Legal Blog

Why The Little Things Matter

Close up Single Magnifying Glass with Black Handle, Leaning on the Wooden Table at the Office.I was reading a recent article about a case filed in Georgia state court over a fire at a Red Roof Inn when I was reminded of an old adage about getting the little things right. John Wooden, the retired UCLA basketball coach, has perhaps one of the best versions of this concept: “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Relative to the Red Roof Inn fire, an insurer paid over $1 million in damages to the owner of the hotel due to fire damage allegedly caused by a faulty bathroom vent fan. The news reports and the Complaint itself reveal several interesting, unstated parts of the story, though. Each of these has a lesson in them for contractors to consider.

First, the failure of a single bathroom vent fan caused over a million dollars in damage. The scale is astonishing when you think about the size of one of these fans and the fact that it’s such a small part of the construction of the hotel. The message here is: stay sharp, don’t cut corners, and get the entire job done right. It only takes a small mistake to cause a big problem.

Second, the case is framed up as a product liability case as opposed to a negligence action. The difference legally is that a product liability action, if the product is proven defective, results in strict liability regardless of causation for all intents and purposes. Negligence cases require proof that the negligent act caused the claimed damage. Either way, keep in mind that a contract claim is not the only way for a plaintiff to bring suit against a construction company (manufacturer or contractor) – especially if you are putting equipment or a product into the stream of commerce that can later be put forward as being defective.

Third and last, the contractor was not included in the suit. This may be because it was the hotel’s maintenance man who installed the fan, and the insurer can’t sue them because they paid the claim. The more likely reason is that the contractor that installed the vent fan followed the installation instructions given by the manufacturer and that the plaintiff inspected other vent fan installations in the hotel only to find that out. Because following design specifications and manufacturer’s directions is generally a complete defense, the installation contractor was not included in the case. The lesson here is to follow the design provided to you as a contractor and avoid value engineering. Once the contractor strays from the original design – approved or not – it buys liability for any failure.

I have always worked from the premise that anything worth doing is worth doing right. While this does not require perfection in every instance, it does require that some scaled level of attention must be paid to the details. Absent that, a little thing like a vent fan can lead to a bigger problem like a million-dollar lawsuit.


Questions about this or any other construction matter?

Contact me at


Josh Quinter is a commercial litigation attorney, with a focus on construction law, and an Associate Managing Principal. Mr. Quinter actively works with his clients in the areas of business planning, contract negotiation and project consulting, risk management and dispute resolution, and litigation. His client service and professionalism have earned him the distinction of being named a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer, a Lawyer on the Fast Track, and a Rising Star.








Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the United States. With over 230 attorneys offering a comprehensive range of services in virtually every legal category, the firm is well-positioned to meet dynamic businesses’ needs and the people who own and operate them. Our offices serve individual and corporate clients in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

At Offit Kurman, we are our clients’ most trusted legal advisors, professionals who help maximize and protect business value, and personal wealth. In every interaction, we consistently maintain our clients’ confidence by remaining focused on furthering their objectives and efficiently achieving their goals. Offit Kurman represents its clients the better way.

Whatever and wherever your industry, Offit Kurman is the better way to protect your business, preserve your family’s wealth, and resolve your most challenging legal conflicts. At Offit Kurman, we distinguish ourselves by the quality and breadth of our legal services — as well as our unique operational structure, which encourages a culture of collaboration and entrepreneurialism. The same approach that makes our firm attractive to legal practitioners also gives clients access to experienced counsel in every area of the law.

Subscribe and follow us on our Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn pages. You can also sign up to receive LawMatters, Offit Kurman’s monthly newsletter covering a diverse selection of legal and corporate thought leadership content.