Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

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KD Oak Grove and KP Westwood entered into two separate contracts with Coumanis Allen, a general contractor. Subsequently, Coumanis did not pay subcontractors for their work, and Warren & Warren, one of Coumanis’s subcontractors, filed construction liens on Oak Grove’s and Westwood’s separate real property. In both payment actions, Warren admitted to failing to file its lis pendens notice along with its construction liens, waiting 110 days to file it. The two separate legal actions were brought before the Chancery Court of Lamar County, Mississippi, and were assigned to separate chancellors. Oak Grove and Westwood filed separate motions for summary judgment, which were denied by the chancellors; they timely appealed. The crux of the appeals was one of statutory interpretation: whether the failure to comply with Mississippi Code Section 85-7- 405(1)(c)(i) (Supp. 2020), which required the simultaneous filing of a lis pendens notice with the commencement of the payment action, rendered Warren’s liens unenforceable and ineffective. Chancellor Sheldon erred by denying Oak Grove’s motions for summary judgment, and Chancellor Gambrell erred by denying Westwood’s motion to dissolve. Therefore, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancellors’ decisions and entered summary judgment in favor of KD Oak Grove and KP Westwood. View "KD Oak Grove, LLC v. Warren & Warren Asphalt Paving, LLC" on Justia Law

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In case number 1190525, Paul Childs and Granger Construction Company, LLC ("Granger Construction"), appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of Harry ("Bud") and Brenda Pommer. In their cross-appeal, case number 1190580, the Pommers appealed the trial court's judgment entered in favor of Melissa Granger ("Melissa"), as the administratrix of the estate of Daniel Granger ("Granger"), deceased. In 2014, the Pommers decided to build a garage on property that they owned in Fairhope, Alabama. Childs was referred to Bud for the work. Childs brought Granger into the project as the licensed contractor for the work. The evidence presented at trial indicated that the project experienced significant delays. Evidence was presented indicating that Granger and Childs performed some of the physical labor on the project. In March 2015, when an invoice was presented to the Pommers, Bud and Brenda told the Childs and Granger that they did not want to give them another check based on how things had been going. A "heated" meeting between the parties resulted in the Pommers hiring an attorney. Bud requested the City conduct an inspection; the garage did not pass. The Pommers subsequently hired another contractor and other companies to repair work done by Granger Construction and to complete unfinished work on the project. The Pommers ultimately sued Childs and Granger Construction for breach of contract. Childs and Granger Construction filed their answer to the amended complaint and a counterclaim, asserting breach of contract/unjust enrichment against the Pommers. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court as to Granger Construction in case number 1190525. The Court reversed the trial court as to Childs, and rendered judgment in favor of Childs. In case number 1190580, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "Childs et al. v. Pommer" on Justia Law

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Lake Hills Investments LLC sued AP Rushforth (AP) for breach of contract, alleging, among other things, that the work AP conducted on the Lake Hills Village project was defective. AP counterclaimed that Lake Hills underpaid them. At trial, an affirmative defense instruction (jury instruction 9) was given, stating that “AP has the burden to prove that Lake Hills provided the plans and specifications for an area of work at issue, that AP followed those plans and specifications, and that the [construction] defect resulted from defects in the plans or specifications. If you find from your consideration of all the evidence that this affirmative defense has been proved for a particular area, then your verdict should be for AP as to that area.” The Court of Appeals held that this instruction understated AP’s burden of proof and allowed the jury to find that if any part of the construction defect resulted from Lake Hills’ plans and specifications, then the jury could find for AP. The court concluded that the error was not harmless, reversed, and remanded for a new trial. The Washington Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, finding that although jury instruction 9 had the potential to mislead the jury, Lake Hills could not show it was prejudiced. The Court of Appeals' judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for the appellate court to consider issues related to the trial court's award of attorney fees. View "Lake Hills Invs., LLC v. Rushforth Constr. Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Maryland State Board of Contract Appeals (MSBCA) granting summary disposition as to the Maryland State Highway Administration's (SHA) claims against Brawner Builders, Inc. and Faddis Concrete Products, Inc., holding that there was no error in the MSBCA's decision to grant SHA's motion for summary decision.SHA and Brawner entered into a contract for the construction of noise barriers along a section of interstate. Faddis manufactured noise wall panels for Brawner's use in connection with the project. SHA subsequently suspended approval of Faddis-produced noise panels. Faddis filed a procurement contract claim. The MSBCA issued summary disposition to the SHA, concluding that Faddis had no standing to file such a claim. At issue on appeal was whether Faddis's status as a "pre-approved supplier" of concrete panels on construction projects administered by the SHA constituted a "procurement contract" with the State under the State Finance and Procurement Article. The circuit court reversed. The court of special appeals reversed the circuit court. The court of Special Appeals affirmed, holding that the MSBCA properly dismissed Faddis's claims and entered judgment in SHA's favor. View "Brawner Builders, Inc. v. Maryland State Highway Administration" on Justia Law

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JT Construction, LLC ("JTC"), appealed a circuit court's judgment awarding declaratory and injunctive relief to MW Industrial Services, Inc. ("MWI"). MWI contracted with Golder Associates, Inc., to provide labor and services for a construction project at Plant Gorgas, a power plant operated by Alabama Power Company. Pursuant to the terms of the contract, MWI was prohibited from "permit[ting] any lien, affidavit of nonpayment, stop payment notice, attachment or other encumbrance ... to remain on record against [Plant Gorgas] or the property upon which it is situated for ... work performed or materials finished in connection [there]with" by any subcontractor with whom MWI might also contract. JTC subcontracted with MWI to work at Plant Gorgas. The subcontract agreement ("the lien-waiver provision") precluded JTC, in accordance with the master contract, from filing a lien against property owned by Alabama Power or Southern Company. Following execution of the subcontract agreement, a dispute arose between MWI and JTC in connection with JTC's performance of its contractual obligations and the amount owed to JTC for the work it had performed. In September 2020, counsel for JTC provided a "Notice of Mechanics' Lien" indicating that JTC claimed against the real property on which Plant Gorgas was situated, a lien in connection with JTC's work under the subcontract agreement. MWI pointed out the language of the lien-waiver provision of its subcontract, and demanded that JTC withdraw the lien notice. MWI asserted that JTC had been paid for any previous work before its execution of the subcontract agreement, and demanded that JTC withdraw its notice of lien. The trial court ultimately entered an order issuing a permanent injunction and ruling in favor of MWI on its declaratory-judgment claim, prohibiting JTC from filing its lien. The Alabama Supreme Court held the trial court erred in issuing the declaratory judgment and in awarding permanent injunctive relief without prior notice to JTC, as required by Rule 65(a)(2), and that JTC was prejudiced by that error. The trial court's judgment was therefore reversed, and this case was remanded for further proceedings. View "JT Construction, LLC v. MW Industrial Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Robbie Dillinger and Steve Kimbrough, LLC sued defendants Bryant Bank, Audrey Fleming and Michael Francis Flemming, III for the cost of work performed on the Flemmings’ property. The trial court issued a final judgment in favor of defendants. Later, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint adding Joe Kimbrough as a plaintiff, which the trial court struck. Kimbrough and the other plaintiffs appealed. But because the construction parties’ appeal was untimely, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded it lacked jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal. View "Dellinger, et al. v. Flemming, et al." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's award of $283,609.15 in attorneys' fees to Manning in this action arising out of a contract dispute between Kinder, a general contractor, and Manning, a subcontractor.The court concluded that the district court properly applied Arkansas state law to decide the matter because the issue of attorneys' fees is a procedural matter governed by Arkansas law. The court also concluded that the subcontract's silence as to Manning's ability to recover attorneys' fees as the prevailing party does not operate as a waiver of its right to recover such fees under Ark. Code Ann.16-22-308. The court further concluded that because the requested attorneys' fees were incurred by Manning, Manning's recovery of such attorneys' fees is not prohibited under Ark. Code Ann. 23-79-208. View "Randy Kinder Excavating, Inc. v. JA Manning Construction Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Specialty Companies Group, LLC's claims under an alter ego theory against Meritage Homes of Arizona were time-barred under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-548(A)(1)'s six-year limitation period for claims founded on or evidenced by a written contract.Maricopa Lakes, LLC hired G&K South Forty Development to serve as project manager on a real estate development project. G&K hired Specialty to assist with the project. Specialty later sued G&K to collect unpaid invoices. G&K filed a third-party complaint against Maricopa Lakes, was awarded a default judgment, and assigned to Specialty its claims against Maricopa Lakes. Specialty subsequently sued Meritage, which formed Maricopa Lakes, under an alter ego theory. The trial court granted summary judgment to Meritage, ruling that Specialty's claims were time-barred. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the alter ego claim was an action on a judgment governed by a five-year statute of limitations that began to run when the judgment was final. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the statute of limitations for alter ego actions is determined by reference to the cause of action from which the alter ego claim derives; and (2) Specialty was bound by the six-year statute of limitations for breach of contract. View "Specialty Companies Group, LLC v. Meritage Homes of Arizona, Inc." on Justia Law

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All Seasons inspected SparrowHawk's warehouse roofs and discovered hail damage. Because All Seasons did not hold an Illinois roofing license, it arranged for Prate to serve as general contractor with All Seasons as subcontractor. All Seasons was to provide materials and labor, maintain safety, and supervise the project. All Seasons purchased a commercial general liability policy and general liability extension endorsement from United, listing Prate as an “additional insured” in a “vicarious liability endorsement.” All Seasons then subcontracted with Century. Ayala, a Century employee was working on a SparrowHawk warehouse when he fell to his death.The Illinois workers’ compensation system provided limited death benefits but precluded tort remedies against his direct employer, Century. Ayala’s estate sued Prate, All Seasons, and SparrowHawk. Prate tendered the defense to United, which declined to defend and sought a declaratory judgment. All Seasons and United reached a settlement with the estate, paying the policy limits.The district court granted Prate summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting United’s argument that because its named insured was an independent contractor, Illinois law would not impose any liability on the additional insured and there was no risk of covered liability. The duty to defend depends on the claims the plaintiff asserts, not on their prospects for success. The settlement of the underlying claims against the named insured, however, removed any possibility that the additional insured might be held vicariously liable for actions of the named insured; the duty to defend ended when that settlement was consummated. View "United Fire & Casualty Co. v. Prate Roofing & Installations LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissing this action brought by Somersett Owners Association (SOA) seeking to recover damages against those involved in the design and construction of stacked retaining walls supporting the Somersett residential development in northern Nevada, holding that the statute of repose barred this lawsuit.After the rockery walls began failing, SOA brought suit against Defendants alleging negligence and negligence per se, breach of express and implied warranties and other claims. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that the six-year period of repose set forth in Nev. Rev. Stat. 11.202 applied. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. At issue was when the rockery walls achieved "substantial completion" for purposes of section 11.202. The Supreme Court held (1) the six-year period in section 11.202 begins when the improvement to the real property is "substantially complete," which means sufficiently complete so that the owner can occupy or utilize the improvement; and (2) SOA failed to set forth specific facts demonstrating the existence of a genuine factual issue as to whether it brought the underlying suit within the six-year period set by section 11.202. View "Somersett Owners Ass'n v. Somersett Development Co." on Justia Law