Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

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Russell Construction of Alabama, Inc. ("Russell"), appealed a circuit court order that vacated an arbitration award in favor of Russell and against Christopher Peat. In 2015, Russell and Peat entered into a contract pursuant to which Russell agreed to construct a residence for Peat on "a cost plus a fee basis." The documents executed in connection with the contract provided, in the event of a controversy or dispute, first for mediation and then for arbitration in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association. Upon completion of the residence, a dispute arose between Russell and Peat regarding Russell's performance and the balance due Russell under the contract. In January 2018, Russell filed a formal demand for arbitration, seeking $295,408 allegedly due from Peat for the construction of the residence. Peat counterclaimed, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract and disputing his consent to costs incurred by Russell; Peat sought specific performance and an award of $255,000 on his counterclaims. Thereafter, in May 2018, the parties reached, as a result of mediation, a settlement agreement. In essence, the settlement agreement required Russell to make certain repairs to the residence; required Peat to pay Russell $245,408 on or before June 15, 2018, at which time Russell agreed to release its recorded lien; and required Peat to deposit into escrow an additional $50,000 to ensure completion, by the end of August 2018, of a "punch-list" to the satisfaction of a third-party "Construction Consultant." The Alabama Supreme Court determined the circuit court did not err to the extent that it set aside the judgment entered pursuant to the arbitrator's Final Award. The Court affirmed the trial court's July 25, 2019 order to the extent that it vacated any judgment on the arbitrator's Final Award related to Russell's and Peat's breach of the provisions of the settlement agreement that remained in effect after the Modified Partial Final Award and the distribution of the outstanding $50,000 at issue. The Court reversed that same order to the extent it purported to vacate any judgment on the Modified Partial Final Award of $258,959.89 and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Russell Construction of Alabama, Inc. v. Peat" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court holding that a general contractor was liable for construction materials provided by a supplier to one of the general contractor's subcontractors, holding that the distinct circumstances of this case permitted the supplier to obtain relief for the general contractor's unjust enrichment. General Contractor contracted with Subcontractor to assist with a residential condominium project. Subcontractor agreed to purchase materials from Supplier and to pay Supplier for materials delivered. General Contractor and Subcontractor entered into a joint check agreement specifying a method for how Supplier would be paid for the materials it shipped to the job. Supplier ultimately shipped $252,062 in materials for which it was not paid due to the Subcontractor's financial difficulties. General Contractor ultimately used those materials to complete the project. Supplier sued General Contractor and Subcontractor alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Supplier obtained a default judgment against Subcontractor. After a trial, the court ruled for Supplier in its claim of unjust enrichment against General Contractor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the joint check agreement did not foreclose relief; (2) General Contractor was not being compelled to pay twice for the materials; and (3) Supplier was permitted to obtain relief for General Contractor's unjust enrichment. View "Davis Construction Corp. v. FTJ, Inc." on Justia Law

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Several insurance companies (the Insurers) appealed the denial of their motions to intervene in a construction defect action between a property owners' association (the Association) and a number of construction contractors and subcontractors (the Insureds). The underlying construction defect action proceeded to trial, resulting in a verdict for the Association. After review, the South Carolina Supreme Court determined the Insurers were not entitled to intervene as a matter of right, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying them permissive intervention. However, the Court held the Insurers had a right to a determination of which portions of the Association's damages are covered under the commercial general liability (CGL) policies between the Insurers and the Insureds. The Court also recognized that the Insurers had the right and ability to contest coverage of the jury verdict in a subsequent declaratory judgment action. "In that action, the Insurers and the Insureds will be bound by the existence and extent of any jury verdict in favor of the Association in the construction defect action. However, they will not be bound as to any factual matters for which a conflict of interest existed, such as determining what portion of the total damages are covered by any applicable CGL policies." View "Builders Mutual Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Brandon Carter was convicted by jury of malice murder and two firearm offenses in connection with the shooting death of Terrance Baker. On appeal, Carter contended the trial court erred by admitting certain hearsay statements into evidence and by violating his constitutional right to be present during his trial. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed conviction. View "Carter v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In August 2013 the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT) entered into a contract with Osborne Construction Company to upgrade the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting building at the Fairbanks International Airport to withstand damage in the event of an earthquake. The DOT appealed a superior court decision reversing the agency's decision in an administrative appeal. The agency denied a contractor’s claim for additional compensation because the claim was filed outside the filing period allowed by the contract. After applying its independent judgment to interpret the contract, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the DOT that the contractor failed to file its claim within the period allowed. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the superior court’s decision and reinstated the agency’s. View "Alaska, Dept. of Transportation & Public Facilities v. Osborne Construction Co." on Justia Law

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In this construction contract dispute, the Supreme Court held that the San Antonio River Authority possessed the authority to agree to arbitrate claims under Texas Local Government Code Chapter 271 and exercised that authority in the contract and that the judiciary, rather than an arbitrator, retains the duty to decide whether a local government has waived its governmental immunity. The River Authority hired Austin Bridge and Road L.P. for a construction project. The parties agreed to submit any disputes about the contract to arbitration. Austin Bridge invoked the contract's arbitration provisions when disagreements about the scope of work and payment arose. After the arbitrator denied the River Authority's plea of governmental immunity, the River Authority sued Austin Bridge, arguing that it lacked the authority to agree to the contract's arbitration provisions. The trial court concluded that the arbitration provisions in the contract were enforceable. The court of appeals agreed that the River Authority had the authority to agree to arbitrate but concluded that a court, rather than an arbitrator, must decide whether the River Authority was immune from the claims against it. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that chapter 271 waived the River Authority's immunity from suit for Austin Bridge's breach of contract claim. View "San Antonio River Authority v. Austin Bridge & Road, L.P." on Justia Law

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Carmel provided design and construction work for a luxury subdivision, Monterra, in Monterey County for more than 10 years under an oral contract with property owner Mills, the principal of Monterra LLC. Carmel recorded a mechanic’s lien and a site improvement lien against certain lots in Monterra after being informed that Monterra LLC would be unable to continue paying for the work. Carmel sued several of Monterra LLC’s investors with property interests in unsold lots in the development and Monterra LLC, alleging breach of contract and foreclosure of the mechanic’s and site improvement liens. Monterra stipulated to liability before trial; the investor defendants contested liability in a lengthy bench trial. The court of appeal reversed. Carmel applied the payments it received from Monterra LLC to debt that was not subject to liens, in effect increasing the amounts of the Water Lien and Site Improvement Lien. It was improper to allocate a water infrastructure lien only to certain benefited lots; the liens could not accrue contractual interest greater than the reasonable value of the improvements. The trial court applied an incorrect rate to calculate prejudgment interest. The court remanded with instructions to remove contractual interest from both liens, reapportion the water infrastructure lien, and recalculate prejudgment interest. View "Carmel Development Co., Inc. v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Teed promoted himself online as a real estate agent with “over 25 years of experience as a building contractor” with “an extensive background in historic restorations.” Moore believed that Teed was a general contractor. Moore toured homes that Teed had renovated and retained Teed as his agent. Moore bought a large San Francisco fixer-upper house for $4.8 million. The home was built in 1912 and was last updated in the 1950s. Moore borrowed significantly. Teed received a commission from the sale. Teed was not a licensed contractor; his team of contractors gutted large parts of the house and excavated the lot but the foundation was defective. After Moore became aware of the defects, he halted all work and engaged consultants, who concluded, despite Teed's strong resistance, that the foundation had to be torn out and replaced. Teed’s structural engineer agreed and privately apologized to Moore. Moore had paid about $265,000 of the $900,000 promised cost for Teed’s renovations. A jury awarded Moore his out-of-pocket expenses for replacing the foundation and benefit-of-the-bargain damages for the additional cost he incurred in obtaining the promised renovations. Conceding liability, Teed challenged the award. The court of appeal affirmed that benefit-of-the-bargain damages are available to fully compensate a plaintiff for all the detriment proximately caused by a fraudulent fiduciary’s actions and the award of statutory attorney fees and costs based on the jury’s special verdict finding that Teed violated the Contractors’ State License Law. View "Moore v. Teed" on Justia Law

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Skyrise bid $950,000 to supply “stick building” rough frame carpentry for building housing units near the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Upon receiving a letter of intent from Annex, the general contractor, to enter into a contract, Skyrise blocked the project on its calendar and declined other work. Skyrise delayed returning the actual proposed contract for two months. Amex rejected Skyrise’s subsequent proposals for a broader scope of work and a different payment plan and awarded the carpentry contract to another firm. Skyrise sued for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, negligent misrepresentation, violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, and violation of the Wisconsin Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Although the parties signed various proposals during their negotiations, no contract formed. The undisputed, objective evidence demonstrates that both parties intended for their relationship to be governed by a detailed contract that remained under review until Skyrise ultimately rejected that contract by making material alterations. Skyrise knew or should have known, that the negotiations could fall apart before the parties entered into a binding agreement. Annex never represented to Skyrise that it had the framing subcontract. View "Skyrise Construction Group LLC v. Annex Construction LLC" on Justia Law

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North Edwards Water District (the District) selected Clark Bros., Inc. (Clark) as its general or direct contractor on a public works project to build an arsenic removal water treatment plant. Clark hired subcontractor Crosno Construction (Crosno) to build and coat two steel reservoir tanks. The subcontract contained a "pay-when-paid" provision that stated Clark would pay Crosno within a reasonable time of receiving payments from the District, but that this reasonable time "in no event shall be less than the time Contractor and Subcontractor require to pursue to conclusion their legal remedies against Owner or other responsible party to obtain payment . . . ." After Crosno completed most of its work, a dispute arose between the District and Clark halting the project. As Clark sued the District, Crosno sought to recover payments owed under the public works payment bond that Clark had obtained for the project. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review involved Crosno's claim against the bond surety, Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America (Travelers). At issue was whether the pay-when-paid provision in Crosno's subcontract precluded Crosno from recovering under the payment bond while Clark's lawsuit against the District was pending. Relying on Wm. R. Clarke Corp. v. Safeco Ins. Co., 15 Cal.4th 882 (1997), the trial court found the pay-when-paid provision here unenforceable because it affected or impaired Crosno's payment bond rights in violation of Civil Code section 8122. With the facts largely undisputed, the court granted Crosno's motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in its favor for principal due plus prejudgment interest. Travelers argued the trial court misconstrued Wm. R. Clarke and erred in failing to enforce the pay-when-paid provision against the bond claim. After carefully considering the parties' arguments, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court's analysis and affirmed. View "Crosno Construction, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty etc." on Justia Law