Karl F. Oles Named a 2021 National Law Journal Real Estate/Construction Law Trailblazer

Press Release

SEATTLEStoel Rives LLP is pleased to announce that partner Karl F. Oles of the firm’s Construction and Design group has been selected by The National Law Journal for inclusion in the second annual edition of its Real Estate/Construction Law Trailblazers. The special supplement honors legal professionals in the United States who are making their mark in various aspects of legal work in the fields of real estate and construction law. The publication interviewed each honoree to find out what drove him or her to success. Oles’ Real Estate/Construction Law Trailblazers profile follows below.

What was the genesis of the path that has made you a trailblazer?

Construction is in my DNA. My father was a construction lawyer, and my brother is one. I worked construction jobs before law school. My first big infrastructure case arose from the collapse of Husky Stadium's North Stands during construction in 1987. In over 30 years practicing construction law, I have represented owners, architects, engineers, contractors, and subcontractors, drafting construction contracts and litigating claims. I also serve as an arbitrator and a Dispute Review Board member. My tunnel experience includes the Brightwater Regional Waste­water Project and the Alaskan Way Viaduct (SR 99) Replacement Program in downtown Seattle.

What sort of change has resulted from the concept?

The SR 99 lawsuit established the enforceability of a contract provision barring the general contractor from recovering for subcontractor claims it had not certified. The Brightwater lawsuit created precedent aligning Washington law with state and federal law relating to differing site conditions. Both matters required innovative agreements: to divide work scope between two contractors when the cost exceeded the initial contractor's bonding capacity; to remove scope from a contractor while preserving the right to seek default damages in litigation; to allow in­novative security in lieu of a bond on appeal.

What bearing will this have on the future?

Lessons learned on the tunneling projects will guide drafting of future contracts and shape resolution of future construction disputes. Tunneling projects are becoming more popular in urban areas where building roads or light rail is impractical and aging underground utilities must be replaced. The distinctive issues arising from such projects will become more common. Owners are increasingly interested in alternative contracting methods like GCCM and design-build, which present novel challenges and require specialized contracts.

For more than 30 years, Oles has helped owners, architects, engineers, and contractors solve complex legal problems through negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and trial. He has also drafted, negotiated, and analyzed multimillion-dollar design and construction contracts on a wide variety of construction projects. Since 2019, Oles has been named by Chambers USA as one of “America’s Leading Lawyers for Business” in Washington for construction law, and he has been included since 2013 in The Best Lawyers in America® for construction litigation.

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