Four Decades Of Legal Excellence

James R. Watson


Richmond, VA





Jim has practiced construction law in West Virginia and Virginia for over 30 years.  A 25 year member of the Construction and Public Contract Law Section of the Virginia State Bar, he regularly reviews, drafts, and litigates matters affecting nearly all phases of the design, bid, and construction process.  His broad experience in representing the diverse parties to the construction process gives him a comprehensive knowledge of their varied risks and interests in the construction process.  It also makes him a frequent speaker on construction law topics before industry groups.

Jim’s comprehensive knowledge of the entire construction process has been enhanced by several experiences most construction law attorneys simply do not have. First, he was certified as a Master Format (2004) instructor by the Construction Specifications Institute. Second, from 2005 to 2011, he was certified as a Project Manager Professional (PMP) by the Project Management Institute.  Third, to gain the insight that comes only from having actually worked on complex construction projects, with his PMP certification, between 2008 and 2010 Jim worked in construction administration with one of the nation’s largest multi-discipline engineering firms. There, on nearly a daily basis he worked with engineers to resolve complex construction issues in all major engineering disciplines including fire protection. Fourth, although not an engineer, he has twice served as Chair of the Richmond Joint Engineers’ Council.

As a litigator, Jim has tried over 100 cases in state and federal courts, before arbitration panels, and before federal boards of contract appeals. At the trial and appellate level, there are nearly 20 published opinions in cases he has tried involving a wide range of subject matters, but many, if not most, involve some aspect of design and construction. A summary of his more significant cases is provided after the following listing of his “Recent & Committed to Presentations.”

Certified Legal Specialties

  • Master Format Instructor, Construction Specifications Institute, 2004
  • Project Manager Professional, Project Management Institute, 2005

Bar Admissions

  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

Published Works

  • Contributing Author, WV Law Portion, The Contractors’ State License Bonds Desk Reference, American Bar, 2006
  • Contributing Author, WV Law Portion, The Design-Build Deskbook, 2nd Edition, American Bar, 2000
  • Contributing Author, WV Law Portion, Payment Bond Manual of the 50 States, American Bar, 1995

Representative Cases

  • After having twice recovered on behalf of contractors the highest awards ever made (at that time) by the West Virginia Court of Claims, A. J. Baltes, Inc. v. Department of Highways,13 Ct. of Claims 1 (W.Va. 1981) and American Bridge Division of United States Steel v. Department of Highways, 15 Ct. of Claims 227 (W.Va. 1985) Jim continues to handle litigated cases:
  • 2014 - Defended general contractor in a suit against it by a subcontractor on two federal projects alleging breaches in the subcontracts and other business torts. Recovery was made for breach of the subcontracts but all other claims against the general contractor were either non-suited by the subcontractor or dismissed by the court. Powell’s Construction v. Rocky Hill Contracting, Inc. et al, in the Circuit Court for The County of Accomack, VA. Case No.: 12CL410 [Subcontractor’s Petition for Appeal to VA Supreme Court not pursued after denial of the Subcontractor’s Motion to Supplement Court Record.]
  • 2013 - Engaged by Fortune 500 Company to defend it against a suit filed in the Circuit Court of Loudoun County Virginia by a customer who alleged that a loaded pallet jack had struck him and caused him to have three foot surgeries. The case was resolved by a two day trial when the jury returned a verdict in favor of the business owner being represented.
  • 2011 - Engaged by general contractor to defend a civil suit brought in the Circuit Court of Gloucester, VA, by a homeowner who alleged the negligence of the contractor had caused a fire which had destroyed her residence. The case was resolved after a four day trial with the jury finding in favor of the general contractor being represented. Homeowner’s petition of appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court was denied. [Stevenson v. Peerless Carpet and Restoration, Cir. Ct. for the County of Gloucester, Va., Case No.: CL07000572-00: Homeowner’s Petition for Appeal Denied 04-18-12]
  • 2006 - Engaged by federal agency to represent its interests in upholding a decision to terminate a contractor for default on a $3 million contract involving a United States Congressional House Office Building. The case was resolved after a one week trial when the federal board of contract appeals found in favor of federal agency being represented and the contractor’s termination was justified. Opposing counsel was the named partner in one of Washington DC’s leading construction law firms. In re Appeal of Montage, Inc, CAB2006-2 HOBC [Decided June 21, 2010]
  • 2005 - Engaged by Virginia local government to provide counsel and representation on nearly $10 million dollar claim by contractor involving a large force main project using fiberglass reinforced pipe. The case was resolved through direct negotiations and settlement approved by local government. Opposing counsel was from a nationally known Atlanta, Georgia based construction law firm.
  • 2003 - Engaged by manufacturer of pre-engineered building in a suit brought by the building’s owner seeking $130,000 in damages due to the partial collapse of the building. The case was resolved at trial level by jury verdict finding in favor of the manufacturer being represented on the basis that the cause of the collapse was not attributable, in whole or in part, to the manufacturer.
  • 2002 - Engaged by drywall and interior finish subcontractor to assist in preparation and presentation of claim in excess of one million dollars on a hotel and gaming complex located in West Virginia. Case was resolved through mediation the terms of which are confidential.
  • 2001 - Part of the defense team opposing a declaratory judgment suit seeking to enforce compliance with various state laws concerning the payment of prevailing wages to workmen engaged in construction of public improvements, competitive bidding, and the procurement of design services in connection with the building of an administrative office building intended for the use of West Virginia University and the WVU Foundation.  Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation v. University of West Virginia Board of Trustees, 210 W. Va. 456, 557 S. E. 2d 863 (2001).
  • 2001 - Engaged by federal agency to represent its interest in defending a multi-million dollar claim by a general contractor seeking damages for asserted project delays and additional work including 135 unresolved change order requests. The case was resolved on November 23, 2004 at the trial level by a federal board of contract appeals in a 340 page opinion which overwhelmingly found in favor of the federal agency being represented. Opposing counsel was an internationally known construction attorney from one of the nation’s premier commercial and construction litigation law firms. Clark Construction Group, Inc., JCL-BCA 2003-1, 05-1 BCA ¶ 32843. Decided Nov. 23, 2004] (367 page decision)]
  • 2001 - Engaged by large and well known Virginia general contractor to defend $200,000 claim made by its paving subcontractor and present general contractor’s claim of inadequately performed work by paving sub-contractor. Resolved by a trial before a single arbitrator who rejected paving subcontractor’s claim and granted an award in favor of the general contractor being represented.
  • 2001 - Engaged by large regional professional engineering firm in defense of a $3,000,000 professional malpractice claim involving one of the most advanced designs of a concrete girder bridge in the United States. The case was resolved through direct negotiations on second day of trial with settlement approved by client.
  • 2001 - Engaged by large national design firm to defend claims asserted before a three judge arbitration panel in which an electrical contractor alleged deficient design involving renovations to a large chemical plant. The case was resolved by a three member panel in favor of contractor. Representation included cross-examination of one the nation’s leading experts on “cumulative impacts” of change orders on labor productivity.
  • 2000 - Engaged by owner of a newly constructed independent living facility seeking recovery of liquidated damages of several hundreds of thousands of dollars for the delayed completion of the facility. Representation concluded on second day of arbitration with contractor agreeing to pay most of liquidated damages being sought.
  • 2000 - Engaged by manufacturer of pre-engineered building to defend claim by owner after roof collapsed. Representation concluded when summary judgment was obtained on behalf of the party being represented on the basis that the cause of the collapse was not attributable, in whole or in part, to the manufacturer.
  • 2000 - Engaged by one of the larger municipalities in West Virginia as special outside counsel to represent its interest on a bid protest involving the award of a $900,000 for improvements to a city’s airport. Representation concluded when court found that re-biding was appropriate.
  • 2000 - Engaged by an agency to represent its interests in defending claims brought in a state court of claims by the construction contractor on a newly completed $3,000,000 classroom facility. Representation concluded with contractor recovering much of the monetary award being sought.
  • 1999 - Engaged to defend a general contractor who had a personal injury action brought against it in the Circuit Court of Southampton County, Virginia, by a project owner’s employee. Representation concluded by summary judgment in favor of the party being represented when the court found under Virginia law the plaintiff’s suit was barred by Virginia’s “statutory employee” statute. Miller v. Tidewater Crane & Rigging Company, Cir. Ct. of Southampton County, VA, Case No.97-328.
  • 1998 - Engaged to present claim of an electrical contractor against the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority before the West Virginia Court of Claims. Representation concluded with a negotiated a $100,000 settlement of claim of contractor being represented.
  • 1997 - Engaged to present claim of excavation contractor against the West Virginia Armory Board in the West Virginia Court of Claims. Representation concluded with a negotiated $200,000 settlement of claim of contractor being represented.
  • 1997 - Engaged by mechanical contractor to defend varied claims of a general contractor in the amount of $450,000.00 against the mechanical contractor before a three member arbitration panel. Representation concluded when panel issued an arbitration award favorable to the party being represented which not only denied the general contractor’s claim against the mechanical contractor in its entirety but also granted recovery to the mechanical contractor on its counterclaim in the amount of $219,287.
  • 1996 - Engaged to represent design professionals in defense of a public agency’s claim involving failure of the Bartell Field House, West Liberty State College, West Liberty, West Virginia. Representation concluded when the judge, during the jury trial, dismissed all claims against design professionals being represented but allowed the owner’s claims to proceed against the general contractor.
  • 1992 - Engaged by a large hospital to serve as lead counsel in its defense of $5,000,000 in construction claims on newly constructed hospital using a construction manager project delivery system. Case was resolved through negotiated settlements with general contractor, three subcontractors, design professionals, and construction manager. Opposing counsel was a partner in a nationally known construction law firm based in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • 1990 - Engaged to represent consulting engineering firm in federal court litigation involving a public utilities contractor on a large sewer and water project which was the subject of a Congressional subcommittee inquiry regarding cost overruns. Representation concluded through negotiated settlement.
  • 1990 - Engaged to represent design professional in presentation of extra work claim and in defense of claim of inadequate performance in contract with federal agency. Representation concluded through trial before a federal board of contract appeals which found that although the design professional’s extra work claims were not meritorious, neither was the federal agency’s claim of substandard performance. In re Elden Rider, Inc., GSBCA, No. 8643, 90-2 BCA § 22, 878 (1990).
  • 1990 - In jury trial, represented performance bond surety in suit by project owner alleging the general contractor had not fulfilled its contractual obligations and the surety was liable for the contractor’s delayed and deficient performance. Elkins Manor Assoc. v. Eleanor Concrete Works, Inc., 183 W.Va. 501, 396 S.E.2d 463 (1990).
  • 1989 - Engaged to defend large and nationally known general contractor, Turner Construction, against claims it had incorrectly determined conflicting lien and payment rights of contractors and subcontractors. Representation concluded at trial level with judge ruling in favor of party being represented. Favorable trial court’s decision was affirmed on appeal. Waco Equipment v. B.C. Hale Construction Co., 387 S.E.2d 848 (W.Va. 1989).
  • 1989 - Engaged by United States Steel Corporation and its surety in their claim in the West Virginia Court of Claims against the West Virginia Department of Highways seeking remission of liquidated damages and execution of change order on a bridge project over the Ohio River. Representation concluded through negotiated remission of $216,000 in liquidated damages and the execution of a favorable $479,283 change order.


  • Design Liabilities in Alternative Project Delivery Systems to be co-presented at the 2016 WV Construction & Design Exposition cosponsored by the West Virginia Chapters of ASCE, AIA, and AGC Association [Charleston, WV, March 2016]
  • Construction Administration Failures Affecting Design Liabilities and Project Failures to be presented at the 2015 Winter Technical Conference sponsored by the Huntington, WV chapters of ASCE, SAME and the Marshall University’s College of Engineering [Huntington, WV, Jan. 2016]
  • Construction Law Workshop for County Employees, presented by Blue Moon Education, Inc. for employees of Stafford County, Virginia [Stafford/Fredericksburg, VA, Dec. 2015] After performance rating was 4.8 on a 5 point scale.
  • Concerns and Considerations Involving Innovative Designs, presented at the 2015 Construction and Engineering Exchange [Charleston, WV, October 1, 2015]
  • Document Retention and Management Issues for Engineers and Contractors, sponsored by Society for Design Administration, Norfolk, VA Chapter [ Norfolk, VA, April 2015]
  • The Risks in CM-at Risk Contracts, Panel Discussion presented by Richmond Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and Women in Design [Richmond, Virginia, Sept. 2014]
  • IDIQ Contracts and Performance-Based Specifications, Sponsored by the Construction Specifications Institute - Richmond, Chapter [Richmond, VA, March 2014]
  • Inter-relationships of Codes, Regulations, and Industry Design & Construction Standards, sponsored by Roofing Consultants International, Richmond Chapter [Richmond , VA, July 2013]

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • Construction and Public Contract Law Section, Virginia State Bar, Member

Past Employment Positions

  • U.S. Army JAGC, Captain, 1971 to 1974
  • Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, Associate/Partner, 1975 to 2003
  • Wallace Pledger, P.C., Partner, 2003 to 2010
  • Hankins & Anderson Eng., Contract Administrator & Project Manager, 2008 to 2010
  • Watson Trial & Litigation Gp., Owner, 2011 to 2014
  • Coates & Davenport, Senior Attorney, 2015 - Current

Professional Activities

  • Richmond Joint Engineers’ Council, Chair

Practice Areas

  • Construction Law
  • Government Contracts


  • West Virginia University College of Law, Morgantown, West Virginia
    • Honors: Top 10 of Graduating Class
    • Honors: Moot Court Competition: Best Advocate Award; Best Brief Recognition
  • United States Army JAGC School
    • Honors: Commandant's List
  • Project Management Professional (PMP) 2006-2011

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