by
Plaintiffs David and Lisa McDaniel petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Shelby Circuit Court to vacate its order staying the proceedings against defendants Southern Craftsman Custom Homes, Inc. ("SCCH"); Jeffrey Rusert; Larry Curry, Sr.; SouthFirst Bancshares, Inc., d/b/a SouthFirst Bank ("SouthFirst"); Mari Gunnels; and Danny Keeney. At the time of this opinion, Rusert was awaiting the outcome of a federal criminal investigation against him. In 2017, the McDaniels contacted Rusert for the purpose of entering into an agreement with SCCH to build a house. According to the McDaniels, Rusert represented himself as the president of SCCH. At some point, Rusert recommended that the McDaniels speak with Gunnels, who worked for SouthFirst, to secure a loan to pay for the construction of the new house. In November 2017, with Gunnels's assistance, the McDaniels began the process of applying for a construction loan with SouthFirst. The loan closing occurred on January 26, 2018. The McDaniels executed, among other agreements, a written construction-loan agreement, a promissory note, and a construction-loan disbursement agreement. The McDaniels met with Rusert to discuss some concerns they had with the ongoing construction. During that meeting, Rusert provided the McDaniels with a credit application from a local building-supply company and asked them to execute it so that, he said, he could use the McDaniels' credit to purchase building materials and supplies. The McDaniels learned that the company refused to do business with SCCH, Rusert, and Curry because all three had purportedly failed to pay significant amounts owed the company. The McDaniels immediately contacted Gunnels and placed a "stop-payment" order on the most recent draw request from SCCH and Rusert. Thereafter, the McDaniels sued SCCH, Rusert, Curry, SouthFirst, Gunnels, and Keeney. In their complaint, the McDaniels sought damages for negligence, suppression, fraudulent misrepresentation, civil conspiracy, conversion, and the infliction of emotional distress. The McDaniels further alleged breach-of-contract claims against SouthFirst, SCCH, Rusert, and Curry, as well as a claim of breach of fiduciary duties against SouthFirst. Finally, the McDaniels sought a judgment against SouthFirst, Gunnels, and Keeney declaring the loan agreement and mortgage void. Rusert and SCCH moved to stay the civil proceedings against them pending the outcome of a federal criminal investigation against Rusert, which the trial court granted. The Alabama Supreme Court determined, however, the McDaniels established a clear legal right to relief from the trial court's order. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to vacate its order staying the underlying case. View "Ex parte David and Lisa McDaniel." on Justia Law

by
Defendant Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company ("Nationwide") appealed a judgment entered in favor of plaintiff The David Group, Inc. ("TDG"), which held TDG was entitled to coverage and indemnification under a commercial general- liability ("CGL") insurance policy issued by Nationwide. Under the terms of that CGL policy, Nationwide agreed to "pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of 'bodily injury' or 'property damage' to which this insurance applies." According to the policy, its coverage applied to "bodily injury" and "property damage" only if "[t]he 'bodily injury' or 'property damage' is caused by an 'occurrence.'" In October 2006, while TDG's CGL policy with Nationwide was in effect, Saurin and Valerie Shah purchased a newly built house from TDG. After they moved in, the Shahs began experiencing problems with their new house. Despite TDG's efforts at correcting the problems, however, in February 2008, the Shahs sued TDG. Although Nationwide initially defended TDG against the Shahs' action, Nationwide withdrew its defense after conducting its own investigation into the Shahs' allegations. It concluded that it had no duty either to defend or to indemnify TDG because, according to Nationwide, the damage the Shahs complained of did not constitute an "occurrence" so as to trigger coverage under the CGL policy. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in finding that TDG was entitled to coverage and indemnification under its CGL policy with Nationwide. Thus, the Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company v. The David Group, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Jessie and Rickey Castleberry appealed a circuit court order dismissing their claims against Angie's List, Inc., based on a forum-selection clause in a contract between Angie's List and the Castleberrys. The Castleberrys, who are father and son, became members of Angie's List in 2014. They claim that they used their membership with Angie's List to locate a contractor, Dream Baths of Alabama, LLC ("Dream Baths"), which the Castleberrys hired to renovate a bathroom in Jessie Castleberry's house to make it handicapped accessible. According to the Castleberrys, Dream Baths was not properly licensed and poorly performed the work it contracted to do. The Alabama Supreme Court found the Castleberrys simply pointed out in the argument section of their brief that, in addition to suing Angie's List, they also sued Dream Baths. They asserted that "[t]his action pertains not only to the agreement between the Castleberrys and Angie's List, but to improper work performed upon a home located in Montgomery County, Alabama by defendant Dream Baths." The Castleberrys provided no significant discussion of the specific claims against Dream Baths and Angie's List. To the Supreme Court, it appealred that the Castleberrys' claims against Angie's List and Dream Baths were based on different categories of wrongdoing that were only tangentially related. The trial court, therefore, did not err in enforcing the forum-selection clause simply because the Castleberrys also sued Dream Baths. View "Castleberry v. Angie's List, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the postconviction court summarily denying Appellant's claims for ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel without holding an evidentiary hearing, holding that Appellant's claims were barred by the relevant statute of limitations. Appellant was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder under an aiding-and-abetting theory of liability. The district court imposed a sentence of life without the possibility of release. Appellant later filed his postconviction petition requesting an evidentiary hearing on his claims for ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel and mentioning a motion for testing conducted under Minn. Stat. 590.01, subd. 1a. The postconviction court concluded that Appellant's claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations, Minn. Stat. 590.01, subd. 4. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant's claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations; and (2) Appellant's reference to testing did not satisfy the requirements of subdivision 1a. View "Jackson v. State" on Justia Law

by
Webcor, the general contractor for the rehabilitation of the California Memorial Football Stadium in Berkeley, hired ACCO to perform ventilation and plumbing services. Strouse, an ACCO employee, suffered a workplace injury when his leg fell into a 12-inch deep expansion joint after the plywood safety cover gave way. He sued Webcor for negligence. Webcor filed a cross-complaint against ACCO for indemnity. A jury found Webcor 100 percent liable for Strouse’s injuries. The court of appeal affirmed, upholding the trial court’s use of a jury instruction (CACI 1009B), which omits any language that a hirer “affirmatively contribute” to the plaintiff’s injury, and uses “substantial factor” causation in lieu of “affirmative contribution.” Counsels’ arguments properly directed the jury to determine whether Webcor affirmatively contributed to the injury and there was no indication of jury confusion. The court rejected an argument that the trial court erroneously instructed on negligence per se based on regulations promulgated under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act. The undisputed evidence established that Webcor affirmatively contributed to Strouse’s injuries, and the jury apportioned no fault to ACCO or Strouse, so the failure to instruct the jury regarding the precise language of “affirmative contribution,” even if erroneous, was harmless. View "Strouse v. Webcor Construction, L.P." on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment against a subcontractor's surety (Fidelity), and in favor of the general contractor's surety (Liberty) for the full amount of Fidelity's performance bond. The appeal stemmed from a dispute over costs that resulted from contractor defaults in completing a federal government construction project. The court held that when Fidelity issued a performance bond for a subcontractor on a federal project, and its principal defaulted, the word "successor" in the performance bond included as obligee a surety operating under the Takeover Agreement with the federal government. The court agreed with the district court that the many subcontract changes in the Ratification Agreement cited by Fidelity did not as a matter of law, singly or in combination, so materially alter Electric's obligations under the Subcontract that Fidelity's performance bond was discharged. Finally, the court rejected Fidelity's argument that Liberty failed to meet conditions precedent. View "Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. v. International Fidelity Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court holding that mechanic's liens arising from the provision of materials and labor to a lessee did not attach to the property of the lessor under the circumstances of this case and that a construction mortgage lien ultimately obtained by the owner of the land on the leasehold and property of the lessee had prior over the later-filed mechanic's liens, holding that the district court's judgment was without error. Specifically, the Court held (1) the legislature has reworked Iowa Code 572.2 to limit mechanic's liens to property belonging to a narrowly defined owner, and therefore, Denniston & Patridge Co. v. Romp, 56 N.W.2d 601 (Iowa 1953), and Stroh Corp. v. K&S Development Corp., 247 N.W.2d 750 (Iowa 1976), are no longer good law; (2) the priority of the after-acquired construction mortgage lien was not defeated by the doctrine of merger; and (3) there was no fraud under the circumstances presented. View "Winger Contracting Co. v. Cargill, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this case involving a claimant seeking to enforce a target lien bond by commencing a civil action pursuant to the mechanic's lien statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 254, 14, the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court's order allowing Defendant Arch Insurance Company's (Arch) summary judgment, holding that the lien statute contains no requirement that the claimant record an attested copy of the complaint in the registry of deeds. City Electric Supply Company (CES) supplied electrical materials for a construction project in Brookline and perfected a mechanic's lien on the Brookline property. Later, general contractor Tocci Building Corporation issued and recorded a target lien bond in the amount of the mechanic's lien CES had created. The target lien bond listed Arch as surety. CES then filed an action against Arch seeking to enforce the target lien bond. A superior court judge granted summary judgment for Arch, concluding that suit on a lien bond requires an attested copy of the complaint to be recorded. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that a party seeking to enforce a target lien bond need not record a copy of a complaint in the registry of deeds as a condition precedent to enforcing the bond. View "City Electric Supply Co. v. Arch Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court awarding attorney's fees to TCH Builders and Remodeling, holding that the district court abused its discretion by assessing all of TCH's attorney fees against the construction lien bond posted by Homes For Our Troops (HFOT). TCH filed a construction lien against HFOT's property and initiated this action claiming, among other things, breach of contract and foreclosure of the construction lien bond. The district court dismissed all claims against HFOT except for TCH's lien claim against HFOT's bond. A jury found in favor of TCH. The district court entered an order ruling that all attorney fees incurred by TCH throughout the course of the proceeding were payable from the bond posted by HFOT. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for redetermination of the amount of fees to be assessed against HFOT's bond, holding that the assessment of the entirety of TCH's attorney fees against HFOT's bond was inequitable, arbitrary, and not reasonable. View "TCH Builders v. Elements of Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this construction dispute, the Court of Chancery granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ complaint seeking to vacate or modify an arbitration award for failure to state a claim and denying Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, holding that the arbitrator did not exceed the scope of his authority or act in manifest disregard of the law when he awarded Defendant damages. In their first claim, Plaintiffs argued that the arbitrator’s interpretation of the provisions in the contract between the parties regarding the total cost of the construction project evidences a manifest disregard for the law. In their second claim, Plaintiffs argued that the arbitrator exceeded his authority and acted in manifest disregard of the law when he issued an award for fees and expenses to Defendant. The Court of Chancery disagreed, holding that the arbitrator did not act in manifest disregard of the law in either respect. View "Stempien v. Marnie Properties, LLC" on Justia Law