by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and dismissed in part the order of the circuit court denying Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.5. The Court reversed and dismissed as to the issue of whether trial counsel’s failure to present the affirmative defense of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect was ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to consider this issue. The Court otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in finding that counsel did not provide ineffective assistance as to Appellant’s remaining allegations of defective representation; and (2) the cumulative error rule in allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel should not be recognized in Arkansas. View "Lacy v. State" on Justia Law

by
A direct contractor’s timely payment to its subcontractors may be excused under Cal. Civ. Code 8814(c) only when the direct contractor has a good faith basis for contesting the subcontractor’s right to receive the specific monies that are withheld. United Riggers & Erectors, Inc. (United Riggers) sued Coast Iron & Steel Co. (Coast Iron) alleging failure to make prompt payment of monies owed United Riggers for its work on a project. See Cal. Civ. Code 8814, 8818. Coast Iron paid United Riggers, but the payments did not moot United Riggers’s statutory claim because the statutory scheme imposes a penalty for delay. The trial court entered judgment for Coast Iron. The court of appeal reversed on the statutory claim for failure to make timely retention payments, holding that Coast Iron could not use the parties’ dispute over project mismanagement to justify withholding United Riggers’s pay. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Coast Iron did not present a good faith argument for why the withheld monies were no longer due to United Riggers. View "United Riggers & Erectors, Inc. v. Coast Iron & Steel Co." on Justia Law

by
Yates Construction, LLC, and D.W. Caldwell, Inc., entered into a construction subcontract for the roof installation on a residential dormitory at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. When Caldwell completed both the repairs and the roof installation, it had yet to receive total payment for the structural repairs. The companies disputed the scope and expense of these repairs and quickly negotiated to an impasse. Thereafter, Caldwell filed a claim against Yates for causing delay and increased costs by failing to pay for work performed, which was in breach of the agreements between the parties. The parties proceeded to arbitration. Although the arbitration record was neither recorded nor transcribed, the parties conceded that the arbitrator considered arguments, reviewed evidence, and heard witness testimony over the course of three days. He then reopened the proceedings for additional documentation, before issuing his thirteen-page award. Within two weeks of the arbitrator’s decision to deny Yates’s motion for reconsideration, Caldwell requested that the circuit court confirm the award under Mississippi Code Section 11-15-125. Yates moved the trial court to alter, amend, or vacate the award under Mississippi Code Section 11-15-25. With the understanding that Yates would provide oral argument on its motion at the award confirmation hearing, Caldwell filed a request to limit the presentation of proof before the circuit court. Ultimately, the trial court reviewed fourteen exhibits and the testimony of one witness in making its decision. Based on this evidence, the court issued its order modifying the arbitrator’s award. Finding that the arbitrator had duplicated the labor costs for shingle installation in its award–once under the original subcontract and once under the oral agreement to repair the structural damage (referred to as the Repair Agreement)–it amended the award, reducing the total by $104,507. After its review, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined: (1) the miscalculations alleged in this matter were not evident from the award itself, nor were they apparent from the agreed-upon record; and (2) the judge erred when he allowed the parties to present witness testimony regarding the extent of any alleged miscalculations, rather than relying on the award and the arbitration record as the relevant law suggested. Finding error, the Court therefore reversed the circuit court’s decision and remanded this case to the circuit court with directions to confirm the arbitration award. Furthermore, because the subcontract between the parties provided that each contractor would be responsible for his own fees and costs, the Court declined to assess costs to one party over the other, and instead, enforced their bargained-for agreement. View "D. W. Caldwell, Inc. v. W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company" on Justia Law

by
Ewing Construction Co., Inc., appeals from a judgment denying its N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion to vacate a $951,191.62 default judgment entered in favor of Key Energy Services, LLC. Ewing began serving as the designer of and general contractor for Key's construction of the P3 Service Center project in Williston. Ewing voluntarily canceled its North Dakota contractor license in October 2014. In January 2015, Key sued Ewing and 22 others to invalidate construction liens filed against its property and claiming Ewing failed to pay numerous subcontractors for their work on the project in violation of its contractual obligations. After Ewing failed to answer the complaint, Key moved in June 2016 for a default judgment against Ewing. The district court granted the motion and entered default judgment against Ewing, awarding Key $951,191.62. The default judgment was entered on June 24, 2016, and Key served notice of entry of judgment on June 27, 2016. On May 12, 2017, after attempts were made to enforce the default judgment in Texas, Ewing brought a N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion to vacate the default judgment "because of insufficient service of process, and excusable neglect." Key responded by filing a corrected return of service which the district court accepted and considered. The corrected return of service was notarized and identified the documents served. On July 28, 2017, the court denied the N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion, concluding service of process was sufficient, the motion was untimely, and Ewing failed to establish excusable neglect. Because the district court did not err in ruling service of process was proper and did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to vacate, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Key Energy Services, LLC v. Ewing Construction Co., Inc., et. al." on Justia Law

by
In a wrongful death action, the jury returned a special verdict that awarded damages to the individual loss-of-consortium claimants but not to the decedent’s estate. The decedent’s surviving spouse and children (collectively Plaintiffs) filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the award of zero damages to the estate was not supported by substantial evidence. The issue before the New Mexico Supreme Court was whether Plaintiffs waived the right to challenge the jury verdict on appeal by failing to object to the verdict prior to the jury’s discharge. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that they did: “A party is deemed to have waived a challenge to an ambiguous, inconsistent, or incomplete jury verdict if the party had an opportunity to raise the objection before the jury was discharged but failed to do so.” In this case, Plaintiffs created ambiguity in the verdict by modifying the uniform jury instruction on wrongful death damages and drafting the special verdict form in a way that failed to advise jurors how to allocate damages between the individual loss-of-consortium claimants and the decedent’s estate. During its deliberations, the jury submitted a question to the district court which confirmed that the jury was confused about how to allocate damages on the special verdict form. As a result of this confusion, it was unclear whether the jury deliberately intended to award zero wrongful death damages to the estate or whether the jury mistakenly included wrongful death damages in its award to the individual claimants. View "Saenz v. Ranack Constructors, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In a wrongful death action, the jury returned a special verdict that awarded damages to the individual loss-of-consortium claimants but not to the decedent’s estate. The decedent’s surviving spouse and children (collectively Plaintiffs) filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the award of zero damages to the estate was not supported by substantial evidence. The issue before the New Mexico Supreme Court was whether Plaintiffs waived the right to challenge the jury verdict on appeal by failing to object to the verdict prior to the jury’s discharge. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that they did: “A party is deemed to have waived a challenge to an ambiguous, inconsistent, or incomplete jury verdict if the party had an opportunity to raise the objection before the jury was discharged but failed to do so.” In this case, Plaintiffs created ambiguity in the verdict by modifying the uniform jury instruction on wrongful death damages and drafting the special verdict form in a way that failed to advise jurors how to allocate damages between the individual loss-of-consortium claimants and the decedent’s estate. During its deliberations, the jury submitted a question to the district court which confirmed that the jury was confused about how to allocate damages on the special verdict form. As a result of this confusion, it was unclear whether the jury deliberately intended to award zero wrongful death damages to the estate or whether the jury mistakenly included wrongful death damages in its award to the individual claimants. View "Saenz v. Ranack Constructors, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court withdrew its opinion issued on January 24, 2018 in this case and substituted this opinion in its place, holding that the circuit court properly denied Appellant’s motion filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. Appellant’s motion sought relief pursuant to Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and this court’s decision on remand in Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The Supreme Court held that Appellant’s valid waiver of postconviction proceedings and counsel in 2008 precluded him from claiming a right to relief under Hurst. Moreover, even if Appellant’s postconviction waiver did not preclude him from raising a Hurst claim, Hurst would not apply retroactively to Appellant’s sentence of death. View "Trease v. State" on Justia Law

by
Scott and Anne Davison appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of DeBest Plumbing (DeBest). In 2012, the Davisons hired Gould Custom Builders, Inc. (Gould) to perform an extensive remodel of their vacation home in Idaho. Gould hired DeBest as the plumbing subcontractor. A bathtub installed by DeBest developed a leak that caused significant damage before it was noticed and repaired. The Davisons sought damages based upon the contract between Gould and DeBest and for negligence. The district court granted DeBest’s motion for summary judgment on the contract claims because the Davisons were not in privity of contract with DeBest. Later, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of DeBest on the negligence claim, finding that the Davisons had failed to comply with the requirements of the Notice and Opportunity to Repair Act (NORA), Idaho Code sections 6-2501–2504. On appeal, the Davisons argued they satisfied the requirements of NORA because DeBest received actual notice of the claim and sent a representative to inspect the damage. Finding that the Davidsons satisfied the requirements of NORA when they gave DeBest actual notice, and DeBest had an opportunity to inspect the defect, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in granting DeBest's motion for summary judgment on the Davidsons' negligence claim. The Supreme Court reversed as to negligence, but affirmed the district court in all other respects. View "Davison v. DeBest Plumbing" on Justia Law

by
Rocky Mountain Steel Foundations, Inc. appealed a judgment invalidating its oil and gas construction liens and awarding attorney fees to Mitchell's Oil Field Services, Inc., also known as Wood Group, and Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America (collectively "Mitchell's"). Mitchell's, as general contractor, entered into a contract with Brockett Company, LLC, as subcontractor, and Amber Brockett, as personal guarantor (collectively "Brockett"), to purchase construction materials for installation on certain oil wells. Brockett purchased materials from Rocky Mountain to fulfill Brockett's contract with Mitchell's. Mitchell's paid Brockett in full. Rocky Mountain delivered the materials, and Mitchell's installed the materials. Rocky Mountain thereafter recorded two oil and gas well liens against the wells because Brockett had not paid Rocky Mountain. Mitchell's recorded lien release bonds, with the liens attached to the bonds. Mitchell's received payment in full, then Rocky Mountain filed to foreclose on the liens. The parties agreed Mitchell's paid Brockett in full before Rocky Mountain delivered the materials to the wells and before Mitchell's or the leaseholders received notice of the liens. The parties agreed Rocky Mountain timely and properly satisfied all statutory and other requirements to create, perfect, and foreclose on the liens. Rocky Mountain recorded the liens on well leaseholds by ConocoPhillips Company and Burlington Resources Oil & Gas Co. (the "owners"). Brockett did not answer or appear at any hearings and admitted to nonpayment, but asserted it has no assets with which to pay. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Rocky Mountain for its breach of contract claim against Brockett. The parties submitted their remaining claims to the district court solely on interpretation of the oil and gas construction liens provided by N.D.C.C. ch. 35-24. The court found N.D.C.C. 35-24-04 invalidated Rocky Mountain's liens after the owners paid Mitchell's. The primary issue before the North Dakota Supreme Court was whether N.D.C.C. 35-24-04 permitted a subcontractor's oil and gas construction lien when an owner fully paid the general contractor. Rocky Mountain argued the district court erred in finding Rocky Mountain's liens were invalidated when the owners fully paid Mitchell's. The Supreme Court agreed: Section 35-24-02, N.D.C.C., allowed contractors to file liens for unpaid materials furnished or services rendered "in the drilling or operating of any oil or gas well upon such leasehold." The district court erred in interpreting N.D.C.C. sections 35-24-04 and -07 to invalidate Rocky Mountain's liens, and also erred in awarding attorney fees to Mitchell's. View "Rocky Mountain Steel Foundations, Inc. v. Brockett Company, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing Petitioners’ civil action as a sanction for alleged discovery violations, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by imposing the sanction of dismissal. Petitioners bought this civil action against Respondent alleging unfair and deceptive acts, breach of express and implied warranties, breach of contract, and other causes of action. Respondent eventually filed a second motion to dismiss the civil action as a sanction for alleged discovery violations. The circuit court identified ten instances of alleged wrongful conduct by Petitioners and granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, even assuming that there was a discovery violation, the circuit court’s imposition of the extreme sanction of dismissal was an abuse of discretion. View "Smith v. Gebhardt" on Justia Law