Construction Law Group
Expert Witness • Alternative Dispute Resolution • Defective Design (architectural and engineering • Professional Liability • Defective Workmanship • Delay, Disruption and Prolongation Claims • Contractor and Subcontractor Disputes • Mechanic’s Liens and Foreclosure Claims • Terminations
Construction Law Group Legal Team
Attorneys – California – Hawaii – Remote Offices
Daniel J. Knight
Principal Attorney – California and Hawaii
A “born & raised” San Luis Obispo County native, Dan feels privileged to be an active part of such a strong and vibrant community and to have grown up learning its ins and outs, institutions, relationships and interrelationships.
Dan started his career by working in his father’s construction business; gaining knowledge from experienced tradespeople about the “right” ways to construct foundations, build residential/commercial structures, and work in the public right-of-way. During high school Dan worked at Pete’s Automotive in Morro Bay, California.
After graduation from high school, Dan started his own one-person
general construction business and, through hard work and tenacity, grew it into a full-service general building and general engineering company. At the same time, Dan went back to school, earned both a bachelors and master’s degree in accounting, and then continued to and graduated from law school, passed the bar and began his career as a licensed attorney. Along the way Dan also obtained his real estate broker’s license.
Dan lives in Atascadero with his wife Shawn (married in 2013), and three precocious children. When not working, Dan enjoys playing rugby at the Prop or Lock positions, weightlifting/kettle bell workouts, endurance backpacking and other outdoors activities. Dan’s goal in his hobbies is to push the body hard enough that it becomes both a physical and mental test of discipline.
Ashlyn Algra Emory
Ashlyn was raised in Santa Barbara, born in Bakersfield, and calls Templeton home. She attended UCSB and Santa Barbara College of Law. While working as a State Department intern in college she helped US citizens overseas at the US Embassy in Rome, Italy. She has also worked as a paralegal at the US Attorneys Office in the criminal division. Most recently she was a consultant for a legal software company.
Ashlyn is married to Toby and they have a little girl named Scarlett (9 months). She’s usually spending time with family outdoors as she enjoys going on walks with their golden retriever puppy, Belle. You can find them adventuring in any US national park on the weekend. While Yosemite may be her favorite, it was hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim that was by far the most memorable. Never afraid to learn something new, Ashlyn has recently learned to ski. Next up- learning to ride horses. Ashlyn recently started a mothers’ group in Templeton with the goal of having families find support and have fun together.
In the position of Office Paralegal and with The Law Offices of Daniel J. Knight, P.L.C., James Caldwell brings the knowledge, experience, organizational and problem-solving skills garnered during a 35-year career in the real estate field, first as a Title Officer and subsequently as a certified Petroleum Landman.
James is highly skilled in addressing issues and formulating solutions for a wide range of real property matters, such as title defects, subdivision, mineral rights ownership and leasing, complex transactions, boundary line disputes, and access/right-of-way issues. Having worked closely with many attorneys over the years, James was excited to make the transition to become a part of Dan Knight Law and found that the same skill sets applied; intellectual curiosity and “outside the box” thinking coupled with a detail oriented, logical and methodical approach to serving the client’s needs.
A lifelong Californian, James was born and raised in the central valley. After obtaining a B.S. in Economics from C.S.U.B. he began working in the title insurance industry and in pursuing that career lived and worked in both Southern California, Monterey, and the San Francisco bay area. James was fortunate to be able to return home to the central valley to care for his mother during the last few years of her life and, as a person who is committed to life-long learning, he was able to obtain a degree in human biology during that time.
Now, having been back in San Luis Obispo County and living in Atascadero for the last decade, James spends his leisure time exploring this remarkable area, building model rockets and wrangling slightly overweight cats. All while being lucky enough to have his son, daughter-in-law, grandson and stepdaughters nearby.
Office legal assistant Acacia Jackson brings her breadth of experience in Retail Finance, Specialized Education, Client Relations and Customer Service to insure accurate and timely communications throughout our organization.
Acacia a long time SLO County resident, enjoys singing on the porch with family and hiking the trails from the beaches of Montana De Oro to the slopes of Madonna Mountain.
Frequently Asked Question Regarding Construction Law
How Do I Know If I Need to Hire an Attorney to Solve a Dispute?
A consultation is a great opportunity to determine whether an attorney is needed. This is highly dependent on the specific factual circumstances. Please call our office to find out more information.
As an individual Do I Need a Construction Attorney to go to Court?
A basic tenant of law in the United States is that you may represent yourself in a court of law. While this is not recommended, it is your right. Keep in mind that many construction businesses are not sole proprietorships and some have different corporate structures, whereby you may need an attorney to represent yourself regardless of how your business is organized.
Why should an LLC or Corporation not represent themselves?
The answer to this depends on the corporate structure. For example, if the entity is an LLC (limited liability company) or an LLP (limited liability partnership) they will still require representation in order to appear in court. This is true even for principals or business owners operating their business. So, in the majority of cases, a construction lawyer will be needed in order to go to court in a construction dispute.
The Problem with Self Representation
Most often, even for those individuals who choose to represent themselves in court, a person may have a better outcome by being represented by an attorney. Representing oneself in court puts you at a great disadvantage in most instances. Lawyers are experts at their trade, and there’s a reason they get paid to do what they do.
Are Construction Attorneys Needed for Small Claims Court?
Small claims court has its own set of rules and requirements. It’s specifically designed to be a faster and less expensive version of traditional litigation. Small claims court is designed so that lawyers aren’t needed in the same way they must be actively involved in litigation. As described above, individuals (or sole proprietors) can represent themselves in court because it is their right. But corporate entities of various kinds (LLCs, LLPs, or other types) must be represented.
Note that a lien or other real property action belongs in “superior court” (regular court) and not in small claims court, as do most other construction-related claims and issues.
Do All Construction Payment Disputes Require an Attorney?
The answer to this question is highly dependent on what type of claim is involved. Be advised that leveraging liens, bonds, and potential legal claims may not require a lawyer in the beginning but will have advantages in enforcement if you do obtain legal representation.
Not every construction payment dispute will require the use of an attorney. The laws governing mechanics liens and bond claims in California can be leveraged without the use of an attorney. In order to file a mechanics lien or bond claim you do not need to use an attorney. However, when it comes to enforcing these claims a construction attorney will likely be necessary.
In disputes involving prompt payment and retainage actions you will typically require some form of legal action after the initial claim is made. In these cases, it is likely you will need to be represented by an attorney, and it is advised that you seek the advice of an attorney if you find yourself in this situation. In situations involving construction payment the advice of an attorney is recommended because the threat of a claim will carry some weight. For instance when a letter demanding payment is coupled with the threat of legal action the dispute is far more likely to be resolved prior to litigation.
Why are Legal Threats Without the Backing of an Attorney are Ineffective
When someone says that you’ll hear from their lawyer, it’s a cry for attention.
They want you to pay attention to them and take them seriously; they want you to feel intimidated because they want you to imagine going to court against a team of well-armed legal assassins dressed in tailored suits. Nobody wants that, so they are playing upon your fear.
It’s not to say that you won’t hear from their lawyer. It’s just that when they tell you that you will hear from their lawyer, they want you to scare.
Should I have my attorney review a construction contract before I sign it?
It’s common practice for contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers, consultants or other tradespeople in the construction industry to use the same contract on every job. While this may generally be a good practice since you are familiar with its terms and conditions, keep in mind that your contract should still be reviewed by a construction lawyer. A review of the strengths and weaknesses of the particular agreement will assist with the identification of potential risk in your agreement in order to help mitigate potential liabilities.
Even if a party will be using a contract form that they are unfamiliar with it is still a good idea to have the agreement reviewed by a construction attorney before signing on the dotted line. It’s not uncommon for construction contracts to contain troublesome clauses that pass the risk onto the other party, shifting an unfair amount of liability, or consent to a less-than-ideal dispute resolution terms. Construction lawyers are experts at deciphering contracts. In addition, construction lawyers follow the law and are up to date with changes to existing case law, new laws and regulations and the different legal interpretations thereof.
It is wise to have construction contracts reviewed on a continuous basis in order to make sure they are up to date with current law. It is unfortunate that many construction businesses and parties in an agreement find out too late that their original contract is no longer enforceable because of a change in the law.
Are there less obvious scenarios where the expertise of a construction lawyer would be useful?
By and large, the best way to utilize a construction lawyer is to avoid legal situations before they pop up. Even when a construction lawyer is reactively brought in – doing so sooner than later can help keep a dispute under control.
Parties being sued. Fighting a lawsuit without the help of a lawyer is generally a bad idea. Sure, a lawyer might get expensive – but losing the suit (and failing to minimize exposure) will cost a lot more. An attorney may be able to identify a potential cross-claim where you may bring suit against the party naming you in a lawsuit that may work in your favor as well as identify potential defenses and strategies for mitigating exposure.
Parties suing someone else. Filing and fighting a legal battle without the help of legal experts is generally a bad idea as it puts you at a disadvantage and opens you up to liability. If you have suffered harm at the hands of a construction agreement or dispute it is helpful to know about legal strategy before filing suit.
I need to get paid, but I don’t know what to do.
When you are not receiving payment for work completed or are generally not being paid, there are a number of tools which may be useful to help you solve your problem. A construction attorney will help you consider which tools may be the most likely to result in payment.
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Submission of this form does not create an attorney-client relationship. Do not include any sensitive information in this form. Include general information and parties only. A condition of scheduling your consultation will include performing a conflict-of-interest check by The Law Offices of Daniel J. Knight, a Professional Law Corporation.