Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that Defendants owed damages to their general contractor and two of its subcontractors (collectively, Plaintiffs) for the construction of a residential home, holding that judgment was correctly entered for Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs filed construction liens and brought contract suits claiming unpaid balances for construction services rendered. The district court determined that the contract was a cost-plus agreement, that defects in workmanship were punch list items and not a breach by the general contractor, and that Defendants committed the first material breach of contract and owed damages to Plaintiffs. Defendants appealed, arguing that the contract was a fixed-price contract breached by the general contractor and that, even under a cost-plus contract, the general contractor breached a fiduciary duty to provide a full account for its bills when it requested draw payments. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it found that the construction contract was a cost-plus contract and that Defendants breached that contract when they failed to pay draws required under the contract; and (2) the general contractor met its obligations under the contract. View "Goes v. Vogler" on Justia Law

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In Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun., 365 Or 371, 446 P3d 53 (2019), the Oregon Supreme Court held that the Energy Facility Siting Council had failed to substantially comply with a procedural requirement when it amended rules governing how it processes requests for amendment (RFAs) to site certificates that the council issued. The Court therefore held that the rules were invalid. In response to that decision, the council adopted temporary rules governing the RFA process. Petitioners contended that those temporary rules were also invalid. According to petitioners, the rules were invalid because the council failed to prepare a statement of its findings justifying the use of temporary rules. Petitioners also maintained that the council’s rules exceed the 180-day limit on temporary rules or otherwise improperly operated retroactively. After review, the Supreme Court disagreed with petitioners’ arguments and concluded the temporary rules were valid. View "Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun." on Justia Law

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Lett worked as an investigator for Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability. In 2016, Lett was investigating police involvement in a particular civilian shooting. The Chief Administrator, Fairley, directed Lett to include in the report a finding that police officers had planted a gun on the shooting victim. Lett refused because he did not believe that the evidence supported that finding. Lett raised his concerns with Fairley’s deputy, who spoke with Fairley. Soon after, Lett was removed from his investigative team, then removed from investigative work, and ultimately assigned to janitorial duties. Fairley opened an internal investigation that concluded that Lett had violated the office’s confidentiality policy. Fairley ordered that Lett be fired. Lett initiated a grievance through his union. The arbitrator ordered the office to reinstate Lett with back pay and to expunge his record. Fairley immediately placed Lett on administrative leave with pay. Lett was assigned on paper to the Police Department’s FOIA office but was not allowed to return to work. Lett sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging First Amendment retaliation for his refusal to write a false report and Monell liability for the city and Fairley in her official capacity. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims. Lett spoke pursuant to his official duties and not as a private citizen when he refused to alter the report; the First Amendment does not apply. View "Lett v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Modern filed suit against Turner, alleging claims arising from a subcontract outlining Modern's role in the construction of an FBI facility. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court properly applied West Virginia's law and rejected all of Modern's claims based on the plain language of the contract. In this case, the district court granted Turner summary judgment on the field verification claim, and subsequently ruled in favor of Turner on the remaining claims. The court held that Modern and Turner were two sophisticated parties that entered into a detailed contract spelling out their rights and responsibilities in the construction of the FBI facility, and the provisions of that contract directly addressed the very issues raised in this appeal. Furthermore, the provisions of the contract compelled the result reached by the district court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "US f/u/b of Modern Mosaic, Ltd v. Turner Construction Co." on Justia Law

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Gentek Building Products, Inc. appealed after a jury awarded Richard and Angela Palmer damages of $10,791, plus interest. Gentek also appealed an order awarding attorney fees of $80,379 to the Palmers, and taxation of costs and disbursements. In 2003, the Palmers purchased and installed “Driftwood” steel siding from Gentek on their home in Williston. Gentek provided a lifetime limited warranty for the siding. In September 2011, the paint began to peel on the siding installed on the south side of the home. In January 2012, the Palmers submitted a warranty claim to Gentek. Gentek offered the Palmers the option of either a cash settlement or replacement with a substitute siding under the warranty, since Gentek had discontinued producing the type of siding originally installed. While the Palmers opted to have their siding replaced with a substitute, Gentek had difficulty finding a contractor willing to perform the warranty work due to the oil boom in the area. Thousands of others also experienced delaminated pain on their siding and filed warranty claims with Gentek, resulting in a class action lawsuit filed in federal district court in Ohio. The federal district court entered a final order and judgment approving a class action settlement. In 2014, the Palmers filed this suit against Gentek, alleging breach of warranty by failing to replace the defective siding. Gentek defended by arguing the Palmers were bound by the federal court's final class action settlement. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the North Dakota district court did not err in holding the Palmers were not bound by the federal district court’s final order and judgment approving a class action settlement. Furthermore, the Supreme Court concluded that the court erred in its award of attorney fees and in not ruling on Gentek’s objection to costs and disbursements. The order awarding attorney fees and taxation of costs and disbursements was reversed, however, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Palmer, et al. v. Gentek Building Products, Inc." on Justia Law

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Beau Gordon, a professional roofer, fell 35 feet through a "camouflaged hole" in a warehouse roof he was inspecting. For the resulting head injury, a jury awarded Gordon approximately $875,000 against the building's owner, ARC Manufacturing, Inc. (ARC) and Joseph Meyers. The primary issue on appeal was whether the trial court correctly refused to instruct on primary assumption of risk where, as here, defendants did not hire or engage Gordon. The Court of Appeal concluded that primary assumption of risk did not apply, rejected appellants' other contentions, and affirmed the judgment. View "Gordon v. ARC Manufacturing, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District entered into a contract with the Joint Venture, for the “Primary Settling Tanks and Grit Removal Facilities” project to be carried out at the Calumet water reclamation plant. Under the contract, the Joint Venture was responsible to determine the procedures and methods for the work and furnish all temporary structures and safety equipment and was responsible for the safety of all personnel on the worksite. The contract required the Joint Venture to submit plans for the work to the District’s engineer but state that the engineer’s acceptance of the plans did not relieve the Joint Venture of its responsibility for safety, maintenance, and repairs on the project. Andrews, a Joint Venture employee, suffered severe, career-ending head injuries while working on the project. In a suit alleging construction negligence, willful and wanton construction negligence, and loss of consortium, the District alleged immunity under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/2-109, 2-201). The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that the District was not entitled to summary judgment of immunity. The Act immunizes a local governmental entity from liability for injuries arising out of its employee’s acts or omissions while determining policy and exercising discretion. The District did not provide evidence that its employees made discretionary or policy decisions with respect to the two-ladder configuration that resulted in Andrews’s injuries. Seven witnesses testified that no District employees weighed in on worksite safety decisions. View "Andrews v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago" on Justia Law

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In this contract dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court awarding Flathead Management Partners (FMP) $191,876 in expectancy damages, holding that the district court did not err when it denied Gary Jystad's motion for judgment on the pleadings and when it concluded that the contract at issue was enforceable. After a fire destroyed Jystad's home he entered into a contract with FMP to restore the property and to oversee the reconstruction of the main residence. After the parties worked together for a few months, Jystad informed FMP that the contract was void because it did not contain the statutorily required disclosures for a general contractor constructing a new residence. FMP filed this action claiming expectancy damages for the full contract price. The district court granted judgment for FMP, holding that FMP was not a general contractor and that the contract was not for the construction of a new residence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it determined that the contract was not for the construction of a new residence and that FMP was not a general contractor; and (2) the court did not abuse its discretion in the award of damages. View "Flathead Management Partners, LLC v. Jystad" on Justia Law

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In 1997, Suffolk Construction Company entered into a contract with the University of Connecticut (“UConn”) for the construction of several buildings on UConn’s campus. UConn secured insurance policies from Reliance Insurance Company for the Project, naming Suffolk (and other contractors) as an insured. Suffolk completed the work in January 2001. The Reliance insurance policy was extended until January 2004. However, in late 2001, however, Reliance went into liquidation. In 2013 and 2014, UConn complained of defects in the construction that resulted in damage to its buildings. UConn initiated legal proceedings against Suffolk and other contractors. In 2016, Suffolk submitted a proof of claim to the Insurance Commissioner of Pennsylvania, as the statutory liquidator of Reliance. At issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this case involved the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court's interpretation of certain contract language using Connecticut law. The Commonwealth Court found that the language of the contract was clear and unambiguous, thus precluding consideration of extrinsic evidence of the parties’ intent. The Supreme Court determined, however, a Settlement Agreement between the parties could have been construed as nothing more than a mutual general release between UConn and Suffolk: "The ambiguity stems not from Suffolk’s 'subjective perception' of the terms of the Settlement Agreement, but from the terms of the agreement itself, as the language releasing claims for 'insurance coverage' and 'indemnification' does not have a single, clear meaning." As such, the Commonwealth Court erred by failing to consider extrinsic evidence, outside of the terms of the Settlement Agreement, to discern the parties’ intent. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the Commonwealth Court decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "Suffolk Constr. v. Reliance Ins." on Justia Law

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On a winter night in 2014, strong winds blew through the town of Georgia, Vermont, causing a partially constructed livestock barn to collapse. Commercial Construction Endeavors, Inc. (CCE), the contractor building the barn, sought recompense for the resulting losses from its insurer, Ohio Security Insurance Company. However, insurer and insured disagreed as to policy coverage for costs incurred by CCE in removing the remains of the collapsed barn and rebuilding it to its pre-collapse state. Ultimately, CCE sued Ohio Security for breach of contract. In successive summary-judgment rulings, the trial court held that the contractor’s rebuilding expenses were covered under the policy, but the cost of debris removal was not. Ohio Security cross-appealed the first ruling and CCE appealed the second; the Vermont Supreme Court reversed the first ruling and affirmed the second. The Court determined the additional collapse coverage applied only to “Covered Property,” which was business personal property; CCE did not dispute that the barn was not business personal property and thus was not “Covered Property.” Therefore, the court’s first summary-judgment ruling was reversed. The debris removal was not a loss involving business personal property. As a result, it was not a loss to “Covered Property” at that term was defined by the policy at issue. View "Commercial Construction Endeavors, Inc. v. Ohio Security Insurance Company" on Justia Law