The Importance of the Contractor’s Daily Report
Ten years ago, when I was a second-year law student, I recall being told by numerous law professors that we’d be living in a paperless world by 2010. While it is true that information continues to be shared, reported, and compiled digitally at an ever-increasing rate, it seems the amount of paperwork required to complete even routine tasks seems on the rise as well. The administrative burden of seemingly endless documentation is undeniable, whether it be done through electronic means or the old fashioned way. With the volume of paperwork we do on a daily basis, it becomes easy to question the utility of the forms, reports, correspondence, logs, and journals we’re constantly generating. But, the Contractor’s Daily Report is oftentimes a critical document for record keeping and litigation purposes.
When clients approach us with a problem, it is very often several months or even years after the construction project at issue has concluded. In that situation, we rely upon several sources of information to collect the critical facts about a particular case or dispute. The most prominent of these are witness interviews and documents.
Witness testimony is obviously critical in any litigation – the witnesses tell the story of the case and convey the important facts to the judge or jury. However, all witness testimony can be scrutinized as to whether the witness is biased or accurately recalls events that transpired long before the testimony is given. Documentation is less prone to these criticisms, and offers attorneys a stronger basis on which we can build our cases.
The Daily Report is of particular value in this regard for several reasons. First, if kept as intended, it captures information the day it happens. This helps to reduce the possibility that information included in the report is inaccurate. Second, it is (usually) not generated in anticipation of litigation, which makes the information contained in the report more credible and less prone to allegations of bias. Third, it is oftentimes the only source of information critical to many construction disputes, including the presence of manpower on the jobsite (or lack thereof), scope of work performed, and weather. This information can be utilized not only by attorneys, but other litigation professionals including scheduling consultants in the event of a delay claim.
Consider how you may decide the following case if you were a jury member in a trial involving a construction dispute. During the trial of the case, two opposing parties – a general contractor and a first-tier subcontractor – each offer two very different and irreconcilable causes for delay on a construction project. The general contractor contends the subcontractor delayed the project, and presents daily reports showing the subcontractor’s work force was understaffed, even on days where weather was not an impediment to the work. The subcontractor offers testimony contending that he had adequate manpower on-site throughout the course of its work, and that the general contractor mismanaged the sequence of the work. However, the subcontractor has little to no documentation supporting these claims. Who are you more likely to believe?
We aren’t yet living in a paperless world, and administrative documentation won’t go away even when we get there. But whether your daily reports are submitted electronically or via hard copy, the investment of time needed to fill them out thoroughly and routinely is one that could pay big dividends down the road.