Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendants' respective motions to dismiss the underlying survivorship and wrongful death action in which Plaintiffs sought damages arising from the death of Kyle Hancock, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.Hancock was working for R.F. Warder when he was buried alive at an excavation site. Warder was an independent contractor hired by the City of Baltimore to perform the excavation work. Because Plaintiffs were barred from bringing negligence claims against Warder, Plaintiffs named as defendants the City and Keith Sutton, who was on site at the time of the accident. The circuit court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) one who hires an independent contractor is not liable to the contractor's employee for injuries caused by the contractor’s negligence in performing the work for which it was hired; and (2) the duty of a contractor or subcontractor on a construction job to exercise due care to provide for the safety of the employees of other contractors or subcontractors is owed with respect to conditions that the contractor or subcontractor creates or over which it exercises control. View "Hancock v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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The United States Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court. Cox Construction was the general contractor of a remodeling project. Cox hired Baker & Son Construction, Inc. as a subcontractor. A Baker employee allegedly caused a two-by-four to fall from a railing and strike Ronnie Cox, owner of Cox Construction, who later died from his injury. Baker allegedly called an insurance agent to alert them of the incident. The agent told Baker that no action needed to be taken because at that time, no claim existed. A few months later, Baker received a wrongful death claim from an attorney representing Cox’s widow. Baker notified its insurer, Preferred Contractors Insurance Company (PCIC) of the claim. PCIC denied coverage, but agreed to defend Baker under a reservation of rights. The certified question to the Washington Supreme Court related to the “claims-made” nature of the policy and the timing of Baker’s tender of Ms. Cox’s claim. The Supreme Court replied to the certified question that in light of RCW 18.27, a contractor’s commercial general liability insurance policy that requires the loss to occur and be reported within the same policy year, and provides neither neither prospective nor retroactive coverage violates Washington’s public policy. View "Preferred Contractors Ins. Co. v. Baker & Son Constr., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Alaska Department of Revenue audited a non-resident corporation doing business in Alaska. The Department issued a deficiency assessment based in part on an Alaska tax statute requiring an income tax return to include certain foreign corporations affiliated with the taxpaying corporation. The taxpayer exhausted its administrative remedies and then appealed to the superior court, arguing that the tax statute the Department applied was facially unconstitutional because: (1) it violated the dormant Commerce Clause by discriminating against foreign commerce based on countries’ corporate income tax rates; (2) it violated the Due Process Clause by being arbitrary and irrational; and (3) it violated the Due Process Clause by failing to provide notice of what affiliates a tax return must include, and therefore is void for vagueness. The superior court rejected the first two arguments but ruled in the taxpayer’s favor on the third argument. The Department appealed, claiming the superior court erred by concluding that the statute was void for vagueness in violation of the Due Process Clause. The taxpayer cross-appealed, asserting that the court erred by concluding that the statute did not violate the Commerce Clause and was not arbitrary. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s decision that the statute was facially unconstitutional on due process grounds, and affirmed the court’s decision that it otherwise was facially constitutional. View "Alaska Dept. of Revenue v. Nabors International Finance, Inc. et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving the application of Crowned Ridge Wind II, LLC to construct a large wind energy farm in northeast South Dakota, holding that the PUC followed the applicable statutory directives in granting the construction permit and properly determined that Crowned Ridge satisfied its burden of proof under S.D. Codified Laws 49-41B-22.After a contested hearing, the PUC issued a written decision approving the permit. Two individuals who lived in rural areas near the project and had intervened to oppose Crowned Ridge's application sought review. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the PUC did not err when it determined that Crowned Ridge met its burden of proof to comply with all applicable laws and rules; and (2) the PUC's findings were not clearly erroneous as they related to crowned Ridge's burden under S.D. Codified Laws 49-41B-22(3). View "Christenson v. Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the City of Powell, Ohio and dismissing Golf Village North LLC's claims brought under 28 U.S.C. 1983 for violating its procedural and substantive due process rights, holding that there was no error.Golf Village, a developer, sought to build a "residential hotel" on its property in Powell, Ohio but never filed the required zoning application. Instead, Golf Village requested that the City confirm the residential hotel was a permitted use of the property. The City directed Golf Village to file an appropriate application for "zoning Certificate approval" to receive an answer. Rather than reply, Golf Village sued the City. The district court granted summary judgment for the City. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Golf Village's procedural due process and substantive due process rights were not violated in this case. View "Golf Village North, LLC v. City of Powell, Ohio" on Justia Law

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A general contractor hired a subcontractor to provide material for a project at a state park. After the project was completed, the general contractor sent the subcontractor a check described as “final payment.” The subcontractor, believing it was owed more, initially refused to accept the check. Months later, the subcontractor cashed the check but then attempted to repay the amount to the general contractor. The general contractor refused repayment, claiming that the subcontractor’s cashing the check constituted satisfaction of its claim of payment. The superior court granted summary judgment to the general contractor, ruling that the evidence established an accord and satisfaction. The Alaska Supreme Court held there was a genuine dispute of material fact about two requirements for an accord and satisfaction: whether the payment was tendered in good faith, and whether there was a bona fide dispute about the amount owed. The superior court's judgment was therefore vacated, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Smallwood Creek, Inc. v. Build Alaska, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the housing appeals committee had jurisdiction over the projects at issue in this case and the power to remove or modify conditions that made such projects significantly more uneconomic.Under the Massachusetts Comprehensive Permit Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40B, 20-23, qualifying developers of low or moderate income housing have access to a comprehensive streamline permitting process and expedited appeal before HAC. The Act further authorizes HAC to strike or modify any conditions on a comprehensive permit application that would make it "uneconomic" to proceed with a project. At issue was whether the HAC has the power to reject conditions where a project has received a funding commitment from a public subsidizing agency and the developer receives a comprehensive permit subject to conditions but the rate of return for the original proposal is found to be uneconomic and HAC determines that the imposed conditions make the project "significantly more uneconomic" and therefore rejects them. The Supreme Judicial Court answered the question in the affirmative, holding that HAC is authorized to eliminate conditions that effectively prevent such projects by rendering them significantly more uneconomic. View "Zoning Board of Appeals of Milton v. HD/MW Randolph Avenue, LLC" on Justia Law

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After Nygard removed his driveway and was about to pour a new one, an Orono inspector told Nygard that he needed a permit. The next day, Nygard finished the driveway and applied for a permit. The new driveway was narrower than the previous one. The city responded with a form, imposing several conditions. Nygard crossed out some conditions, initialed the modified form, and returned it. After several exchanges, the city notified Nygard that he must agree to the conditions or “this matter will be turned over to the prosecuting attorney.” Nygard did not acknowledge the conditions. A police officer drafted a statement of probable cause, alleging that “work had been completed without having first obtained a permit” and listing some alleged deficiencies in its construction. According to the Nygards, the police did not inspect the property and some allegations were not true.Nygard was acquitted of violating the city code. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming the code was void for vagueness and alleging First Amendment retaliation, abuse of process, and malicious prosecution. Nygard’s prosecution was not based on falsehoods. The report did not claim that the conditions were required by the code but that Nygard had not agreed to the conditions and had replaced a driveway without a permit. Any failure to investigate did not defeat probable cause; the city already knew that he installed a driveway without a permit. View "Nygard v. City of Orono" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Town of Boothbay Harbor's Board of Appeals (BOA) denying 29 McKown, LLC's administrative appeal from a code enforcement officer's (CEO) decision to life a stop work order he had issued to Harbor Crossing during the construction of the building, holding that 29 McKown was deprived of administrative due process.In this case concerning a real estate office building constructed by Harbor Crossing in Boothbay Harbor, 29 McKown sought review of the denial of its McKown's appeal. The superior court affirmed the BOA's decision. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order below, holding (1) 29 McKown was deprived of administrative due process; and (2) the CEO did not issue a judicially-reviewable decision in lifting the stop work order. View "29 McKown LLC v. Town of Boothbay Harbor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court concluding that the Home Improvement Act (Act), Conn. Gen. Stat. 20-418 et seq., did not apply to work performed by Defendant on Plaintiff's property, holding that Plaintiff's claim under the Act was unavailing.The trial court found in favor of Plaintiff on his claims alleging breach of contract, violations of the Act, and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq. The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiff. The appellate court affirmed with respect to the breach of contract count but reversed with respect to the remaining claims, ruling that the work performed by Defendant fell within the new home exception of the Act, and therefore, Plaintiff failed to state a claim under both the Act and CUTPA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the work performed by Defendant fell within the new home exception. View "Winakor v. Savalle" on Justia Law