Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

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Waypoint, the project owner, entered into a construction contract with Team Contractors, the general contractor, and entered into an architectural contract with HCA. HCA then retained KLG as the project's engineer. Team filed suit and subsequently prevailed against the engineers and architects for negligence, but not against the owner for breach of contract. After a finding that the initial verdict had an irreconcilable conflict, a second trial was held just on the breach of contract claim. The jury then reached a verdict for the general contractor, and the owner appealed.The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to reinstate the original verdict. The court held that if the answers to written questions require jurors to apply the instructed law to their fact-findings, thereby fully explaining who prevails on all claims against a single defendant, and if relevant, the amount of any monetary award, that is sufficient for a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 49(b) verdict. Though in this case the jurors were not given, as Rule 49(b) states, "forms for a general verdict" and also for answers to written questions, jurors applied their instructions on the law to their fact finding and found there had been no breach of contract. The court held that the result fully resolved the claim against Waypoint. The court stated that the general verdict is incomplete in Rule 49(b) terms, but it is sufficient. The court also held that Team waived any argument to have the verdict set aside. Finally, the court remanded for the district court to consider attorneys' fees. View "Team Contractors, LLC v. Waypoint NOLA, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing First State Bank Nebraska's (First State) claims against MP Nexlevel, LLC seeking performance under a contract, holding that the district court erred in granting MP Nexlevel summary judgment and dismissing First State's complaint.MP Nexlevel contracted to pay Husker Underground Utilities & Construction, LLC for construction services. Due to separate loan agreements, First State held a security interest in Husker Underground's accounts. When Husker Underground failed to meet its loan obligations, First State sought direct payment of MP Nexlevel's obligations under the contract. However, MP Nexlevel continued to submit its payments to Husker Underground. First State ultimately brought suit against MP Nexlevel for performance under the contract. The district court concluded that First State lacked standing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Neb. Rev. Stat. 9-406(a) imposed a duty on MP Nexlevel to discharge its obligations under its agreement with Husker Underground by paying directly to First State; (2) MP Nexlevel breached its obligations to First State; and (3) First State was authorized by Neb. Rev. Stat. 9-607(a)(3) to step into Husker Underground's place and enforce MP Nexlevel's contractual obligations as adjusted by operation of section 9-406(a). View "First State Bank Nebraska v. MP Nexlevel, LLC" on Justia Law

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Antonio Wallace was tried by a jury and convicted of the murder of Leroy O’Hara. Wallace appealed, claiming: (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) the trial court erred when it denied his motion for new trial on the general grounds; and (3) that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. The Georgia Supreme Court found no merit in these claims, and affirmed. View "Wallace v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Baltimore filed suit against the Government, alleging that HHS's Final Rule, prohibiting physicians and other providers in Title X programs from referring patients for an abortion, even if that is the patient's wish, violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Final Rule, instead, requires them to refer the patient for prenatal care. Furthermore, the Final Rule requires entities receiving Title X funds, but offering abortion-related services pursuant to another source of funds, to physically separate their abortion-related services from the Title X services. After the district court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the Government from implementing or enforcing the Final Rule because the Final Rule is likely not in accordance with law, the Government appealed. While the appeal of the preliminary injunction was pending and after discovery, the district court issued a permanent injunction on different grounds.The Fourth Circuit consolidated the appeals and a majority of the full court voted to hear both cases en banc. The court upheld the district court's grant of the permanent injunction on two grounds: first, the Final Rule was promulgated in an arbitrary and capricious manner because it failed to recognize and address the ethical concerns of literally every major medical organization in the country, and it arbitrarily estimated the cost of the physical separation of abortion services; and second, the Final Rule contravenes statutory provisions requiring nondirective counseling in Title X programs and prohibiting interference with physician/patient communications. Accordingly, because the court affirmed the permanent injunction in Case No. 20-1215, the appeal of the preliminary injunction in Case No. 19-1614 is moot and the court dismissed it. View "Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Azar" on Justia Law

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D2 filed suit for breach of contract, quantum meruit, violations of the Texas prompt pay statute, and to foreclose on a statutory and constitutional lien. Thompson, in turn, alleged that D2 breached the excavation contract between the parties. The district court held in D2's favor on all claims and ordered Thompson to pay for unpaid work and for "excess" excavating work, as well as interest and attorneys' fees.The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not clearly err by finding that management of the site was so deficient that D2 had to regrade the same areas as many as six times and was unable to complete its work in other parts of the site, justifying D2's cessation of work. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment for the $81,068 in unpaid work and the related prompt payment statute and lien remedies for that breach of contract. However, the court held that neither breach of contract nor quantum meruit allows D2 to recover for "excavation of unanticipated excess soil." Thus, the court reversed the district court's judgment of $257,588.53 for the "excavation of unanticipated excess soil" and rendered judgment for Thompson on those breach of contract and quantum meruit claims. The court remanded for modification of the judgment. View "D2 Excavating, Inc. v. Thompson Thrift Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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Caliber Paving Company, Inc. (Caliber) sued Rexford Industrial Realty and Management, Inc. (Rexford) for intentional interference with a contract between Caliber and Steve Fodor Construction (SFC). The trial court granted Rexford’s motion for summary judgment on the ground that Rexford, although not a party to the contract, had an economic interest in it and therefore could not be liable in tort for intentional interference with contract. Caliber appealed. In a case of first impression, the Court of Appeal held that under Applied Equipment Corp. v. Litton Saudi Arabia Ltd., 7 Cal.4th 503 (1994), a defendant who is not a party to the contract or an agent of a party to the contract is a noncontracting party or stranger to the contract and, regardless whether the defendant claims a social or economic interest in the contractual relationship, may be liable in tort for intentional interference with contract. Applied Equipment did not confer immunity for intentional interference with contract on noncontracting parties having a social or economic interest in the contractual relationship from liability. The Court also concluded Caliber submitted admissible evidence sufficient to meet its burden of raising a triable issue of fact as to whether Rexford interfered with the contract between SFC and Caliber. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Caliber Paving Co. v. Rexford Industrial Realty and Management" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court finding that the production of aggregate by Ash Grove Cement Company qualified as "processing" under the Nebraska Advantage Act (NAA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 77-5701 to 77-5735, and finding that Ash Grove's aggregate production did not qualify as "manufacturing" under the NAA, holding that the appeals in this case were without merit.Because Lyman-Richey, which sold aggregate products used for things like manufacturing concrete, was wholly owned by Ash Grove, Ash Grove was eligible to include Lyman-Richey in its application for NAA tax incentives. At issue in this case was whether the district court erred in (1) finding that aggregate production locations were not engaged in "manufacturing" under the NAA; (2) denying Lyman-Richey's claims for overpayment of sales and use tax based on the manufacturing machinery or equipment exemption; and (3) finding the aggregate production locations were engaged in "processing" under the NAA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) although Ash Grove did not engage in "manufacturing" when it produced aggregate without crushing, it did engage in the qualified business of "processing" under the NAA; and (2) Lyman-Richey failed to prove entitlement to overpayment of sales and use tax based on the manufacturing machinery and equipment exemption. View "Ash Grove Cement Co. v. Nebraska Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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In this action challenging Stanislaus County's classification of well construction permits the Supreme Court held that the blanket classification of all permit issuances as ministerial was unlawful and that under the ordinance authorizing the issuance of these permits some of the County's decisions may be discretionary.Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Cal. Pub. Resources Code, 21000 et seq., any government action that may directly or indirectly cause a physical change to the environment is a project, including the issuance of a permit. Projects can be either discretionary or ministerial actions, and discretionary projects general require some level of environmental review, while ministerial projects do not. In this case, Plaintiffs challenged Stanislaus County's practice of categorically classifying a subset of its issuance of well construction permits as ministerial, arguing that the permit issuances are discretionary projects requiring CEQA review. The trial court found the permit issuances were ministerial. The Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiffs were entitled to a declaration that classifying all issuances as ministerial violates CEQA; but (2) Plaintiffs were not entitled to injunctive relief because they failed to demonstrate that all permit decisions covered by the classification practice were discretionary. View "Protecting Our Water & Environmental Resources v. County of Stanislaus" on Justia Law

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Woodrock, Inc. appealed the grant of summary judgment dismissing its negligence and other claims against McKenzie County, North Dakota. In September 2018, Woodrock sued the County for violations of N.D.C.C. ch. 48-01.2 and negligence. Woodrock alleged the County hired Edwards Gravel & Trucking, LLC to supply aggregate to aggregate stockpiles, the County did not obtain a payment bond from Edwards Gravel, Woodrock furnished materials for use in the project, and Edwards Gravel did not pay Woodrock for the materials. Woodrock claimed that the County violated N.D.C.C. section 48-01.2-10 and was negligent by failing to obtain a bond from Edwards Gravel and that the County was liable to the subcontractors and material suppliers who worked on the project. Woodrock requested damages in the amount of $298,629.54. On appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court, Woodrick argued the district court erred in concluding a project to stockpile aggregate materials was not a public improvement and the bond requirement under N.D.C.C. 48-01.2-10 did not apply. The Supreme Court concluded supplying aggregate materials to stockpiles for general use in maintaining and repairing county roads did not constitute “construction of a public improvement.” Therefore, the Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Woodrock, Inc. et al. v. McKenzie Cty." on Justia Law

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TDH’s contract to provide HVAC services at a Chicago construction site contained provisions agreeing to indemnify Rockwell, the owner. TDH provided a Certificate of Liability Insurance, identifying Columbia as the commercial general liability insurer, TDH as the insured, and Rockwell and Prairie (the manager) as additional insureds. While working at the site, TDH’s employee Guzman fell 22 feet through an unguarded opening in the second floor, sustaining serious injuries.Guzman sued Rockwell, Prairie, and others. Guzman did not sue TDH. Several defendants filed third-party complaints against TDH for contribution. Scottsdale insured Rockwell and has defended Rockwell and Prairie. Scottsdale filed suit, wanting Columbia to take over their defense.The district court declared that Columbia owes a duty to defend Prairie and Rockwell, ordered Columbia to pay Scottsdale $50,000 for defense costs through August 2019, and left the issue of indemnity for another day. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Columbia policy limitation that another organization would only be an additional insured with respect to liability arising out of TDH’s ongoing operations performed for that other organization does not eliminate Columbia’s duty to defend. Prairie’s and Rockwell’s liability for the fall potentially arises in part out of TDH’s then-ongoing operations performed for Prairie and Rockwell. It does not matter that the underlying suit does not name TDH. The underlying allegations do not preclude the possibility of coverage. View "Scottsdale Insurance Co. v. Columbia Insurance Group, Inc" on Justia Law