Joseph J. Straus
Joe Straus started practicing construction law in 1982, when he did not know the difference between a BOMAG roller and a boring log. In the years since, he has learned from his clients, their folks in the field and nationally renowned experts, and can now expound at length to a jury or a tribunal on topics ranging from how methane gas is drawn from landfill waste to generate electricity; to the inherent properties of concrete slabs to transmit moisture; to how the omission of one event on a critical path schedule can destroy the entire schedule’s logic. Joe’s depth of knowledge reflects his passion for learning his clients’ unique businesses in order to resolve their disputes in the most effective and efficient way possible.
Compelling advocacy for troubled projects
Joe’s ability to translate complex technical information into easily understandable concepts traverses all sectors of the construction and design communities and encompasses all parties to construction contracts. Using his well-honed and practiced skills of negotiation and mediation—and if required, arbitration and litigation—Joe has secured victories for his clients in a variety of troubled civil, architectural, maritime and other construction projects in Washington and across the Western United States. Those projects have ranged from failed gasification plants using the latest technologies, to hand removal of coal tar from enclosed voids on World War II era Navy vessels, to the couple who built their dream home only to be fleeced by their contractor’s unscrupulous billing practices. Joe’s goal is to deliver the same level of excellent service and engaged focus and passion to every one of his clients.
Though Joe focuses mainly on construction contract claims, he devotes a substantial portion of his practice to the commercial litigation disputes and contract disputes—from escrow to non-compete disagreements—that arise in a business context each and every day.
- Obtained summary judgment dismissing all claims against a nationwide manufacturer of EFIS systems on a statute of limitations defense. The plaintiff dismissed the case on appeal.
- Negotiated recovery of repair and replacement costs for a national social service charity from a flooring manufacturer and flooring installation contractor, after failure of engineered sports court floor in a regional recreational facility in Idaho.
- Handled multi-year and multi-jurisdictional representation of a Southwest Washington-based civil public works contractor in claims with public utility district (PUD), subcontractor and suppliers in four separate lawsuits to recover the general contractor’s costs to correct subcontractor work performance issues on a subcontractor-supplied design-build methane gas cleaning system. All lawsuits were settled to the general contractor’s satisfaction short of trial.
- Obtained a binding private arbitration award for homeowners against a homebuilder for violations of the Consumer Protection Act for deceptive advertising, deceptive billing practices and wrongful lien. Homeowners were awarded $50,000 in attorney fees.
- Achieved an AAA arbitration award in favor of a Clark County marine painting contractor against a Southern California-based shipyard on subcontractor claims for extra work in refurbishing a Navy tug, including costs for handling toxic metal paint removal from the tug and untimely payments. The shipyard had unilaterally rejected all claims and refused to mediate.
- Obtained a summary judgment in favor of a decedent’s estate where the former wife sought to invalidate a prenuptial agreement, alleging assets were not disclosed to her. The case involved the interpretation of the Deadman’s Statute. The trial court awarded the estate $250,000 in attorney fees, and after affirming on appeal, an additional $25,000 of attorney fees. The Supreme Court denied review. Kellar v. Estate of Kellar (2010-2013).
- Successfully represented an international religious denomination that bought a local church building with known contamination issues from liens brought by cleanup contractor hired by seller. We joined the title company that administered funds escrowed by the buyer from the seller’s proceeds for cleanup. All liens were resolved from escrowed funds and funds paid back to the buyer. In addition to release of escrowed funds, the title company paid the buyer $75,000 on our third-party complaint.
Memberships & Awards
- American Bar Association (ABA), Forum on the Construction Industry, Diversity Committee, Member (2015-present)
- Liaison from ABA Construction Forum to ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) (2015-present)
- Puget Sound Business Journal, Business of Pride Outstanding Voices 2020 honoree
- Chambers USA award, Top Washington Commercial Litigators (2010 and 2011)
- Martindale-Hubbell®, AV Preeminent Ranking (2016)
- Seattle Metropolitan Monthly award, Top Lawyers List, Construction (2010)
- Seattle University Alumni Association, University Service Award (1993)
Resources & Ideas
- June 19, 2020
- Puget Sound Business JournalMay 6, 2020
- Law.comFebruary 14, 2019
- May 16, 2018
- May 4, 2018
- The News TribuneMarch 3, 2018
- The News Tribune, October 2017
Seminars & Speaking Engagements
- Contract Management EducationSchwabe Lunch ‘n LearnMay 25, 2017
- June 26, 2020
- Daily Journal of Commerce OregonMay 15, 2020
- May 1, 2020
- Puget Sound Business JournalNovember 25, 2019
- October 27, 2017
- October 23, 2017
- Puget Sound Business Journal, June 2, 2017
- Whim W’Him Dance Company, Development Committee (2014), Board of Directors (2015 - present), Chair of Governance Committee (2016)
- Gay and Lesbian Bar Association of Washington (QLaw), Mentorship Program (2015)
- Greater Seattle Business Association, Scholarship Evaluator (2013)
- Federal Club, Seattle Chapter, Human Rights Campaign
- Seattle University Board of Regents (1993-2012)
- Seattle University Law School Board of Visitors, Former Member
- Seattle UniversityBachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude (1978)
- University of Santa Clara Law SchoolJuris Doctor degree (1981)
Washington State Courts
United States District Court, Western District of Washington
United States Claims Court
Outside The Office
- Giving back to my native Seattle, supporting LGBTQ causes and enjoying good Washington wine.