Dennis C. Cavanaugh

Partner

  • Overview

    Biography

    Dennis Cavanaugh, a partner at Robinson+Cole, is a current member and past chair of the firm’s Construction Group, and he focuses his practice on construction and surety law, including transactional work and litigation. He has over 35 years of experience handling complex construction matters involving contract procurement, negotiation, financing, and commercial-related dispute resolution and litigation.

    Contract Procurement and Project Delivery

    Mr. Cavanaugh reviews, drafts, and negotiates design, construction, and project management related contracts on behalf of his clients. He counsels public and private building owners, tenants, lenders, building contractors, design professionals, subcontractors, and sureties. He has extensive experience with a variety of building delivery methods, from design-bid-build to integrated project delivery. Among the many transactions that Mr. Cavanaugh has handled, he provided representation for a public-private partnership to redevelop, operate and maintain state highway service plazas, which resulted in a 35 year agreement. He represented a contractor partner involved in the construction of a new toll bridge over the Elizabeth River in Virginia. He regularly represents municipalities and other governmental authorities pursuing construction projects, whether it is a new school or a new public safety headquarters.

    Dispute Resolution

    When a dispute arises during a construction project, such as a disagreement over performance or the timeline, Mr. Cavanaugh is experienced at resolving issues through alternate dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration. Mr. Cavanaugh is also a successful litigator, with experience in state and federal courts and before administrative tribunals. Mr. Cavanaugh has gotten results for his clients. He secured a significant trial decision against a state agency for the increased costs associated with a multi-year delay in completing a roadway reconstruction and bridge replacement project. Mr. Cavanaugh also successfully defended a municipality against a contractor’s lawsuit, which sought damages for delay in the construction of a wastewater pumping station, and he obtained judgment for liquidated damages against the contractor.

    Mr. Cavanaugh has lectured and authored articles on a variety of construction and suretyship topics. He also is a regular contributor to the firm’s blog on construction related matters, Construction Law Zone.

    Mr. Cavanaugh has been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America© in the areas of Construction Law and Litigation - Construction since 2011. He is a Fellow in the Construction Lawyers Society of America, an invitation-only construction lawyer honorary society with membership limited to 1,200 practicing Fellows from the United States and internationally. 

  • Experience
    • Experience

      Experience

        Contract Procurement and Project Delivery

      • Representation of a public-private partnership with the State of Connecticut to redevelop, operate, and maintain Connecticut’s 23 highway service plazas. The 35-year agreement was the result of extended negotiations with the state Department of Transportation. The service plaza overhauls will also include "green" initiatives to bring the facilities up to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, improve water runoff patterns, and install idle-reduction technology for use by trucks on the Connecticut Turnpike, also known as Interstate 95. Including projected revenues, initial construction, and reinvestments, the benefit to the State of Connecticut is estimated to be almost $500 million over the term of the agreement.

      • Oversaw the administration of payment and performance bond claims for the construction of military housing projects throughout the country, financed via a public-private partnership (PPP) between the United States Air Force and a private developer. Represented the surety concerning demands against each of the performance bonds from secondary obligees, resulting in a potential additional exposure of up to $50 million. Negotiated on behalf of the client with the developer/principal, multiple financing entities, and the Air Force to transfer control of all projects to a new developer, through which the surety received a full release of all performance bond liability. *

      • Representation of the contractor partner in a public-private partnership responsible for the construction of the new South Norfolk Jordan Bridge, a 5,375-foot-long, two-lane, fixed-span, high-rise toll bridge over the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake, Virginia, providing navigational clearances of 145 vertical feet and 270 horizontal feet. The new bridge replaced and privatized an 80-year-old drawbridge.

      • Representation of a Connecticut municipality in contract procurement and negotiations associated with the renovation of several school complexes under a construction manager building delivery system.

      • Representation of the City of Stamford in the procurement, preparation and negotiation of the design and construction contracts for the renovation of six buildings and a new addition on an existing campus for the New Interdistrict Elementary Magnet School Extension to the Rogers 1B Interdistrict Magnet School Program located on Strawberry Hill Avenue, in Stamford, Connecticut.

      • Representation of the City of Stamford in the procurement, preparation and negotiation of the design and construction contracts which involved the deconstruction, relocation, and reconstruction of a historical structure for a new Police Headquarters, including all required offices, administration, labs, public areas, jail cells and other required spaces for the Stamford Police Department to operate effectively and safely.

      • Representation of a surety engaged in the completion of several heavy/highway projects in Massachusetts and Connecticut with an aggregate value of over $55 million. Negotiation of takeover agreements with public owners, completion agreements with successor contractors, and subcontractor ratification agreements. Preparation, presentation, litigation, and negotiation of affirmative claims on behalf of the surety.

      • Representation of the City of Stamford in procuring, preparing, and negotiating the design contracts that involved the deconstruction, relocation, and reconstruction of a historical structure for a new police headquarters, including all required offices, administrative areas, labs, public areas, jail cells, and other required spaces for the Stamford Police Department to operate effectively and safely.

      • Representation of the City of Stamford in procuring, preparing, and negotiating the design and construction contracts for the renovation of six buildings and a new addition on an existing campus for the New Interdistrict Elementary Magnet School Extension to the Rogers 1B Interdistrict Magnet School Program on Strawberry Hill Avenue in Stamford, Connecticut. 

      • Dispute Resolution

      • Pioneered civil rights action against a municipality, following enforcement of agency requirement concerning disposal of industrial waste. *

      • Dual representation of mechanical trade contractor and its sheet metal subcontractor in the prosecution of a $1.9 million claim seeking compensation for delays, inefficiencies, additional field and shop labor, and sheet metal poundage against construction manager and project designer where project completion time was extended as a result of scheduling, coordination, and deficient and defective bid documents. Case settled following two-day mediation in favor of clients after limited discovery in litigation.

      • Representation of a Connecticut municipality in a trial to defend a claim by a general contractor in excess of $1 million related to the construction of a wastewater pump station.

      • Representation of the plaintiff, a supplier, a subcontractor, and a specialty contractor for commercial and industrial building construction and renovation in a breach of contract action. *

      • Representation of the plaintiff, a fire protection and mechanical building systems contractor, in an action brought against the city to recover damages for breach of contract after the plaintiff made improvements to the the city's sewage disposal system. *

      • Representation of a surety alleging liability under performance bond in a case in which the general contractor alleged breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and violations of CUTPA against the subcontractor. *

      • Successfully represented a contractor in litigation that upheld constitutionality of Connecticut's mechanic's lien law. *

      • Secured a significant trial ruling against a state agency responsible for the repair, maintenance, and construction of public highways and bridges, for the increased costs of a 749-day delay in completing a roadway reconstruction and bridge replacement project. The decision presents important legal authority regarding the liability of a public owner for causing work delays.

      • Successfully defended a municipality in a lawsuit brought by a contractor for damages for delay and obtained judgment against the contractor for liquidated damages incurred prior to the termination of the parties' contract for convenience. On appeal, the Connecticut Supreme Court unanimously held that under the language used in the parties' contract, the owner retained the right to recover liquidated damages for project delays incurred prior to the termination of the contract. The Court also rejected the contractor's claim that the municipality could not collect liquidated damages because it was at least partially at fault for the delays in completing the project, clarifying that, if a contract provides a procedure for extending the contract's termination date, due to delays not caused by the contractor, then collection of liquidated damages is not strictly abrogated under Connecticut law.

      • Representation of a contractor and surety with respect to dispute involving restrictions imposed by CSX railroad regarding demolition of a state-owned bridge crossing CSX tracks.

      • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of a surety client under a performance bond on the basis that the bond obligee failed to provide notice of default in accordance with the requirements of the construction contract, the surety bond, and existing case law; in doing so, the District Court also dismissed a bad faith claim against the surety. *

      • Representation of a construction surety and obtained a summary judgment ruling against the bond principal and indemnitors, defeating claims of bad faith and obtaining judgment for all of client’s losses, costs, and expenses pursuant to the General Agreement of Indemnity. Action was pending in the Connecticut Complex Litigation Docket. *

      • Obtained decision confirming a surety's right to arbitrate claims against the owner through rights reserved in the takeover agreement. *

      • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of a surety client, defeating bond principal and indemnitor's claims for bad faith, and in favor of surety as to substantial claims for indemnity under surety’s agreement of indemnity. *

      • Representation of the owner of a high-end home in multimillion-dollar claims against the project architect, HVAC designer/installer, window installer, and window manufacturer with respect to defective design and specification of windows and HVAC systems.

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      * Atty. Cavanaugh was counsel in these representative matters before joining Robinson+Cole.
    • Professional Associations

      Professional Associations

      American Arbitration Association
      Commercial Panel of Neutrals, Connecticut Construction Advisory Committee

      American Bar Association
      Forum on the Construction Industry
      Section of Litigation
      Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section

      Connecticut Bar Association
      Construction Law Section, Past President
      Federal Practice Section

      Surety Claims Institute

      The National Bond Claims Association

      University of Hartford Construction Institute

      Construction Lawyers Society of America
      Fellow
    • Honors + Awards

      Honors + Awards

      Listed in The Best Lawyers in America© as Hartford Lawyer of the Year in the area of Litigation - Construction for 2016 and 2013 and in the area of Construction Law in 2012, 2015, and 2017 (Copyright 2016 by Woodward/White, Inc., Aiken, SC)

      Connecticut Bar Foundation, James W. Cooper Fellow, 2013

      Listed in The Best Lawyers in America© in the areas of Construction Law and Litigation - Construction since 2011 (Copyright 2016 by Woodward/White, Inc., Aiken, SC)

      Listed as one of the Top 50 Lawyers in Connecticut by Connecticut Super Lawyers® 2011, 2012 (Super Lawyers is a registered trademark of Key Professional Media, Inc.)

      Listed in Connecticut Super Lawyers® in the area of Construction Litigation since 2006 (Super Lawyers is a registered trademark of Key Professional Media, Inc.)

      Recognized in the Corporate Counsel Edition in Super Lawyers® in May 2009 (Super Lawyers is a registered trademark of Key Professional Media, Inc.)

    • Community Involvement

      Community Involvement

      State of Connecticut Justice of the Peace

      University of Connecticut Alumni Association
      Past President, National Board of Directors

      Town of Glastonbury, Board of Assessment Appeals
  • NEWS + PRESS
    • Publications

      Publications

      "Construction manager found not responsible for design," published in REBA News, co-authored with Elizabeth K. Wright (December 2015)

      "Performance Bonds and Contractor Default Insurance," published in Construction Insurance: A Guide for Attorneys and Other Professionals (4/2011)

      "A State-by-State Guide to Construction and Design Law: Current Statutes and Practices, Second Edition, Connecticut chapter," (2009)

      "Trial Techniques for Surety Cases," published in American Bar Association Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (2008)

      "Liability of Design Professionals in the Absence of Privity of Contract," published in ABA Construction Litigation Newsletter, co-authored with Peter E. Strniste, Jr. (2002)
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      "Construction Case Law Summary and Legislative Review," published in Connecticut Bar Association Construction Law Section, Coeditor (2000 to 2003)
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      "Damages: Model Jury Instructions for Surety Cases," published in ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (2000)

      "Raising a Notice of Defense to a Fidelity Bond Claim: Is a Showing of Prejudice Required?" published in DRI Bonding (1999)
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      "Balfour Beatty Construction v. National Surety Corporation," published in ABA Tort & Insurance Law Journal (1998)
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      "Design/Build Delivery Systems," published in DRI For The Defense
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    • Presentations

      Presentations

      "When to Call the Surety: 411 or 911," at American Bar Association's Annual Meeting of the Forum on the Construction Industry in New Orleans, Louisiana, co-presented with Shannon Briglia of BrigliaMcLaughlin, PLLC (4/14/2014)

      "Use of Power Granted the Surety in the Indemnity," co-panelist at the midwinter program of the American Bar Association's Fidelity and Surety Law Committee in New York City (1/24/2014)

      "Fraudulent Bonds - Identify & Evaluate," at Adjuster's Licensing and Continuing Education Classes, Schaumburg, Illinois (9/25/2013)

      "Surety Law Update," at 38th Annual Meeting & Seminars of the Surety & Fidelity Claims Institute (SFCI), held in Cambridge, Maryland, co-presented with Todd R. Regan (June 2013)

      "Keeping Construction Arbitration from Morphing into Litigation," at Connecticut Bar Association’s Construction Practice and Federal Practice Sections, New Britain, Connecticut, moderator (September 2010)

      "Arbitration Discussion," at Pearlman 2010 Conference, Gig Harbor, Washington (September 2010)

      "Legislative Update and Effective Skills in Construction Lobbying," at Construct 2006, 9th Annual New England Construction and Facilities Management Conference and Exposition (3/21/2006)
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      "Change Orders in Connecticut," at Lorman Education Services (2005)
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      "An Arbitration Survival Guide," at American Arbitration Association, East Hartford, Connecticut (11/18/2004)
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      "Commercial and Miscellaneous Bond Claims," at Defense Research Institute Annual Roundtable Meeting, Chicago, Illinois (5/7/2004)
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      "Indemnitor's Obligation to Post Collateral Pre-Judgment," at Chicago Surety Association (2004)

      "Perfection of the General Indemnity Agreement - The Result May Not Be Perfect with the Surety," at Surety Claims Institute's 2002 Annual Meeting (2002)

      "Beyond the Four Corners: Implied Terms, Liabilities, and Defenses in Construction Contracting Remedies for Breach of Implied Duties: The Price of Failure," at TIPS Fidelity and Surety Law Committee, American Bar Association, Forum on the Construction Industry (1/25/2001)
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      "Design/Build Construction Project from the Perspective of a Surety," at Defense Research Institute, 1999 Annual Meeting (1999)
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      "Connecticut Construction Law: Can This Job Be Saved?" at Lorman Education Services (1998)
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      "Construction Surety Bonds in Connecticut," at National Business Institute (1996 to 1998)
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      "Construction Surety Bonds in Connecticut," at Lorman Education Services (1996)
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      "Latest Developments in Construction Law: The Ten Most Significant Construction Cases in Connecticut and Why," at Connecticut Bar Association, Construction Law Section (1994)
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      "Construction Litigation in the Nineties and Beyond: Subcontractor Survival Strategies, Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain," at Connecticut Bar Association, Construction Law Section (1992)
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    • News

      R+C in the News

      • April 23, 2015

        Robinson+Cole Successfully Defends Connecticut Municipality in Construction Contract Case

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      • July 11, 2013

        Hartford Construction Lawyers Present at SFCI's Annual Meeting

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      • May 23, 2013

        Robinson & Cole Sponsors Welcome Reception at ABA's 2013 Construction Forum Annual Meeting

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      • April 5, 2013

        Robinson & Cole Sponsors Annual Joint Dinner of the Design and Construction Industry

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      • April 18, 2011

        Attorney Writes Chapter About Performance Bonds and Contractor Default Insurance for Book

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      • October 7, 2010

        Construction Attorney Participates in Two Panels

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      • July 9, 2010

        Dennis Cavanaugh Named President-Elect of Alumni Association’s National Board of Directors

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      • October 29, 2009

        Robinson & Cole Partner Authors Chapter in Construction and Design Law Guide

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      • May 6, 2009

        Robinson & Cole Partner Appointed Member of Construction Advisory Committee

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      • November 14, 2008

        Robinson & Cole Gains Over 30 Former Thelen Attorneys in Hartford, Connecticut and New York City

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      R+C News Releases

      • June 27, 2017

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Accept Fellowships with National Construction Group

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      • May 9, 2017

        Dennis Cavanaugh Recognized as Connecticut Construction “Lawyer of the Year” for 2017

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      • October 18, 2016

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers®

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      • August 15, 2016

        Robinson+Cole Receives Top Listing in Connecticut Lawyer Count in The Best Lawyers in America® 2017

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      • October 19, 2015

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers®

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      • August 18, 2015

        Robinson+Cole Receives Top Listing in Connecticut Lawyer Count in The Best Lawyers in America® 2016

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      • October 17, 2014

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers

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      • August 19, 2014

        Robinson+Cole Receives Top Listing in Connecticut Lawyer Count in Best Lawyers National Peer Review Survey

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      • August 16, 2013

        Robinson & Cole Receives Top Listing in Connecticut Attorney Count in Best Lawyers National Peer Review Survey

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      • March 1, 2013

        Robinson & Cole Lawyers Selected as James W. Cooper Fellows of the Connecticut Bar Foundation

      • October 22, 2012

        Super Lawyers® Names 49 Robinson & Cole Attorneys to 2012 List and Recognizes 26 as Rising Stars

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      • September 14, 2012

        Ten Robinson & Cole Attorneys Selected as “Lawyers of the Year”

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      • August 28, 2012

        Robinson & Cole Receives Top Listing in Connecticut Attorney Count in Best Lawyers National Peer Review Survey

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      • March 14, 2012

        Super Lawyers® Renames Two Robinson & Cole Partners to Top 50 List in Connecticut

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      • October 14, 2011

        Five Robinson & Cole Attorneys Selected as “Lawyers of the Year” in Hartford

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      • September 12, 2011

        Robinson & Cole Receives Top Listing in Connecticut Attorney Count in Best Lawyers National Peer Review Survey

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