Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in favor of a contractor (Contractor) against the homeowners' association (HOA) that hired it to perform repair work, holding that the district court did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court did not err in (1) finding that the HOA had waived, by one of the methods described in Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-1126, its right to a jury trial and in refusing to allow the HOA to withdraw its waiver; (2) concluding that the HOA had to present expert testimony to support its defense and counterclaims asserting that the repair work was done in an unworkmanlike manner; (3) excluding lay testimony of other contractors, in finding the HOA's expert witness lacked foundation for his opinions, and in excluding testimony relating to what the court found to be compromise negotiations; and (4) awarding prejudgment interest and attorney fees. View "McGill Restoration v. Lion Place Condominium Association" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing a subcontractor's suit against a construction contractor, holding that the district court did not err in relying on a forum selection clause in an agreement between the parties in dismissing the lawsuit.The contractor sought to dismiss the complaint pursuant to the forum selection clause. The subcontractor opposed the motion, arguing that the forum selection clause was not applicable. The district court found the forum selection clause both applicable and binding and so dismissed the lawsuit. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the clause was both valid and enforceable; and (2) the district court did not err in failing to consider transfer of its own accord. View "Atlas Glass & Mirror, Inc. v. Tri-North Builders, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that a fact issue existed as to whether a general contractor on a construction project owed a duty of care to its independent contractor's employee who was injured on the job, holding that no genuine issue of material fact existed regarding the existence of a duty.The trial court entered judgment in favor of the general contractor, concluding that there was no evidence to support the negligence elements of duty, breach, and causation. The court of appeals reversed as to the negligence claim, concluding that a fact issue existed regarding whether the contractor exercised actual control and thus owed the employee a duty, whether the contractor breached that duty, and whether the contractor's breach proximately caused the employee's injuries. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the contractor owed the employee no duty as a matter of law. View "JLB Builders, LLC v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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In this construction defect case brought by homeowners against several contractors, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court that the limitations period against each contractor began to run upon the substantial completion of each contractor's project.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the contractors in this case, generally agreeing that the limitations period for the homeowners' claims against the contractors began to run on the dates that each contractor substantially completed its work. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Homeowners' claims against the contractors were time barred as matter of law under Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-223 and by denying their oral motion seeking leave to amend their complaint to add a new claim. View "McCaulley v. C L Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Blackstone Headwaters Coalition, Inc.'s complaint alleging that Defendants had violated the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq., holding that the district court erred by granting summary judgment on Count I of the complaint.Plaintiff, a non-profit environmental organization, sued two companies and two individuals involved in the development of a residential construction site in Massachusetts. In Count I of the complaint, Plaintiff alleged that three defendants had violated the Federal CWA by failing to obtain from the EPA a construction general permit. Count II alleged that all four defendants had violated the Federal CWA by failing to prevent sediment-laden stormwater discharges from flowing from that construction site into waters leading to the Blackstone River. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding that nothing supported Defendants' argument that a citizen suit under the Federal CWA cannot be brought against an entity that is alleged to be an operator of a construction site that is unlawfully discharging pollutants into federal waters long as another entity controlled by the same individuals has such permit coverage. View "BBlackstone Headwaters Coalition, Inc. v. Gallo Builders, Inc." on Justia Law

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The employee of a subcontractor on a state public works project sued the prime contractor’s surety bond for unpaid labor under Alaska’s Little Miller Act. The trial court ruled the employee failed to give notice to the contractor within the statutorily required 90 days of his last date of labor on the project. The trial court entered a directed verdict against the employee. The employee appealed to the superior court, which denied the appeal, and then petitioned the Alaska Supreme Court for hearing. This case presented two issues of first impression: (1) how to define “labor;” and (2) whether “notice” was effective on the date of mailing or the date of receipt. Under the Little Miller Act, the Supreme Court defined “labor” as work that was “necessary to and forwards” the project secured by the payment bond, and held the effective date of “notice” to be the date notice is sent via registered mail. The superior court judgment denying the employee's appeal was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Dat Luong DBA LVDH Construction v. Western Surety Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals concluding that prejudgment interest on defense costs where a party breaches its duty to defend does not fall within the exception to the "modified discretionary approach" and is within the discretion of the fact-finder.The modified discretionary approach used by Maryland courts in awarding prejudgment interest generally places the award of prejudgment interest within the discretion of the trier of fact but also recognizes exceptions where a plaintiff is entitled to prejudgment interest as a matter of right. At issue was whether prejudgment interest should be awarded as a matter of right. The Court of Appeals held (1) prejudgment interest on defense costs is left to the discretion of the fact-finder; and (2) where the jury in this case was not presented with a claim of prejudgment interest, was not instructed on the issue, and did not separately state an award of prejudgment interest in the verdict, the circuit court was not authorized to award prejudgment interest. View "Nationwide Property & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Selective Way Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that the cluster development plans submitted by two developers were not subject to planning commission review under Va. Code 15.2-2232, holding that the circuit court erred.Two real estate developers proposed to build conventional subdivisions and then reconfigured their previously approved subdivisions into cluster developments. The county planning department advised the developers that they would need to undergo another comprehensive plan compliance review in accordance with section 15.2-2232 because their new plans significantly deviated from the previously approved plans. The developers sought writs of mandamus requiring the county to approve the plans and writs of prohibition preventing the county from ordering a comprehensive plan review. The circuit court ruled in favor of the developers and entered an order directing the county to approver the cluster development concept plans. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the approvals of prior subdivision plans did not foreclose the requirement of a section 15.2-2232 review by the planning commission of different plans later submitted. View "Stafford County v. D.R. Horton, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Contractors’ State License Law (Bus. & Prof. Code 7031), allows any person who utilizes the services of unlicensed building contractors to sue for disgorgement of all compensation paid for the performance of any act or contract, even when the work performed is free of defects. CDC brought a section 7031(b) claim for disgorgement against Obayashi in 2017, more than eight years after the completion of construction of the InterContinental Hotel in San Francisco. The issue of licensure came to light during litigation concerning construction defects.The trial court dismissed, citing Code of Civil Procedure 340(a), the one-year limitations period for statutory forfeiture or penalty causes of action. The court of appeal affirmed. The one-year statute of limitations applies to disgorgement claims brought under section 7031, and the discovery rule and other equitable doctrines do not. Even if such doctrines applied to statutory disgorgement claims, they would not apply under the circumstances presented under the pleadings. The court also upheld the trial court’s award of $231,834 in contractual attorney fees; the parties’ agreement contemplated the recovery of attorney fees for non-contractual causes of action that are initiated because of an alleged breach of the parties’ contract. View "San Francisco CDC LLC v. Webcor Construction L.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant's motion to suppress physical evidence and statements based on a police officer's alleged promise of leniency, holding that there was no improper promise of leniency.The officer at issue initiated a Terry stop on a public stop after observing Defendant make a possible drug buy. The officer told Defendant if he cooperated he would not be arrested that day but may be arrested later. Three months after Defendant handed over crack cocaine and marijuana the officer charged him with possession. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to suppress, concluding that the evidence obtained after the officer promised leniency was fruit of the poisonous tree. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the officer did not improperly promise leniency. View "State v. Hillery" on Justia Law