Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Court of Appeal
Blanchette v. Super. Ct.
The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on the notice and time requirements of the Right to Repair Act (the act), Civil Code section 895 et seq. The Court granted petitioner William Blanchette's petition for a writ of mandate and directed that the trial court vacate its order staying proceedings pending Blanchette's compliance with the act. Blanchette's compliance with the act was relieved by virtue of real party GHA Enterprises, Inc.'s (GHA) failure to timely acknowledge receipt of Blanchette's notice of a claim. "Contrary to GHA's argument, the act's goal of promptly resolving claims without resort to litigation cannot be achieved by permitting homebuilders to serve tardy responses to claims or to ignore them entirely." View "Blanchette v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
Navigators Specialty Ins. Co. v. Moorefield Const.
Navigators Specialty Insurance Company (Navigators) issued commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policies (the Policies) to Moorefield Construction, Inc. (Moorefield), a licensed general contractor. At issue in this appeal was the meaning, scope, and application of two standard provisions of the Policies. Moorefield appealed the judgment in favor of Navigators, where Navigators sought a declaration of its rights and duties under the Policies. Navigators' lawsuit was corollary to construction defect litigation arising out of the construction of a building to be used as a Best Buy store in Visalia. During the course of litigation, evidence obtained in discovery showed the most likely cause of flooring failure was that flooring tiles had been installed on top of a concrete slab that emitted moisture vapor in excess of specifications. Evidence also showed that Moorefield knew of the results of two tests showing excessive moisture vapor emission from the concrete, yet had directed the flooring subcontractor to install the flooring anyway. Evidence also established the cost to repair the flooring was $377,404. The litigation settled for $1,310,000. On Moorefield's behalf, Navigators contributed its policy limits of $1 million toward the settlement. Moorefield independently contributed an additional $150,000. The remaining $160,000 was made up of contributions from Best Buy Stores, LP (Best Buy), and the defendant subcontractors. In the meantime, Navigators filed this lawsuit seeking a declaration it had no duty under the Policies to defend or indemnify Moorefield. Navigators contended the flooring failure was not a covered occurrence under the Policies because it was not the result of an accident. Following a bench trial, the trial court found there was no covered occurrence under the Policies because Moorefield had directed the flooring subcontractor to install the flooring despite Moorefield's knowledge that moisture vapor emission from the concrete slab exceeded specifications. The trial court found that Moorefield had not met its burden of proving what portion, if any, of the $1 million paid by Navigators came within the supplementary payments provision of the Policies. The trial court also found that Navigators had no duty to make payments under the supplementary payments provision because Moorefield's liability arose from a noncovered claim. The judgment required Moorefield to reimburse $1 million to Navigators. Moorefield's appeal raised two primary issues, one related to the coverage "A" provision of the Policies and the other related to the supplementary payments provision of the Policies. The Court of Appeal found that Navigators had no duty to indemnify Moorefield and was entitled to recoup that portion of the $1 million paid toward settlement that was attributable to damages. The Court also found that Navigators had a duty to compensate Moorefield under the supplementary payments provision of the Policies. That duty was not extinguished by the determination that Navigators had no duty to indemnify. The Court of Appeal therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for a new trial limited to the issue of the amount of the $1 million paid by Navigators that was attributable to damages, not attorney fees and costs of suit under the supplementary payments provision. View "Navigators Specialty Ins. Co. v. Moorefield Const." on Justia Law
Advent, Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh
Advent was the general contractor for the Aspen Village project in Milpitas. Advent subcontracted with Pacific, which subcontracted with Johnson. Advent was covered by a Landmark insurance policy and a Topa excess insurance policy. Johnson was covered by National Union primary and excess policies. Kielty, a Johnson employee, fell down an unguarded stairway shaft at the site and sustained serious injuries. Kielty sued Advent, which tendered its defense to its insurers and to National Union. National Union accepted under a reservation of rights. Kielty settled for $10 million. Various insurers, including Topa and National Union (under its primary policy), contributed to the settlement. National Union did not provide coverage under its excess policy. Advent sought a declaration that it was an “additional insured” under that excess policy. Topa intervened, seeking equitable contribution from National Union, and equitable subrogation. Advent dismissed its complaint with prejudice. Summary judgment was entered against Topa, for National Union. The court of appeal affirmed. While Topa’s policy was vague, National Union’s excess policy states that coverage will not apply until “the total applicable limits of Scheduled Underlying Insurance have been exhausted by the payment of Loss to which this policy applies and any applicable, Other Insurance have been exhausted by the payment of Loss.” View "Advent, Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law
Department of Transportation v. Presidio Performing Arts Foundation
The Foundation provides performing arts and social justice programs. Presidio Trust granted the Foundation a lease (through 2013) at below-market rates for Building 1158. The Foundation remodeled at a cost of over $300,000. Building 1158 offered a safe drop-off area for children, adequate parking, and exclusive use of the building. The Foundation’s operational revenues increased from $300,000 in 2007 to $464,000 in 2010. In 2009, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) began to construct a south access to the Golden Gate Bridge, which required the use of property controlled by Presidio Trust. The Trust agreed to deliver specified property—including Building 1158. Caltrans informed the Foundation it would demolish Building 1158. The Foundation began to search for another location; no comparable space was immediately found. The Foundation cancelled its 2010 summer program and its Annual Benefit. It lost students, donors, staff, and partners. The Foundation vacated Building 1158 in 2011. Caltrans paid $107,000 as just compensation for the Foundation‘s lost improvements. Weeks after vacating, the Foundation leased space in Building 386, which costs more, offers less functional space, lacks a safe drop-off zone, has less parking, lacks evening public transportation, shares restrooms with a business, and is an historical building that limits configuration of space. The Foundation sought compensation for loss of goodwill. Caltrans denied the claim and sought declaratory relief. The trial court found that, although the Foundation demonstrated it had goodwill before the taking and lost goodwill due to the taking, it did not prove a calculated “quantitative” loss. The court of appeal reversed, finding that an expert‘s quantification based on a change in cash flow was sufficient for the threshold determination of entitlement to compensation. View "Department of Transportation v. Presidio Performing Arts Foundation" on Justia Law
Regalado v. Callaghan
Jeffrey Callaghan hired Dunn's Designer Pools (Dunn's), a landscape and pool contractor, to build a pool and spa at his home. Victor Regalado, a Dunn's employee, suffered injuries when he installed a propane fueled pool heater on Callaghan's property. Regalado sued Callaghan for negligence and premises liability. The jury found Callaghan was negligent; the trial court ultimately entered judgment against Callaghan in the amount of approximately $3 million. Callaghan appealed, arguing: (1) the court erred by failing to instruct the jury that a person who hires an independent contractor was not liable for injuries to the contractor's employee unless the hirer's negligent exercise of retained control "affirmatively contributed" to the employee's injury; (2) insufficient evidence supported the jury's verdicts on both premises liability and negligence; (3) Regalado's counsel committed misconduct by urging the jury to base its verdict on protecting the community; (4) the trial court erred by permitting Regalado to recover past wages because Dunn's had continued to pay his salary after the accident; and (5) the jury's award of future medical costs had to be reduced because it was not supported by substantial evidence. Rejecting all of Callaghan's arguments, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment. View "Regalado v. Callaghan" on Justia Law
Aluma Systems Concrete Constr. of Cal. v. Nibbi Bros., Inc.
Concrete Construction (Contractor) was sued by employees of Nibbi Concrete, who were injured after a shoring system designed by Contractor collapsed. Subsequently, Contractor sued Employer for indemnification based on a specific provision in the parties’ contract. The trial court dismissed, relying on the allegations in the underlying lawsuit that set forth claims only against Contractor and not against Employer. The court of appeal reversed, stating that the allegations in the underlying lawsuit are not determinative of Contractor’s claim for indemnity. View "Aluma Systems Concrete Constr. of Cal. v. Nibbi Bros., Inc." on Justia Law
Pulte Homes Corp. v. Williams Mechanical
Pulte Homes Corporation sued Williams Mechanical, Inc. for defective performance of a plumbing subcontract. Even before the action was filed, however, Williams was defunct; first, it was suspended by the Secretary of State, and thereafter, it dissolved voluntarily. Pulte served Williams though an attorney whom Williams had designated as its agent for service of process. The attorney, however, did not notify Williams of the action; he also did not identify or notify Williams’s liability insurer. Williams failed to respond to the complaint, and Pulte obtained a default judgment. Pulte then notified Williams’s liability insurer of the default judgment. About four and a half months later, the insurer retained counsel to represent Williams, and Williams’ counsel filed a motion to set aside the default judgment. The trial court granted the motion. Pulte appealed, arguing (1) Williams lacked the capacity to defend this action because it had been suspended; and (2) Williams failed to establish that it was entitled to relief from the default and default judgment. After review, the Court of Appeal held the trial court abused its discretion by ruling that Williams was entitled to relief. Accordingly, the Court did not address whether Williams had the capacity to defend. View "Pulte Homes Corp. v. Williams Mechanical" on Justia Law
Watson Bowman Acme Corp. v. RGW Construction
RGW entered into a contract with Watson for the delivery of 146 sealed expansion joints for use on the Caltrans project for the construction of Highway 99. Watson filed a breach of contract action, contending it was entitled to an adjustment of the price on RGW’s original purchase order because the items ordered were changed. The trial court concluded that RGW’s purchase order was ambiguous and allowed the jury to decide what the contract meant and what price was appropriate. The jury decided in favor of Watson, finding the amount of the subject agreement was $605,990. The jury awarded Watson damages of $383,032. The court concluded that the trial court correctly (1) determined that RGW’s purchase order was ambiguous and (2) allowed the jury to evaluate the conflicting parol evidence before deciding the meaning of the contract. The court also concluded that the price adjustment owed to Watson for the change in the order was sufficiently certain to meet the statutory requirements for an award of prejudgment interest. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment, except for its failure to award prejudgment interest to Watson. View "Watson Bowman Acme Corp. v. RGW Construction" on Justia Law
Findleton v. Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians
The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians and Findleton entered into the Construction Agreement for a gaming facility. In 2008 (10 months later), the Tribe suspended construction because the financial meltdown had adversely affected its ability to secure financing. In 2012, Findleton sought to compel ADR under the Agreement The Tribe asserted that it had not waived its sovereign immunity or consented to suit in the state court and that Findleton’s failure to exhaust his tribal administrative remedies deprived the court of jurisdiction. Findleton cited resolutions by the Tribal Council, waiving immunity. The Tribe has a General Council, consisting of all tribal members 18 years or older, and the Tribal Council, an elective body consisting of seven members of the General Council whose powers are more narrowly circumscribed. The Tribe’s constitution does not permit the Tribal Council to waive sovereign immunity without the General Council’s “consent” and “prior approval.” The court of appeal reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the action, finding that the Council was authorized to waive the Tribe’s immunity and did so in resolutions adopted in 2008 and on June 2, 2007, “in order to attract other individuals and entities to do business with the Tribe.” View "Findleton v. Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians" on Justia Law
Flintco Pacific v. TEC Mgmt. Consultants
After TEC, a subcontractor, submitted a written bid to Flintco, a general contractor, to perform glazing work on a project, Flintco used TEC's bid price in compiling its own bid to the owner of the project. Flintco was awarded the contract and sent TEC a letter of intent to enter into a subcontract and a standard-form subcontract, both of which documents differed materially from TEC’s bid. TEC refused to enter into a subcontract. Flintco secured another subcontractor for that scope of work and sued TEC on a theory of promissory estoppel seeking the difference between TEC’s bid and the amount Flintco was required to pay the replacement subcontractor. The trial court entered judgment for TEC. The court concluded that Flintco failed to demonstrate that there was no substantial evidence to support the trial court’s finding that Flintco did not reasonably rely on TEC’s bid price without considering the material conditions stated in TEC’s bid, the proposed subcontract Flintco sent TEC constituted a counteroffer because it contained material variations from the conditions in TEC’s bid, and the counteroffer gave TEC the right to withdraw its bid. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Flintco Pacific v. TEC Mgmt. Consultants" on Justia Law