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Superior Court Of Pennsylvania Holds Curb Construction Falls Within The Scope Of CASPA

Construction and Surety Alert | September 16, 2014
By: Jerrold P. Anders and Michael W. Jervis

In Prieto Corp. v. Gambone Construction Co., the Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently considered three issues arising out of a construction dispute, including whether construction of a curb falls within the scope of the Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act (CASPA), 73 P.S. §§ 501-516.  CASPA is a Pennsylvania statute which is intended to protect contractors and subcontractors from abuses in the building industry and which establishes certain rules and deadlines for payments between owners, contractors, and subcontractors.  Failure to abide by the act’s payment requirements subjects an owner or contractor to liability for interest, penalties and attorneys fees.  In this case, Prieto was a subcontractor hired by Gambone to construct concrete or Belgian block curbs at Gambone’s property developments.  Prieto sued Gambone under CASPA for failure to pay its invoices for four projects.  After the trial court entered judgment for Prieto, Gambone appealed, arguing that CASPA did not encompass the work at issue, i.e. the construction of curbs, because curbs did not constitute an improvement to real property.

On appeal the Superior Court upheld the trial court’s verdict, holding that a curb is both a structure and an alteration of real property, and thus falls within the scope of CASPA.  CASPA applies to a “construction contract,” which the statute defines “as an agreement, whether written or oral, to perform work on any real property located within this Commonwealth.”  “Real property,” in turn, is “[r]eal estate that is improved, including lands, leaseholds, tenements and hereditaments, and improvements placed thereon.”  The court also looked to a Commonwealth Court case, Hubbard v. Com. Dept. of Transp., which defined “curb” in the context of determining responsibility for injuries suffered by a pedestrian who fell on a median strip.  Relying on the statute and that case, the Superior Court held that a curb is both a structure and an alteration of real property, and thus a contract for the construction of a curb falls within the scope of CASPA.

The Construction and Surety Practice Group is well versed in real world construction problems such as the one reflected in this case.  Frequently, disputes arise on the job about who should be paid when for what work during the course of a construction project.  If you find yourself in a dispute with another contractor on the job regarding payment issues, please consider contacting us for advice on and how to proceed.  

If you wish to discuss the Prieto case, or would like more information about the Construction and Surety Practice Group,  please contact Jerrold P. Anders (215.864.7003; andersj@whiteandwilliams.com) or Michael W. Jervis (215.864.7042; jervism@whiteandwilliams.com).

This correspondence should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult a lawyer concerning your own situation and legal questions.
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