Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

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Subcontractor Ehmcke Sheet Metal Company (Ehmcke) recorded a mechanic’s lien to recoup payment due for sheet metal fabrication and installation work done on a luxury hotel project in downtown San Diego. Project owner RGC Gaslamp, LLC (RGC) secured a bond to release the lien. Thereafter Ehmcke filed three successive mechanic’s liens, each identical to the first, prompting RGC to sue it for quiet title, slander of title, and declaratory and injunctive relief. The trial court granted Ehmke’s special motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute. The trial court found that Ehmcke met its moving burden because the filing of even an invalid lien was protected petitioning activity. Thereafter, the court found that RGC failed to make a prima facie showing that its sole remaining cause of action for slander of title could withstand application of the litigation privilege. RGC appeals both findings, arguing that the duplicative filing of mechanic’s liens after the posting of a bond was not protected activity. The Court of Appeal concluded after review that RGC erroneously imported substantive requirements of the litigation privilege into the first step of the anti-SLAPP inquiry. Ehmcke met that moving burden once its erroneously excluded reply declarations were considered. With the burden shifted on prong two, RGC failed to make a prima facie showing that the litigation privilege did not bar its slander-of-title cause of action. The anti-SLAPP motion was thus properly granted, and Court likewise affirmed the subsequent attorney’s fees and costs award. View "RGC Gaslamp v. Ehmcke Sheet Metal Co." on Justia Law

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In 2014, a single Riverside County, California Superior Court judge signed 602 orders authorizing wiretaps, which was approximately 17 percent of all wiretaps authorized by all the state and federal courts in the nation. In 2015, the same judge and one other authorized 640 wiretaps, approximately 15 percent of all wiretaps in the country. Plaintiff-appellant Miguel Guerrero was targeted by a wiretap that a Riverside County judge authorized in 2015. Guerrero, who had never been arrested or charged with a crime in connection with the wiretap, wanted to know why he was targeted, and he believed the sheer number of wiretaps in those years raised significant doubts about whether the wiretaps complied with constitutional requirements. Relying on California's wiretap statutes and the First Amendment, he asked a trial court to allow him to inspect the wiretap order, application and intercepted communications. The trial court denied this request. After review, the Court of Appeal determined the trial court applied the wrong standard in considering Plaintiff's application under wiretap statutes, which closely paralleled statutes under federal law. The matter was remanded so that the trial court could properly exercise its discretion, and the Court provided guidance on the appropriate standard. Given this holding on the statutory issue, the Court declined to address the contention, advanced by Guerrero and an amicus brief, that the public had a First Amendment right of access to the wiretap materials. View "Guerrero v. Hestrin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment and awarding attorney fees and costs in favor of Zitting Brothers Construction, a subcontractor on a development project, on its breach of contract action against APCO Construction, Inc., the general contractor, holding that the pay-if-paid provision in construction contract here was void under Nev. Rev. Stat. 624.628(3).Provisions in the subcontract in this case conditioned payment on the general contractor receiving payment first and required the subcontractor to forgo its right to prompt payment under Nev. Rev. Stat. 624.624 when payment would otherwise be due. When the project failed, Zitting sued APCO seeking payment for work completed. APCO defended its nonpayment with the pay-if-paid provisions in the contract. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Zitting on its breach of contract and mechanics' liens claims, concluding that the pay-if-paid provisions were void and unenforceable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the pay-if-paid provisions in the parties' subcontract were void and unenforceable under section 624.628(3) because they limited Zitting's right to prompt payment under section 624.624(1). View "APCO Construction, Inc. v. Zitting Brothers Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants were performing road construction work, implementing a “reversing lane closure” traffic control, reducing traffic to one lane. A flagger to control northbound traffic was positioned at the south end of the reversing lane closure on Latrobe Road, north of where it intersected with Ryan Ranch Road. Because the flagger was positioned north of the intersection, when the flagger stopped northbound traffic, that traffic could back up, extending south into the intersection. Plaintiff Kevin Shipp was driving south on Latrobe Road when he came to a stop behind two other vehicles. The vehicle two cars ahead of plaintiff was attempting to turn left onto Ryan Ranch Road, but it could not because northbound traffic, stopped by the flagger at the south end of the reversing lane closure, was stopped in the intersection. Seconds after plaintiff stopped, a vehicle driven by George Smithson rear-ended plaintiff’s vehicle. This case presented the question of whether a highway contractor controlling traffic on a public highway owed a duty of care to a motorist who was rear-ended when forced to stop behind a vehicle that was unable to turn left at an intersection that was blocked by stopped traffic controlled by the contractor. The Court of Appeal concluded the contractor here did indeed owe a duty of care. View "Shipp v. Western Engineering, Inc." on Justia Law

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A federal district court in Texas does not have jurisdiction to vacate an arbitration award in Florida. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action based on lack of personal jurisdiction over the subcontractors. The court held that the subcontractors did not have the minimum contacts in Texas such that a Texas court could exercise specific personal jurisdiction over them. In this case, the place of contractual performance was Florida—not Texas, after plaintiff allegedly failed to pay its subcontractors' invoices, the parties met in Florida to discuss the dispute, then they arbitrated the dispute in Florida, and Florida's courts have determined that Florida is a proper venue for the subcontractors to seek enforcement of the arbitration awards. Therefore, the subcontractors did not purposefully avail themselves to being sued in Texas courts. View "Sayers Construction, LLC v. Timberline Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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The California Contractors’ State License Board (CSLB) sought revocation or suspension of Sieg’s contractor’s license and restitution. The Accusation alleged that Sieg failed to follow spacing and fastening requirements when installing a hardwood floor, departing from trade standards in violation of Business & Professions Code 7109(a), and failed to complete a construction project for the agreed contract price in violation of section 7113. Sieg filed a Defense and filed a civil lawsuit against the homeowners, which was subsequently dismissed. After a hearing, the ALJ issued a proposed decision recommending a 65-day suspension and a three-year probation term including payment of $27,884.21 restitution. The Registrar adopted the ALJ’s proposed decision but eliminated the 65-day suspension term and required Sieg to obtain a disciplinary bond of $30,000.00 (section 7071.8), for three years.The trial court denied Sief relief. The court of appeal affirmed the decision as supported by substantial evidence, rejecting a due process claim. Sieg had the opportunity to cross-examine each of the CSLB’s witnesses, to present witnesses of his own, and to testify on his own behalf. The court noted that private agreements to depart from statutorily imposed workmanship standards provide no defense to an alleged violation of section 7109(a), in disciplinary enforcement proceedings. View "Sieg v. Fogt" on Justia Law

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Property owners and the contractors they hired to build a house had a dispute. The Georgia Supreme Court granted the owners' request for review to consider: (1) whether anticipated profits could be included in a materialmen’s lien; and (2) if so, whether the improper inclusion of such profits rendered the entire lien void. Because the Court of Appeals correctly held that anticipated profits could not be included in a lien and that their inclusion does not invalidate the entire lien, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Massey et al. v. Duke Builders, Inc." on Justia Law

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Waypoint, the project owner, entered into a construction contract with Team Contractors, the general contractor, and entered into an architectural contract with HCA. HCA then retained KLG as the project's engineer. Team filed suit and subsequently prevailed against the engineers and architects for negligence, but not against the owner for breach of contract. After a finding that the initial verdict had an irreconcilable conflict, a second trial was held just on the breach of contract claim. The jury then reached a verdict for the general contractor, and the owner appealed.The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to reinstate the original verdict. The court held that if the answers to written questions require jurors to apply the instructed law to their fact-findings, thereby fully explaining who prevails on all claims against a single defendant, and if relevant, the amount of any monetary award, that is sufficient for a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 49(b) verdict. Though in this case the jurors were not given, as Rule 49(b) states, "forms for a general verdict" and also for answers to written questions, jurors applied their instructions on the law to their fact finding and found there had been no breach of contract. The court held that the result fully resolved the claim against Waypoint. The court stated that the general verdict is incomplete in Rule 49(b) terms, but it is sufficient. The court also held that Team waived any argument to have the verdict set aside. Finally, the court remanded for the district court to consider attorneys' fees. View "Team Contractors, LLC v. Waypoint NOLA, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing First State Bank Nebraska's (First State) claims against MP Nexlevel, LLC seeking performance under a contract, holding that the district court erred in granting MP Nexlevel summary judgment and dismissing First State's complaint.MP Nexlevel contracted to pay Husker Underground Utilities & Construction, LLC for construction services. Due to separate loan agreements, First State held a security interest in Husker Underground's accounts. When Husker Underground failed to meet its loan obligations, First State sought direct payment of MP Nexlevel's obligations under the contract. However, MP Nexlevel continued to submit its payments to Husker Underground. First State ultimately brought suit against MP Nexlevel for performance under the contract. The district court concluded that First State lacked standing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Neb. Rev. Stat. 9-406(a) imposed a duty on MP Nexlevel to discharge its obligations under its agreement with Husker Underground by paying directly to First State; (2) MP Nexlevel breached its obligations to First State; and (3) First State was authorized by Neb. Rev. Stat. 9-607(a)(3) to step into Husker Underground's place and enforce MP Nexlevel's contractual obligations as adjusted by operation of section 9-406(a). View "First State Bank Nebraska v. MP Nexlevel, LLC" on Justia Law

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Antonio Wallace was tried by a jury and convicted of the murder of Leroy O’Hara. Wallace appealed, claiming: (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) the trial court erred when it denied his motion for new trial on the general grounds; and (3) that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. The Georgia Supreme Court found no merit in these claims, and affirmed. View "Wallace v. Georgia" on Justia Law