Jeffrey B. Baird, Partner at Finch, Thornton & Baird

Jeffrey B. Baird, Partner

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Jeffrey B. Baird is a partner in the firm. Since 1998, he has represented public and private works contractors in transactional and litigation matters. His practice focuses on construction law, with significant experience in public works of improvement and government contracts, including projects with local public agencies, cities, counties, state agencies and federal government. Mr. Baird’s litigation practice has a primary emphasis on delay, inefficiency and extra work claims. Mr. Baird’s practice also includes local, state and federal bid protests; bid enforcement; contract defaults; surety obligations; mechanic’s liens; stop payment notices; payment bond claims; performance bond claims; requests for equitable adjustments; Contract Disputes Act claims; Miller Act claims; and general business litigation. Mr. Baird has resolved several multi-million dollar extra work, delay and inefficiency claims on significant construction projects. Mr. Baird also has significant experience working with schedule, design and accounting experts on construction claims. Mr. Baird also handles transactional matters specializing in the drafting and review of construction project agreements and public procurement compliance. Mr. Baird also counsels clients on specialized delivery methods, including lease-leaseback and construction management at-risk projects.

Mr. Baird is admitted to practice before all California state courts and the United States District Courts for the Southern, Eastern, Central, and Northern Districts of California and the Federal Court of Claims. Mr. Baird has also practiced before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. Mr. Baird is a member of the State Bar of California and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Baird is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of San Diego School of Law. Mr. Baird was named a San Diego Super Lawyer for construction in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017; a Top 10 San Diego Construction and Real Estate Law attorney in 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2013; and awarded San Diego Business Journal’s Best of the Bar honors in 2016.

Representative Experience

Extra Work Claims – Subcontractor v. General Contractor

While working on a large community park project for a Southern California city, the firm’s subcontractor client encountered multiple unforeseen conditions and was directed by the project’s general contractor to perform significant extra work and change work. When the general contractor refused to pay for the extra work, the firm sued the general contractor and the city. The general contractor initially refused to discuss a reasonable settlement. However, pressure from the firm’s written discovery and substantiation of the client’s claims produced the desired effect. Prior to costly depositions—and well short of trial—the firm obtained a favorable settlement for the client.

Defense of Federal Miller Act Claim

The firm’s client was the prime contractor on a federal design-build construction project on a military base in Northern California. The project plumbing and HVAC subcontractor submitted inflated billings for work on the project and claimed additional costs relating to delays and labor inefficiencies. The design-builder denied the subcontractor’s claim and the subcontractor demanded arbitration for approximately $1.9 million against the firm’s client and the client’s Miller Act surety. The firm represented the design-builder and the surety. After limited discovery, the firm worked closely with the contractor to investigate and analyze the subcontractor’s claims relating to delays and inefficiencies and refuted them in a comprehensive presentation during mediation. As a result of the firm’s efforts, the subcontractor realized the inflated nature of its claims and agreed to settle the action for barely a third of its original demand.

Defense of Civil Wage and Penalty Assessment By The California Labor Commissioner

The firm’s subcontractor client was served with a Civil Wage and Penalty Assessment by the California DLSE relating to a lower-tier subcontractor’s work at the San Diego Airport. The assessment included potential liability of over $100,000, for alleged unpaid prevailing wages, substantial Labor Code penalties, liquidated damages and interest. The firm successfully asserted the innocent general contractor “safe harbor” defense under the California Labor Code and was able to convince the DLSE to not assess any penalties against the firm’s client. The firm’s efforts saved our client significant costs as well as minimized its labor history for future public work prequalifications.

General Contractor v. Public Owner

The firm’s client was the general contractor on a local public works project. The general contractor contended the project was delayed and disrupted by the public owner, the project architect and the project’s construction manager. The general contractor claimed that the public owner’s sole source specifications were illegal and caused the delays to the project. The public owner claimed liquidated damages and that certain work items were either improperly or insufficiently completed and sought approximately $500,000 from the general contractor. The firm represented the contractor in settlement conferences and mediation. As a result of the firm’s efforts, the public owner released its claims against the contractor for liquidated damages and backcharges and agreed to pay the contractor $675,000 to resolve the claims. The firm’s knowledge of legal limitations on public works specifications, and project delay and extra work claims allowed the general contractor to succeed in its claims without a lawsuit against the public owner, allowing the contractor to minimize its claims history.

Litigation Of General Contractor Mechanic’s Liens Against Commercial Project Owner

The firm represented a general contractor relating to a construction of a charter school in San Diego, California. After failing to be fully paid, the general contractor turned to our firm for assistance. We assisted in recording a mechanic’s lien against the property and filed a lawsuit against the charter school and the property owner for approximately $136,000. Upon the recording of the lien and filing a lawsuit, the school went out of business and the firm successfully negotiated settlement with the property owner. The firm’s client received full payment in the matter.

General Contractor v. City of San Diego

The firm’s client was the general contractor for the construction of a City of San Diego lifeguard tower. The general contractor contended the project was delayed and disrupted by City’s management of the Project and the project plans. The City claimed liquidated damages of $107,000 and approximately $20,000 in backcharges from the general contractor. The firm represented the contractor in settlement conferences and mediation. As a result of the firm’s efforts, the City released all claims against the contractor for liquidated damages and backcharges and agreed to pay the contractor over $250,000 to resolve the contractor’s claims for additional work and delays.

Bid Protest – San Diego Unified

The firm’s client was the low bidder for a San Diego Unified School District contract. The client had inadvertently failed to provide the correct license number for one of its listed subcontractors. The client provided the District with the correct number within 24 hours. However, the District found the client’s bid non-responsive and rejected it. The firm protested the District’s rejection based on California law that allows contractors to remedy such bid errors within 24 hours. Through the firm’s knowledge of bidding laws and persuasion, the District accepted the firm’s protest and rescinded its rejection of the client’s bid. The firm’s client was then awarded the $3 million project.

Real Estate – Land Buyer v. Land Seller

The firm represented the purchaser of an automotive related property against the seller for costs related to remediation of hazardous materials found on the site during construction. The firm prepared and presented the claim to the uninsured seller and obtained a full recovery.

General Contractor v. Public Owner

The firm’s client was the general contractor on a local public works project. The general contractor contended the project was delayed and disrupted by the public owner and its construction manager. The public owner claimed liquidated damages and that certain work items were either improperly or insufficiently completed and withheld approximately $2.2 million owed to the general contractor. The firm represented the contractor in multiple settlement conferences, site inspections and mediation. The firm worked closely with the contractor to investigate and analyze each of the public owner’s claims and refuted them in a comprehensive presentation to the public agency’s representatives. As a result of the firm’s efforts, the public owner released the withheld amounts and executed an additional $1.2 million change order to compensate the general contractor for its delay, extra work, and disruption costs. The firm’s knowledge of delay and extra work claims allowed the general contractor to succeed in its claims without a lawsuit against the public owner, allowing the contractor to minimize its claims history.

General Contractor v. Subcontractor

The firm successfully brought a lawsuit by a general contractor against a subcontractor. The subcontractor quit work on a construction project because of a dispute over payment and scope with the general contractor. The general contractor’s lawsuit sought damages for delays to the project and extra costs to supplement the subcontractor’s work. The subcontractor brought a cross-complaint against the general contractor for alleged damages resulting from a payment dispute on a separate construction project. Because of the firm’s knowledge of construction delays and project requirements, the firm successfully negotiated a settlement with the subcontractor with the general contractor receiving installment payments of least $300,000. Additionally, the subcontractor agreed to dismiss its cross-complaint with prejudice with no liability or amount owed by the firm’s client or surety.

General Contractor v. Subcontractor  

The firm successfully defended a general contractor and its surety against a lawsuit from a mechanical subcontractor. The subcontractor quit work on a construction project because of a dispute over payment with the general contractor. The subcontractor’s lawsuit sought approximately $200,000 plus attorneys’ fees for alleged contract and extra work. The firm brought a cross-complaint on behalf of the general contractor against the subcontractor for damages resulting from the subcontractor’s failure to complete its work on the construction project. Early in litigation, the firm successfully obtained a writ of attachment against the subcontractor for its completion costs, which required the subcontractor to turn over the amount to the County Sheriff until the lawsuit was resolved. Additionally, the firm brought a motion for summary judgment against the subcontractor seeking to dismiss all of the subcontractor’s claims against the general contractor and surety and to award the general contractor damages against the subcontract. The court tentatively granted the firm’s motion for summary judgment. Prior to the motion for summary judgment being officially ruled upon, the subcontractor agreed to dismiss its lawsuit with prejudice with no liability or amount owed by the firm’s client or surety.

Wage and Hour Class Action v. Contractor

The firm defended a contractor against a class action lawsuit based on alleged violations of wage and hour and prevailing wage laws. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of over 400 current and former employees. An object of the litigation was to force the contractor to sign a union contract. The lawsuit sought over $5 million in damages plus attorneys’ fees and Labor Code penalties. The firm successfully removed the lawsuit from state court to federal court, limited initial discovery, and successfully defended the plaintiffs’ attempts to remand the lawsuit to state court. To avoid costly depositions, a class certification motion, other discovery, and trial, the firm participated early in conferences with a federal magistrate judge. By addressing the issues and claims early in the litigation, the firm successfully defended the contractor from labor organization efforts and obtained a settlement agreement from plaintiffs including full releases of all claims for the prior four years. The firm provided an efficient and quick resolution of the complex matter, saving the client time and money.

Client v. Family Member – Real Estate Dispute

The firm’s client owned a property that was initially titled as a joint tenancy between the client, the client’s spouse, and another family member. Disputes between the parties led to litigation that culminated in a verbal agreement on the record for the property to remain in joint tenancy, but the family member was only to have a right of first refusal to purchase the property at a discounted price. Years later, after the client’s spouse passed away, the client retained the firm to assist the client with the sale of the property. The family member refused to exercise their right of first refusal, yet also refused to deed over their interest in the property, contending they were a fifty percent title owner of the property because the client’s spouse passed away. The firm filed an action for specific enforcement of the verbal agreement, breach of contract, quiet title, and partition of the property. After a negotiated settlement, the firm’s client obtained full title to the property without the family member receiving an interest in the property.

Brewer Corporation dba Brewer Crane & Rigging v. TM Structural, Inc.; and Division 8, Inc. v. Mi Arbolito San Diego Superior Court Case No. 37-2007-00074230

The firm represented two clients, Brewer Crane & Rigging Company and Division 8, Inc. with claims for payment on a private 14 unit luxury condominium project in San Diego, California. Despite an insolvent developer, the firm recovered judgment against a private-money lender on bonded stop notices claims for the principal amount of nearly $275,000.00, as well as pre-judgment interest, bond premiums, attorneys’ fees and costs. The case concerned a $13.5 million construction loan which the defendant lender ceased funding as the project property value fell to less than that amount, and claimed it was not a construction lender for purposes of stop notice claims. Ultimately the owner went through bankruptcy and a senior lender foreclosed, thereby preventing either our clients or the defendant lender from recovering anything through their liens against the real property. The firm successfully argued that all of the construction loan funds not used to pay construction costs, including points, interest, fees, etc., whether paid to the defendant lender, paid to its participating investor/lenders, or as reimbursement for transaction costs, had to be disgorged for the benefit of the bonded stop notice claimants.

MHS Customer Services, Inc. v. South Central Valley Mortgage Services, Inc. San Diego Superior Court Case No. 37-2011-00084104-CU-BC-CTL

The firm’s client performed property inspection and preservation services for SCVMS throughout Southern California. Disputes arose over the non-payment or underpayment of more than 400 work orders performed by the firm’s client. Upon the firm’s initial demand, SCVMS was only willing to compensate the firm’s client for approximately fifteen percent of the total amount in dispute. The firm eventually filed a lawsuit on behalf of its client for breach of contract, reasonable value, and open book account. At mediation, the parties reached a negotiated settlement in which the firm’s client obtained payment for the entire principal amount it disputed.

Architectural Aluminum Window Systems, Inc. v. Dick Pacific Construction Co., Ltd. Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals No. 57172; United States District Court, District of Hawaii Civil No. 07-00603 DAE LEK

The firm’s client was a window subcontractor on a federal project at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. As one of the first federal projects to be bid in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, disputes arose over who was responsible for the enhanced blast requirements. Upon completion of its work, the firm’s client pursued change order and contract balance claims against the general contractor and the Army. After reserving its client’s Miller Act claim, the firm pursued a certified pass-through claim to the Army. Approximately fifty percent of the certified claim was paid after the parties engaged in informal discussions. The remainder of the certified claim was denied and the firm then appealed the contracting officer’s decision to the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. Under ASBCA guidelines, the parties engaged in mediation and the firm’s client reached a negotiated settlement with the Army on the appealed claims. The firm’s client subsequently reached a negotiated settlement with the general contractor on the contract balance.

Dhando Investments, Inc. v. Staley, Inc. Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. KC058493

The firm's client was an Arkansas corporation that was sued in Los Angeles for various business torts that allegedly occurred in Arkansas. The firm successfully obtained a dismissal of the lawsuit by establishing that its client was not subject to California's jurisdiction because of its limited contacts to California and the foreign nature of the plaintiff's claims. The lawsuit was dismissed at little cost and inconvenience to the firm's client. The litigation has not been pursued by the plaintiff in a different jurisdiction.

Echo Pacific Construction, Inc. v. Prism Designs & Services, Inc. San Diego Superior Court Case No. 37-2010-00052793-CU-PA-NC

The dispute involved installation of casework at a local school district. After terminating the casework subcontractor, the subcontractor sought $61,650.00 plus attorneys’ fees for alleged project acceleration and nonpayment. The firm represented the general contractor and was successful in compelling the claim to arbitration. Prior to arbitration, the firm successfully negotiated a settlement agreement with no liability or amount owed by the firm’s client.

The Weitz Company I, Inc. v. Brethren Hillcrest Homes

The firm's client was the general contractor charged with expanding and renovating a large retirement community. The project was delayed for more than one year. The parties disputed liability for the delay. The owner sought over $1.5 million in liquidated damages from the general contractor. A five day arbitration resulted in the firm successfully defending the owner's delay claims and the litigation resulted in a net recovery for the firm's client.

Oakwood Remodeling & Construction, Inc. v. Symmetry Cabinet Company American Arbitration Association Case No. 73 110 E 00472 04 CHPA

Arbitration regarding private work of improvement resulting in judgment in favor of firm's contractor client on complaint, and zero recovery on cross-complaint by subcontractor opponent.

Judgment For Subcontractor In Claim For Extra Work Against General Contractor

The Firm tried a seven day bench trial regarding private work of improvement resulting in judgment in favor of the Firm’s subcontractor client on complaint, and zero recovery on cross-complaint by general contractor opponent.

Seminars

How To Prove And Recover Your Losses – Change Orders And Claims – Costing And Management

November 16, 2016: Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird. Find out more here.

Project Management Mistakes and How to Avoid Them (Performance and Closeout)

August 17, 2016: Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird and Daniel P. Scholz. Find out more here.

Project Management Mistakes and How To Avoid Them (Contracts)

July 20, 2016: Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird and . Find out more here.

Construction Project Management Best Practices - A Legal Perspective

March 8, 2016: Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird, David W. Smiley, and Christopher R. Sillari. This lunch and learn workshop will help you to identify common risks and disputes on a construction project. Discuss strategies for handling disputes and claims, including use of contract provisions and management methods. Review other risk mitigation and dispute avoidance tools. Understand issues common to both General Contractors and Subcontractors on a construction project. Learning objectives:

  • Identify common risks and potential disputes on a construction project
  • Identify important contract provisions for disputes and claims, and risk mitigation tools
  • Understand common traps from the perspective of a General Contractor and Subcontractor
  • Learn dispute management skills

Target Audience: Risk Managers, Project Managers, Contract Administrators and In-House Counsel. Find out more here.

Contract/Subcontract Review Strategies

May 6, 2015: Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird and Christopher R. Sillari. Learn to identify the most important clauses to be negotiated, strategies to deal with contract clauses commonly used in construction contracts and understand common traps from the perspective of the General Contractor and Subcontractor. Register online here.

Contract Negotiation Best Practices

March 18, 2015: We invite you to join attorneys Jeffrey B. Baird and David W. Smiley of FTBLaw and Anne Wright and Cyndi Beilman of SASC for a complimentary and informative lunch and learn workshop on Contract Negotiation Best Practices. Highlights will include: Commonly Litigated Provisions, Strategies for Negotiation, Recommendations for Specific Contract Clauses, Indemnity and Insurance Overview, and Surety Relationships and Bonding.

Latest Trends for Recovery of Lost Productivity and Delay Claims

December 10, 2014: Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird and Louis J. Blum. Upon completion of this course, you will be able to identify causes and delays, which create entitlement to compensation, properly provide notice for time extensions and costs, properly track delays and related costs, and be able to properly submit a delay claim.

Contract/Subcontract Review Strategies

November 19, 2014: Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird and Christopher R. Sillari. Learn to identify most important clauses to be negotiated, strategies to deal with contract clauses commonly used in construction contracts and understand common traps from the perspective of the General Contractor and Subcontractor.

Latest Trends for Recovery of Lost Productivity and Delay Claims

April 8, 2014: Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird and Louis J. Blum.

Contract/Subcontract Review Protocol Best Practices

February 11, 2014: Identify most important clauses to be negotiated, identify strategies to deal with contract clauses commonly used in construction contracts and understand common traps from the perspective of the general contractor and subcontractor. Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird and Christopher R. Sillari.

Indemnity & Defense Obligations in Construction Contracts: The Impact of SB474

August 16, 2013: Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird.

Indemnity Workshop – Avoid the Legal and Insurance Coverage Mess

July 16, 2013: Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird.

Proving and Defending Construction Delay Claims

August 25, 2011: presented by Jeffrey B. Baird and Matt Becica (Criterium Consulting Group). Find out more here.

An Overview of Construction Project Documents and Plans in California

March 31, 2006: Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird for Lorman Education Services.

Public Contract Code & Competitive Public Bidding in California

January 20, 2005: Presented by Jeffrey B. Baird for Lorman Education Services.

The Little Red School House: Alternatives to Hard Bid Construction in California

February 2, 2004: Presented by P. Randolph Finch Jr. and Jeffrey B. Baird for Lorman Education Services.