Although the construction industry was generally exempted from Governor Jim Justice’s March 23, 2020 Order directing all non-essential businesses to temporarily close due to COVID-19, the pandemic will nevertheless have a significant effect on the industry, particularly as other West Virginia businesses begin to reopen.
Construction companies throughout West Virginia can expect to experience these changes sooner rather than later, because on Monday, April 27, 2020, Governor Justice announced his plan to reopen the state, a plan dubbed “West Virginia Strong: The Comeback,” available here. The Comeback outlines a multi-week plan that will reopen businesses in three progressive phases, with outpatient health facilities such as physical therapy and dentistry opening in phase one, smaller businesses that generally comprise a limited gathering of people in phase two, and more heavily populated businesses such as hotels, dine-in restaurants, and recreational gyms in phase three.
Notably, Governor Justice’s plan calls for various safety and social distancing measures that are designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and these safety measures will impact all businesses, including construction. As construction companies begin to adjust to this “new normal,” they will need to implement policies to comply with guidance procedures as well as newly enacted rules and regulations that eventually become legal requirements. Construction companies will also likely encounter increased enforcement from state and federal agencies, and increased civil claims due to project delays, increased material and labor costs, and labor shortages. Finally, construction companies can expect increased scrutiny and negotiations over certain contractual provisions, particularly those relating to force majeure, unforeseen circumstances, and completion deadlines.
Steptoe & Johnson’s Construction Team is well-equipped to assist all construction related entities—including owners, general contractors, and subcontractors—that are facing issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our attorneys handle claims relating to project delays, increased material costs, increased labor costs, and labor shortages. We also routinely draft and interpret contract language dealing with undue delay, force majeure, and other business interruption issues. Finally, we collaborate with our safety attorneys to assure OSHA and regulatory compliance, our employment attorneys to assist with workforce management, and our corporate attorneys to assist with company organizational issues. Our team based approach will become increasingly beneficial for businesses dealing not only with the immediate fallout of the pandemic, but also with the ever-evolving reopening process in the wake of COVID-19. For more information on our Construction Team, click here.