Undoubtedly you have heard about the Pennsylvania Governor’s March 19th declaration prohibiting the operation of a non-life sustaining place of business.  Unfortunately this includes the shutting down construction of buildings, heavy and civil engineering construction as well as all specialty trade contractors.   It also includes the shuttering of architectural and engineering firms.  Interestingly, it does not shut down manufacturing of many building products such as steel and concrete or the related transportation of such products.  While we are not in position to question the rational between the entities that may continue to do business and those that cannot, it does prove to be very problematic for the construction industry as a whole.

Enforcement of the prohibition will commence on March 21, 2020 and remains in effect until further notice.  Enforcement could mean fines, penalties, loss of licensure and a litany of other potential impacts.

Some interesting items to consider are that while construction is specifically listed as a prohibited business operation, the declaration does not go into detail of whether this covers renovation or repairs particularly to those industries that are allowed to remain open.  For example, there may be an argument that an emergency repair for a healthcare provider or utility provider (which are allowed to remain open) is an allowable activity to be perform by a contractor.

In addition, the PA Department of Community and Economic Development has been tasked with administering potential waivers and/or exemptions to the business closure declaration.  The waivers are submitted by e-mail and request the applicant to explain how they fall into the definition of life-sustaining business, their business plan to meet CDC guidelines, and the number of employees who will be at the business location.

Understand that these matters are extremely fluid and subject to change.  If you have any specific questions or need assistance as to your business operations or filing for an exemption, please e-mail the attorneys at Maiello, Brungo & Maiello for specific information.

Steven P. Engel

As a trial lawyer and litigator for 30 years, Steven Engel has prosecuted and defended hundreds of lawsuits. His area of specialization is in Construction Law and works with contractors, subcontractors, design professionals, and owners in construction-related matters. Engel is the Director of MBM’s Litigation Department.