Recently, Robert August suggested that I pick up a copy of Conflicts With Interest, a novel by Michael Ruddy. Having now read the book, I understand why he made the suggestion. Michael Ruddy is not just an author, he is a Colorado homebuilder who wrote a book about residential construction defect litigation. The biographical information from the book states: “Michael Ruddy is a graduate of the University of Denver with a degree in engineering administration. He has spent the last forty years associated with both the commercial and residential disciplines of the construction industry, which inspired many events of this story. Currently, he resides in Boulder, CO with his wife, five children, dog and cutting horses.” Being an attorney that has devoted my career to litigating claims on behalf builders and developers throughout Colorado, the book naturally resonated with me.
The novel itself follows the travails of father and son homebuilders, T.R. and Ryan Morgan, as they journey through the world of construction defect litigation. After spending my legal career defending cases not unlike that recounted in Conflicts With Interest, I can say that the book is a fairly accurate depiction of the construction defect world.
Although, I am sure that “any similarity to any person or persons living or dead is purely coincidental,” I think I recognized some of the characters in the novel. If not, I certainly know the archetypes. At some point, I would like to sit down with Michael Ruddy to see if I accuretely pinned down any of the characters in the book.
The one thing that did strike me about the book, and something on which I will have to spend more time reflecting, is the relationship between the Morgans and the attorney retained to represent them by their insurance carrier. As a defense attorney that is hired by insurance companies to represent homebuilders from time to time, I would like to think that none of my clients have ever had the same skepticism or distrust of me as the Morgans did of their attorney because of the fact that I happen to have been paid by their carriers. I know that this is something that I will address at the outset of all of my future insurance defense assignments. There can be no question that my loyalties run 100% toward my client, the builder. While it may be that I am being paid by an insurance carrier, and I have certain obligations to the carrier, my client is the builder and I will do everything possible to provide a vigorous defense of any construction defect claim and to obtain the best possible outcome, whether that be through settlement, arbitration, or trial.
If you are employed in any industry or profession that deals with residential construction defect litigation, I recommend that you read this book. It provides great insights from the homebuilders’ prospective.