Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court accepted certification of a question about theUnderground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act, Fla. Stat. Chapter 556, and answered that the Act creates a standalone cause of action and that the cause of action sounds in negligence.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified the question of whether a member-operator has a cause of action under Fla. Stat. 556.106(2)(a)-(c) to recover damages or obtain indemnification from an excavator for payments to a third party for personal injuries related to the excavator's alleged violation of the statute. The Supreme Court answered (1) liability under the Act is subject to proof of proximate causation and to the defense of comparative fault; (2) losses recoverable under the Act can include purely economic damages, independent of personal injury or property damage; and (3) the Act does not create a cause of action for statutory indemnity. View "Peoples Gas System v. Posen Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court determining that the Historic Alexandria Foundation lacked standing to pursue the claims asserted in this case, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's judgment.Vowell, LLC filed applications to obtain certain permits for the renovation of property located in the Old and Historic District of the City of Alexandria. The Old and Historic Alexandria District Board of Architectural Review (the BAR) approved Vowell's applications, and the City Council affirmed the BAR's decision. The Foundation appealed the City's Council decision. The circuit court dismissed the matter with prejudice, concluding that the petition did not establish that the Foundation was an aggrieved party with standing to pursue the appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Foundation lacked standing because the allegations of the petition failed to establish that the Foundation suffered particularized harm that differed from that suffered by the public in general. View "Historic Alexandria Foundation v. City of Alexandria" on Justia Law

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In 2007, a Louisiana jury found Edwards guilty of armed robbery, rape, and kidnapping. Louisiana law then permitted non-unanimous jury verdicts if at least 10 of the 12 jurors found the defendant guilty; 11 of 12 Edwards jurors returned a guilty verdict as to some crimes, and 10 of 12 jurors returned a guilty verdict as to others. After Edwards’s conviction became final, Edwards filed a federal habeas corpus petition. The district court rejected his argument that the non-unanimous jury verdict violated his constitutional rights as foreclosed by “Apodaca.” The Fifth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability.While Edwards’s petition for a writ of certiorari was pending, the Supreme Court repudiated Apodoca and held (“Ramos”) that a state jury must be unanimous to convict a criminal defendant of a serious offense.The Supreme Court affirmed with respect to Edwards. The Ramos jury-unanimity rule does not apply retroactively on federal collateral review. New rules of criminal procedure apply to cases on direct review, even if the defendant’s trial has already concluded but, historically, did not apply retroactively on federal collateral review unless a new rule constituted a “watershed” rule of criminal procedure. The Supreme Court has never found that any new procedural rule actually satisfies the “watershed” exception and acknowledged that the exception is “moribund.” Continuing to articulate a theoretical exception that never actually applies "offers false hope to defendants, distorts the law, misleads judges, and wastes" resources. View "Edwards v. Vannoy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in favor of a contractor (Contractor) against the homeowners' association (HOA) that hired it to perform repair work, holding that the district court did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court did not err in (1) finding that the HOA had waived, by one of the methods described in Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-1126, its right to a jury trial and in refusing to allow the HOA to withdraw its waiver; (2) concluding that the HOA had to present expert testimony to support its defense and counterclaims asserting that the repair work was done in an unworkmanlike manner; (3) excluding lay testimony of other contractors, in finding the HOA's expert witness lacked foundation for his opinions, and in excluding testimony relating to what the court found to be compromise negotiations; and (4) awarding prejudgment interest and attorney fees. View "McGill Restoration v. Lion Place Condominium Association" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing a subcontractor's suit against a construction contractor, holding that the district court did not err in relying on a forum selection clause in an agreement between the parties in dismissing the lawsuit.The contractor sought to dismiss the complaint pursuant to the forum selection clause. The subcontractor opposed the motion, arguing that the forum selection clause was not applicable. The district court found the forum selection clause both applicable and binding and so dismissed the lawsuit. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the clause was both valid and enforceable; and (2) the district court did not err in failing to consider transfer of its own accord. View "Atlas Glass & Mirror, Inc. v. Tri-North Builders, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit resolved a portion of Appellant's appeal in this opinion addressing the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Town of Brookline, Massachusetts, the Brookeline Board of Selectmen, the Town's counsel and Human Resources director, and select members of the board, holding that the summary judgment is affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings.Plaintiff, black man, brought this suit alleging that during his employment as a firefighter, he had been discriminated against and retaliated against for reporting discriminatory conduct. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the summary judgment granted in favor of Defendants, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment as to Plaintiff's retaliation claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the Town, the Board, and certain members of the Board, in their personal and official capacities. The Court then remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Alston v. Town of Brookline, Mass." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that a fact issue existed as to whether a general contractor on a construction project owed a duty of care to its independent contractor's employee who was injured on the job, holding that no genuine issue of material fact existed regarding the existence of a duty.The trial court entered judgment in favor of the general contractor, concluding that there was no evidence to support the negligence elements of duty, breach, and causation. The court of appeals reversed as to the negligence claim, concluding that a fact issue existed regarding whether the contractor exercised actual control and thus owed the employee a duty, whether the contractor breached that duty, and whether the contractor's breach proximately caused the employee's injuries. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the contractor owed the employee no duty as a matter of law. View "JLB Builders, LLC v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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In this construction defect case brought by homeowners against several contractors, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court that the limitations period against each contractor began to run upon the substantial completion of each contractor's project.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the contractors in this case, generally agreeing that the limitations period for the homeowners' claims against the contractors began to run on the dates that each contractor substantially completed its work. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Homeowners' claims against the contractors were time barred as matter of law under Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-223 and by denying their oral motion seeking leave to amend their complaint to add a new claim. View "McCaulley v. C L Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Blackstone Headwaters Coalition, Inc.'s complaint alleging that Defendants had violated the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq., holding that the district court erred by granting summary judgment on Count I of the complaint.Plaintiff, a non-profit environmental organization, sued two companies and two individuals involved in the development of a residential construction site in Massachusetts. In Count I of the complaint, Plaintiff alleged that three defendants had violated the Federal CWA by failing to obtain from the EPA a construction general permit. Count II alleged that all four defendants had violated the Federal CWA by failing to prevent sediment-laden stormwater discharges from flowing from that construction site into waters leading to the Blackstone River. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding that nothing supported Defendants' argument that a citizen suit under the Federal CWA cannot be brought against an entity that is alleged to be an operator of a construction site that is unlawfully discharging pollutants into federal waters long as another entity controlled by the same individuals has such permit coverage. View "BBlackstone Headwaters Coalition, Inc. v. Gallo Builders, Inc." on Justia Law

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The employee of a subcontractor on a state public works project sued the prime contractor’s surety bond for unpaid labor under Alaska’s Little Miller Act. The trial court ruled the employee failed to give notice to the contractor within the statutorily required 90 days of his last date of labor on the project. The trial court entered a directed verdict against the employee. The employee appealed to the superior court, which denied the appeal, and then petitioned the Alaska Supreme Court for hearing. This case presented two issues of first impression: (1) how to define “labor;” and (2) whether “notice” was effective on the date of mailing or the date of receipt. Under the Little Miller Act, the Supreme Court defined “labor” as work that was “necessary to and forwards” the project secured by the payment bond, and held the effective date of “notice” to be the date notice is sent via registered mail. The superior court judgment denying the employee's appeal was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Dat Luong DBA LVDH Construction v. Western Surety Co." on Justia Law