Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court
Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. v. Osborn III Partners, LLC
In this case concerning the meaning and application of a standard title insurance policy exclusion (Exclusion 3(a)) designed to cover any defects, encumbrances, or adverse claims created or suffered by the insured in the context of construction lending, holding that this Court's opinion in First American Title Insurance Co. v. Action Acquisitions, LLC, 218 Ariz. 394 (2008), sets forth the proper interpretation and application Exclusion 3(a).In its underlying rulings, the trial court invoked Action Acquisitions to interpret Exclusion 3(a) in the construction lending context. The court of appeals reversed, instead applying the bright-line rule articulated in BB Syndication Services, Inc. v. First American Title Insurance Co., 780 F.3d 825 (7th Cir. 2015). The Supreme Court reversed in part and vacated the judgment in part, holding (1) this Court adopts Action Acquisitions' causation test for Exclusion 3(a)'s applicability; and (2) the court of appeals erred in applying the BB Syndication approach. View "Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. v. Osborn III Partners, LLC" on Justia Law
Zambrano v. M & RC II LLC
The Supreme Court held that public policy prohibits an agreement between a builder-vendor and a homebuyer to disclaim and waive the warranty of workmanship and habitability implied in every contract entered into between the buyer-vendor and homebuyer and to replace it with an express warranty.Plaintiff entered into a preprinted purchase agreement with M & RC II, LLC to buy a home that M & RC II's affiliate, Scott Homes Development Company, would build. Plaintiff later sued M & RC II and Scott Homes (together, Defendants) for breach of the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff had waived the implied warranty per the purchase agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the public policy underlying the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability clearly outweighed enforcement of the waiver of that warranty in the purchase agreement. View "Zambrano v. M & RC II LLC" on Justia Law
Cal-Am Properties, Inc. v. Edais Engineering, Inc.
Cal-Am, a developer and operator of RV and mobile-home parks leased the Yuma Sundance RV Resort from its owner, intending to construct a new banquet and concert hall on the property. The property owner provided the funding for the construction. Cal-Am managed the project. Cal-Am hired a contractor, Nickle, to design and construct the hall, who then hired Edais Engineering to survey the property and place construction stakes to mark the Hall’s permitted location. No contract existed between Edais and Cal-Am. Edais acknowledges that its placement of the stakes was defective. Cal-Am was forced to adjust its site plan, eliminating eight RV parking spaces. Cal-Am sued Edais for claims including negligence. The trial court granted Edais summary judgment on the negligence claim finding that Cal-Am could not recover its purely economic damages. The court of appeals affirmed.The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed, repudiating its 1984 Donnelly Construction holding that a design professional’s duty to use ordinary skill, care, and diligence in rendering professional services extends both to persons in privity with the professional and to persons foreseeably affected by a breach of that duty. Under Arizona’s current framework, which repudiated foreseeability as a basis for duty, design professionals lacking privity of contract with project owners do not owe a duty to those owners to reimburse purely economic damages. View "Cal-Am Properties, Inc. v. Edais Engineering, Inc." on Justia Law
Specialty Companies Group, LLC v. Meritage Homes of Arizona, Inc.
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
State v. Bush
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for two counts of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and other crimes and Defendant’s sentence of death for each murder, holding that no prejudicial error occurred in the trial proceedings.Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s pretrial motions for a change of venue and continuance; (2) Defendant’s claims of error in jury selection and voir dire were unavailing; (3) evidence of Defendant’s confession was properly admitted; (4) the trial court did not commit fundamental error under Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994) by failing to inform the jury that Defendant would not be eligible for release if sentenced to life imprisonment; (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing victim-impact evidence; and (6) there was no abuse of discretion in imposing the death sentence. The dissent argued at length that the death sentence is cruel and unusual punishment under the Arizona Constitution. View "State v. Bush" on Justia Law
Sirrah Enterprises, LLC v. Wunderlich
Because the warranty of workmanship and habitability is imputed into every residential construction contract, it is a term of the contract, and therefore, the successful party on a claim for breach of the warranty qualifies for an attorney-fee award under a controlling contractual fee provision or, barring that, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-341.01.Defendants contracted with Plaintiff to build a basement at their home. Defendants refused to pay to the full contract amount after the work was completed, and Plaintiff sued for the unpaid contract amount. Defendants counterclaimed for breach of the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability. The jury found in Defendants’ favor on their claim for breach of the implied warranty. The trial court awarded Defendants attorney fees pursuant to a contractual fee provision and section 12-341.01. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment, holding that the implied warranty was a term of the contract, and as the successful party in the claim to enforce the warranty, Defendants were entitled to their reasonable attorney fees. View "Sirrah Enterprises, LLC v. Wunderlich" on Justia Law
Albano v. Shea Homes Ltd.
In this lawsuit, one of several suits alleging construction defects in homes located in a Shea Homes planned community, plaintiffs Albert Albano and other homeowners appealed to the circuit court from the district court's summary judgment dismissing their construction-defect claims against Shea Homes as barred by Arizona's statute of repose. The plaintiffs were three homeowners not allowed to join a previous putative class action against Shea Homes. On appeal, plaintiffs contended that the district court erred in failing to apply American Pipe v. Utah, which tolls the applicable statute of limitations for non-named class members until class certification is denied, to the period between the filing of the previous putative class action lawsuit and the denial of class certification. The Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction to answer the certified question of whether the American Pipe tolling rule would also apply to a statute of repose. The Court held that the class-action tolling doctrine does not apply to statutes of repose, and more specifically, to the statute of repose for construction defects. View "Albano v. Shea Homes Ltd." on Justia Law