Recent Local Law Shows that the Law’s Understanding of Blasting is not Improving

In 2003, I published an article in The Journal of Explosives Engineering entitled “The Laws Governing Blasting,” in which I explained that, despite the fact that blasting is the most widely used method for rock removal on construction projects, court decisions pertaining to blasting damage claims often wrongfully hold blasters liable for alleged damage their blasting could not have possibly caused.  As my article explains, these decisions reach the wrong conclusion because of a general misunderstanding of the science governing blasting.  By citing technical and legal sources, the article demonstrates that courts often ignore scientific evidence in favor of lay testimony that the blasting caused damage because cracks were noticed after the building shook.  However, years of research by the United States Bureau of Mines (“USBM”) demonstrates that such anecdotal evidence is not reliable or accurate.

A fundamental principle from the USBM research stated in USBM Bulletin 8507 is that blast generated vibrations that are measured at the nearest structure at less than 2 inches per second at 40 Hz are not likely to cause damage to typical residential construction.  (For a full discussion of the scientific information pertaining to the USBM research, see my earlier article). 

Recent Decision Discusses Procedure for Challenging the Arbitrability of a Dispute

Arbitration is a private dispute resolution procedure that is intended to be more efficient and less expensive than a traditional court trial.  In arbitration, a private individual or panel of private individuals act as both judge and jury and decide the outcome of a matter in controversy.  Because arbitration is a private process, parties can only be forced to arbitrate issues that they agree to arbitrate.  The arbitrability of any particular issue is based upon the parties’ agreement.  Of course, once a contractual relationship breaks down, the parties may disagree over the arbitrability of their dispute.

In construction contracts, arbitration clauses tend to be sufficiently broad that, in general, it is difficult to successfully challenge the arbitrability of any dispute arising out of or pertaining to the subject agreement and/or project.  In Girolametti v. Rizzo Corp., 152 Conn.App. 60 (Conn.App.,2014), the Connecticut Appellate Court elaborated on the procedure for preserving the issue of arbitrability for judicial review and the severable nature of arbitration clauses.

In Girolametti, the plaintiff sought to vacate the arbitration award that had entered in the defendant’s favor.  The court first questioned whether the plaintiff had properly preserved the arbitrability issue for judicial determination and noted that,