Louis J. Blum, Partner at Finch, Thornton & Baird

Louis J. Blum, Partner

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Louis J. Blum is a partner in the firm. Mr. Blum practices in the areas of construction law, business and commercial litigation, and insurance coverage. Mr. Blum’s construction practice covers all aspects of public and private construction, from licensing, surety issues, contract review, and bid protests, through negotiation of project close-out, claims, and litigation. Representative claims include extra work, delay and inefficiency, defective work and indemnity, as well as surety bond, stop notice, and lien claims. Mr. Blum represents clients ranging from large general contractors to small local subcontractors. Mr. Blum also assists a variety of businesses with their business and commercial litigation needs, including license disputes, protection of intellectual property, commercial contract claims, and investment fraud claims. In both his construction and business and commercial practices, Mr. Blum works aggressively to bring available insurance to the table, and when necessary, prosecutes insurance-bad-faith claims on behalf of the firm’s clients. In every matter, Mr. Blum draws on significant multi-week trial and arbitration experience to lend perspective to his clients and bring credibility to their negotiations.

Representative experience includes:

  • Obtained a settlement of $7.35 million from a local school district on behalf of a wrongfully terminated general contractor, concurrent with resolution of over $10 million in surety and other creditor claims against the general contractor for less than the settlement amount.
  • Obtained a $7.3 million dollar judgment, on behalf of a general contractor, after a two-week federal jury trial, for claims arising from the contractor’s fraudulently induced acquisition of a construction materials business.
  • Obtained a settlement of approximately $1.5 million from Caltrans, nearly the entire initial claim amount, for a general contractor, for costs arising from unforeseen conditions and delay.
  • Obtained a settlement in excess of $9 million from various contractors and design consultants, on behalf of a municipal owner of an affordable housing development, for damages arising from defective design and construction.
  • Obtained a defense judgment, after bench trial, for defendant general contractor on a claim for prompt payment violations arising from the general contractor’s withholding of funds based on the owner’s prevailing wage audits.
  • Obtained a settlement several times economic damages from a title insurance carrier, on behalf of policy owners wrongfully refused a defense against their neighbor’s claim of easement.
  • Obtained judgment in favor of building owner, after jury trial, for damages caused by faulty grading.

Mr. Blum is admitted to practice before all California state courts and the Central and Southern United States District Courts of California. He is a member of the State Bar of California and the San Diego County Bar Association. He received his juris doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law, where he graduated cum laude and was made a member of the Order of the Coif. Mr. Blum was also a member of the San Diego Law Review and his comment “Mixed Signals: Comparative Analysis in Constitutional Adjudication” was published in Volume 39, in the Winter 2002 edition of the San Diego Law Review. He received CALI (AmJur) awards for the highest achievement in Products Liability and Pre-Trial Practice. Mr. Blum was named a San Diego Rising Star for construction litigation in 2015 as published by Super Lawyers Magazine. Blum received his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Washington University, St. Louis.

Mr. Blum serves on the Board of Directors for the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. He also chairs the Association’s Public and Community Assets subcommittee which focuses on the effective planning, development, operation, and maintenance of our region’s public infrastructure.

Representative Experience

Wrongful Termination Of Prime Contractor (Settlement)

The Firm represented General Contractor in litigation contesting the Owner’s termination of General Contractor for cause on two separate contracts. The Firm demonstrated that the terminations were wrongful, and that delay to the project was not the fault of the general contractor, but instead arose from and was excused by numerous design deficiencies, repeated Owner changes, and Owner mismanagement. The Firm asserted damages based on delay, inefficiency, extra work, and to recoup surety losses. The Firm settled the matter for $7.35 million dollars, while at the same time resolving secured creditor claims of over $10 million dollars out of settlement funds and leaving money in the General Contractor’s pocket. The Owner acknowledged the terminations were not for cause.

Public Works: Dismissal After Demurrer Of General Contractor Claim Versus Subcontractor Performance Bond Surety

The Firm defended a performance bond, obtaining a dismissal of the client after filing a series of demurrers. A large general contractor sued a subcontractor and its performance bond surety alleging defects in work performed by the subcontractor. Subcontractor and general contractor had signed an agreement tolling the ten-year statute of repose, the surety had not. The general contractor argued the surety was bound by the subcontractor’s agreement to toll claim deadlines. The Firm argued the surety was not bound and all claims were barred in two demurrers, leading to dismissal of its surety client before any other litigation or discovery was required.

Dispute Over Enforceability Of “Settlement Agreement” (Arbitration)

The Firm represented an auditing company in a dispute with a software development firm hired to develop software on a cost plus contract with a guaranteed maximum price. After several change orders, the software firm failed to deliver the promised software. The Firm initiated arbitration against the software developer seeking to recoup all funds paid after the initial scoping phase. The software developer defended the claim by arguing the client had released its claims in prior closeout negotiations where certain invoices were settled at a discount. An arbitration hearing was held on the question of settlement and release. After a tentative decision in favor of the client, the case was settled favorably to the client.

Public Works: Prime Earthwork Contractor Claim For Extra Quantities

The Firm represented its client earth work contractor against a public water district in Northern California, in a claim for extra earth work quantities required by the owner’s direction to excavate deeper than indicated on the plans. The client’s field personnel did not clearly document the direction or extra quantities. Working with the client, the Firm was able to calculate and graphically demonstrate the extra work based on post completion borings. The Firm obtained a favorable settlement at mediation, without having to file any litigation.

Public Works: Claim For Delay, Disruption And Extra Work

The Firm sued a large prime contractor and its performance bond sureties on behalf of its subcontractor client after the client was unable to informally negotiate a multi-million dollar claim for delay, disruption, and extra work. After filing suit, the Firm was able to negotiate a favorable and prompt settlement and prompt payment.

Public Works: Prime Contractor Claim Against Caltrans For Changed Conditions, Delay, And Disruption

The Firm represented the prime contractor and one of its subcontractors against Caltrans on a claim for extra costs from delay and disruption caused by rock hardness well in excess of that shown in the soils report. Caltrans refused to entertain any part of the claim or even mediate. After the Firm completed its depositions of Caltrans personnel, Caltrans paid nearly the entire claim amount of close to $1.5 million.

Insurance Coverage: Failure to Defend

After mediation, the Firm obtained a settlement on behalf of its contractor client from the client’s directors and officers insurance carrier for costs arising from the carrier’s failure to provide a defense.

Prompt Payment Dispute (Bench Trial)

The Firm defended General Contractor in a claim by a Subcontractor for violation of California’s prompt payment laws. The General Contractor had withheld funds due to a public works prevailing wage labor compliance audit of the Subcontractor’s payroll and withholding by the project owner. The issue was tried to a judge, where the Firm showed that General Contractor was entitled, as a matter of law, to withhold all funds and could not be liable for breach of contract or prompt payment violations.

Public Works: Defense Against Claims Arising From Damaged Pipeline

The Firm represented its client in claim arising from damage caused to a oil pipeline while the client was constructing public improvements. The Firm first obtained insurance coverage for the client, then defended the claim. The claim was resolved with insurance funds, at a substantial discount from the plaintiff’s actual costs and with no out-of-pocket cost or loss to the client.

Defective Grading Dispute (Jury Trial)

The Firm represented Building Owner against a retaining wall builder, claiming repair cost resulting from subsidence and wall movement. A jury verdict was rendered against the retaining wall builder and in favor of Building Owner.

General Contractor v. County of San Diego

Immediately after award on a hard-bid sewer project, the firm’s general contractor client discovered defects in the plans requiring a significant change order. The general contractor requested the change order prior to executing the contract, which the County refused. As a result of the firm’s efforts, the County released the general contractor from the contract without any consequences to its bid bond.

Arbitration Of Software Agreement

The firm's client contacted with a software developer for a custom, cloud based software application to support the client's business. The developer failed to deliver working software despite the cost doubling from the original contract amount. The firm demanded arbitration on behalf of the client, and the developer defended claiming the client had released all claims as part of a negotiated termination of the development contract. The parties arbitrated the defense of release. After a tentative ruling in favor of the firm's client, the matter was mediated where it settled favorably for the client.

Claim of Copyright Infringement

The firm's construction client was sued for violation of copyright over the use of images on its website. The firm tendered to the client's liability insurance carriers and negotiated with the carrier for settlement of the claim at no expense to the client.

Negotiation of Bid Withdrawal

The firm's client was the successful bidder on a hard bid project for the County of San Diego. After award, the firm's client identified significant discrepancies in the contract documents, adding significant costs. The County denied any cost increase was warranted and directed the firm's client to sign the contract or relinquish its bid bond. After the client requested assistance, the firm intervened and the County agreed to withdrawal of the bid and exoneration of the bid bond.

Claim for Additional Grading Quantities

The firm represented a public works contractor against a water district on a claim for additional grading quantities. The firm put together a detailed analysis of actual quantities based on as-built grades and boring information in order to rebut the district’s inadequate determination of quantities. The claim was settled favorably to the client, at mediation, and before a lawsuit was filed.

Negotiation With Workers’ Compensation Carrier

After a workers’ compensation audit, the firm’s client was charged additional premiums of more than two times the original premium. The firm’s client objected that the carrier had failed to update monthly premiums as requested by the client. Because of budget constraints, the client requested to pay the additional premium in installments. The carrier refused until the firm filed suit on the client’s behalf. After suit was filed, the carrier agreed to accept payment for the additional premium in installments acceptable to the client. The client ultimately was not required to pay the premium off until more than two years after the audit.

Federal Design Build Contractor v. Structural Engineer

The Firm represented plaintiff design/build contractor in a dispute with defendant civil engineer after the Department of the Navy required plaintiff to perform structural repairs to several portions of a temporary lodging facility at Camp Pendleton. The Firm sued the defendant engineer, alleging that defendant breached its contract with the plaintiff and fell below the standard of care when it failed to design several portions of the project in accordance with the Navy’s requirements. The parties reached a settlement before any discovery or motion work was required.

Trade Contractor v. Thomas Jefferson School of Law

The firm represented plaintiff subcontractor who installed a glass and glazing system at defendant’s new law school campus facility in downtown San Diego. After defendant refused to pay more than a fraction of the contract balance, the firm sued for breach of contract, reasonable value of services, and for violation of California’s prompt-payment statutes. The firm quickly negotiated a settlement which resulted in payment of plaintiff’s contract balance, plus interest and attorneys’ fees.

Represent Wall Contractor In Claim Against Developer

The Firm represented a retaining wall subcontractor in a dispute with the developer of a private residential development. After demanding arbitration, the Firm negotiated a favorable settlement payment to the client.

Fraudulent Solicitation Of Investment In Construction Business (Jury Trial)

The Firm represented General Contractor against a former business partner who fraudulently induced General Contractor’s investment in and eventual purchase of a construction manufacturing business. A jury trial resulted in a $7.3 million dollar judgment in favor of the Firm’s client.

Defense Of Claims For Breach Of Commercial Lease, Conversion, And Alter Ego

The Firm represented defendant general contractor, its president, and affiliated entities in an action for breach of lease, property damage, alter ego and related claims. The plaintiff asserted damages in excess of $4 million. The Firm secured insurance coverage for the defendants and after a one-day mediation, the matter settled for a nominal payment by defendants.

Representation Of Plaintiff Property Owner In Claim For Property Damage From Altered Runoff

The Firm represented plaintiff homeowners whose property became inundated with muddy runoff from an adjacent construction project. The Firm sued the developers of the adjacent property for trespass and nuisance on the theory that construction of a luxury housing development permanently altered the natural pattern of surface water drainage onto plaintiffs’ property. The runoff resulted in pollution of plaintiffs’ pond and other property damage, as well as loss of enjoyment of the property. The developer filed a cross-complaint against the general contractor and subcontractors who performed work on the project. The parties reached a settlement which compensated plaintiffs for out-of-pocket repair costs, attorneys’ fees, past and future stress, and required the developer to install drainage improvements to prevent future unacceptable run-off problems.

Coverage Counsel On Large Construction Defect Claim

The firm represented a curtain wall contractor as corporate and coverage counsel in a claim by a public owner. The firm negotiated with the owner and with the client’s carriers over hotly contested liability and coverage issues resulting in settlement of the claims against the firm’s client with no out-of-pocket payment by the client and reimbursement to the client of the firm’s post-insurance-tender defense costs.

Arbitration Of Federal Miller Act Claim

The Firm represented the retaining wall subcontractor in a Miller Act payment bond claim against the general contractor. The subcontractor and general contractor agreed to arbitration. After the arbitration hearing, the Firm’s client was awarded its full claim plus attorneys’ fees.

Representation Of Plaintiff In Construction Defect Trial

The firm represented plaintiff commercial building owner in a dispute regarding damage to plaintiff’s office building in Orange County. The firm sued the prime contractor, grading contractor, retaining wall contractor, and others for construction defects relating to soils settlement. The defendants alleged they did not cause the damage. A five day jury trial resulted in a verdict in favor of the firm’s client. A settlement was reached after the firm succeeded in defeating defendant’s post-trial motions for a new trial and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

Property Owner v. Title Insurer

The firm represented plaintiff homeowners who obtained a policy of title insurance from the defendant. The plaintiffs had previously been sued by the owner of an adjacent property who alleged that an abandoned trail which traversed plaintiffs’ property was in fact a public right of way. The firm sued the insurer for breach of contract and insurance bad faith after the insurer refused to defend the plaintiffs in response to the adjacent owner’s lawsuit. After the firm defeated the insurer’s motion for summary judgment, and shortly before a jury trial with punitive damages at risk, the parties reached a confidential settlement.

Federal Miller Act Claim For Inefficiency And Extra Work On Border Fence Construction

The Firm represented the plaintiff in a dispute regarding payment for extra work performed as a subcontractor on three U.S.-Mexico border fence projects for Kiewit, the general contractor. During the course of litigation, Kiewit moved for summary judgment on the grounds Foundation Fence’s claims were subject to a mandatory pass-through and liquidation provision in the subcontract. To defeat the motion, the Firm successfully argued the pass-through and liquidation provision was an unenforceable waiver of Miller Act payment bond rights. The parties reached a negotiated settlement after the Firm defeated the motion.

Represent Plaintiff City Of Indian Wells In Large Construction Defect Claim

The Firm initiated a multi-party construction defect action on behalf of the City of Indian Wells as owner of a multi-unit affordable senior housing complex. The Firm sued the prime grading contractor, prime building contractor, their performance bond sureties, the architect, soils engineer, and others for damages for construction defects relating to soils settlement. The defendants each alleged they did not cause the damage, the deeper soils issues were the cause of settlement, and that the City’s damages were not as extensive as claimed. The Firm defeated a motion for summary judgment by the prime grading contractor’s performance bond surety contending the damages and claim occurred in excess of one year from completion. After more than a year of litigation, the Firm recovered $9,129,725.00 for its client via settlement.

Defense Verdict On Interference With Contract Claim

The Firm tried an eight day bench trial on its complaint against client seeking $90 million, plus punitive damages, resulting in complete defense judgment in favor of the Firm’s contractor client. Plaintiff’s last pre-trial offer was to accept payment of $15 million.

Dispute Over Pricing Incomplete Plans (Jury Trial)

The Firm represented General Contractor in litigation contesting the Owner’s termination of General Contractor for cause based on Owner’s contention the General Contractor refused to perform the work for the agreed Guaranteed Maximum Price. General Contractor and Owner had entered a GMP contract based on incomplete design documents. The contract provided General Contractor would re-price the work when design documents were complete. Development of the design increased construction costs significantly, but Owner refused to approve any increase to the GMP unless General Contractor “proved” the work was extra over what was shown in the contract documents. Owner terminated General Contractor. The case was tried to a jury which determined the Owner breached the contract. General Contractor recovered for work performed and obtained a declaration that the termination was wrongful.

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.

Settlement Of Wrongful Termination Of Retaining Wall Subcontractor

The firm represented a retaining wall subcontractor in a dispute over wrongful termination of the subcontractor’s contract. Subcontractor sought payment for work performed. The grading contractor defendant claimed completion costs. Before any litigation was required, the firm negotiated a settlement resulting in a substantial payment to the firm’s client.


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.

Latest Trends for Recovery of Lost Productivity and Delay Claims

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