroup.com.

-Jeremy Wyatt



(410) 832-0000

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