Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Court of Appeal
McGee v. Balfour Beatty Constr.
Education Code section 17406 governs lease-leaseback construction agreements. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the lease-leaseback agreements entered into by defendants were a sham to avoid the competitive bid process and are therefore void. The court concluded that the trial court properly sustained the demurrer to all causes of action alleging the district was required to obtain competitive bids where competitive bids were not required under section 17406. The court also concluded that the trial court should have overruled the demurrer to the conflict of interest cause of action for violation of Government Code section 1090 where, at this early stage in the proceedings, section 1090 may apply. The court rejected defendants' arguments that plaintiffs lack standing to raise the issue and that section 1090 always excludes all independent contractors. Finally, the court concluded that the sanctions against plaintiffs' attorney must be reversed because the litigation is not frivolous. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and affirmed in part. View "McGee v. Balfour Beatty Constr." on Justia Law
Hearn Pac. Corp. v. Second Generation Roofing, Inc.
In 2007, the Sonoma County project’s owner sued Hearn, the general contractor, Second Generation, the roofer, and other subcontractors for design and construction defects. Hearn cross-complained against Second Generation and others. In 2009, Hearn assigned its interests under its subcontracts to two insurers, North American and RSUI. Hearn then settled with the owner and all but two subcontractors, one of which was Second Generation. Hearn filed an amended cross-complaint, purportedly in the name of the insurers, against those subcontractors, adding breach of a contractual obligation to obtain insurance and seeking equitable contribution for Hearn’s defense costs premised on a breach of that duty. In 2013, the court dismissed the cross-complaint against Second Generation on procedural grounds, awarded $30,256.79 in costs and granted prevailing party attorney fees of $179,119. Second Generation moved to amend the orders to name North American as a judgment debtor owing the amounts awarded against Hearn. The trial court denied the motion, stating: Hearn remains the only proper party and that the subcontractor’s exclusive remedy was to pursue a separate action against Hearn’s insurers. The court of appeal reversed, finding that, after the assignment, Hearn was “out of this case.” View "Hearn Pac. Corp. v. Second Generation Roofing, Inc." on Justia Law
Blois Construction v. FCI/Fluor/Parsons
Pursuant to Public Contract Code section 7107, when a project owner pays a direct contractor the amount it had previously withheld as retentions, the direct contractor must pay its subcontractors their share of the retention within seven days or face penalties. The court concluded that, in this case, the decision by the owner to stop withholding future retentions and pay full progress payments to the contractor was not equivalent to a payment by the owner of past retentions under section 7107. Accordingly, the court concluded that the subcontractor is not entitled to late payment penalties under section 7107. The court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Blois Construction v. FCI/Fluor/Parsons" on Justia Law
Picerne Construction v. Castellino Villas
Picerne Construction Corp. agreed to build an apartment complex for Castellino Villas. After construction started, Castellino refinanced the property, replacing the original lender with Bank of the West. Picerne subsequently claimed money due, recorded a mechanic’s lien, and brought this action against Castellino and Bank of the West to foreclose on the lien. Following a bench trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Picerne. Castellino argued on appeal: (1) Picerne did not have a valid mechanic’s lien because it did not record its claim within 90 days after substantial completion of the project; (2) the doctrine of judicial estoppel prevented Picerne from taking contrary positions at arbitration and at trial; (3) Picerne did not timely record a claim of mechanic’s lien as to nine distinct buildings within the project; and (4) the trial court erred in calculating the amount of the lien. Bank of the West agreed that Picerne failed to timely record its claim of mechanic’s lien. In addition, Bank of the West contends (5) that Picerne’s complaint against it is time-barred because Picerne did not name Bank of the West as a defendant in the original complaint even though it was aware of facts indicating it had a claim against the bank. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded: (1) Picerne timely recorded its mechanic’s lien; (2) Castellino failed to demonstrate the applicability of judicial estoppel; (3) the property constituted one residential unit; (4) the trial court overstated the principal sum due and failed to subtract the $115,453.50 setoff from the principal sum, but the other claims of error with regard to the lien amount have no merit; and (5) the action against Bank of the West was not time-barred because Picerne timely substituted Bank of the West in place of a Doe defendant when Picerne learned of the bank’s interest in the property. The Court modified the judgment to provide that the mechanic’s lien was in the amount of $2,416,855.06 and affirmed the judgment as modified. View "Picerne Construction v. Castellino Villas" on Justia Law
Hub Construction Specialties v. Esperanza Charities
Plaintiff, Hub Construction, supplied rebar and other materials to the general contractor on a construction project on property owned by defendant, Esperanza Charities. At issue is whether a mechanic's lien is invalid because the plaintiff lienholder did not strictly comply with the then-effective statutory requirement governing proof that the preliminary written notice was served on the defendant property owner by certified mail. Esperanza stipulated that the notice was served by certified mail, that the U.S. Postal Service website tracking certified mail items showed the notice was delivered, and that defendant actually received the notice. However, Esperanza contends that the lien is invalid because Hub has no return receipt, and the applicable statute at the time required proof that notice was served. The trial court dismissed the case. The court reversed, concluding that, while strict compliance with the notice provisions of the mechanic's lien law is required, the applicable precedents do not require or justify applying that rule to the statutory provisions governing proof that the required notice was properly given. A stipulation eliminates the need for proof. View "Hub Construction Specialties v. Esperanza Charities" on Justia Law
JMR Constr. Corp. v. Envtl Assessment & Remediation Mgmt., Inc.
The Army Corps of Engineers retained JMR as general contractor for construction of a dental clinic at the Presidio of Monterey. JMR entered into separate electrical and plumbing subcontracts with EAR. SureTec issued separate bonds guaranteeing EAR’s performance. While the project was ongoing, JMR communicated with EAR about alleged delays, deficient and late submittals, and improper work, and retained certain funds otherwise due EAR. After the project was completed, JMR sued EAR and SureTec for breach of contract and for foreclosure of the bonds. EAR filed a cross-complaint to recover retention funds withheld under the subcontracts. JMR was awarded $315,631, which included an offset for retention funds. The court held that JMR was entitled to attorney fees for its successful defense of the cross-complaint; awarded JMR $90,644.07 in expert witness fees, concluding that JMR’s recovery exceeded its $375,000 pretrial settlement offers. The court of appeal affirmed the judgment but reversed the award of expert fees. The court upheld utilization of the Eichleay method to calculate extended home office overhead damages; use of the modified total cost method of calculating JMR’s disruption and delay damages; and finding SureTec liable under the bonds because formal notice of default was not a condition precedent to recovery. View "JMR Constr. Corp. v. Envtl Assessment & Remediation Mgmt., Inc." on Justia Law
United Riggers & Erectors v. Coast Iron & Steel
This case arose out of a payment dispute between Coast, a contractor, and United, Coast's subcontractor. On appeal, United challenged the trial court's finding in favor of Coast, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that Coast was not liable for extra payments, as well as for failing to assess penalties and attorney’s fees against Coast for its delay in forwarding the retention payments. The court held that, pursuant to Civil Code section 8814, subdivision (c), a contractor is entitled to withhold a retention payment only when there is a good faith dispute regarding whether the subcontractor is entitled to the full amount of the retention payment. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the trial court as to this issue. On remand, the trial court is directed, pursuant to section 8818, to award United penalties. Consequently, the court reversed the award of attorney fees as to the retention payments and remanded the issue. The court need not reach the merits of the breach of contract claims because United has failed to show that the trial court erred in its determination that United failed to prove damages. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "United Riggers & Erectors v. Coast Iron & Steel" on Justia Law
DeSilva Gates Construction, LP v. Dept. of Transportation
The California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) and Papich Construction Company, Inc. appealed a trial court’s issuance of a writ of mandate to vacate the award of a public works contract to Papich. DeSilva Gates Construction submitted the second-lowest bid (the first bidder was disqualified for a non-responsive bid), and included the names and description of work by all subcontractors slated to perform work exceeding one-half of one percent of the bid amount. DeSilva later sent a letter to CalTrans noting DeSilva had inadvertently supplied CalTrans with additional information on the subcontractor list "above and beyond what was required." DeSilva explained it had not listed "All Steel Fence" as a subcontractor in its bid because the value of the bid items it would perform was less than one-half of one percent of the bid and the information for All Steel Fence (submitted within 24 hours of the bid) was additional information that was not required. Papich challenged DeSilva’s bid as having changed the subcontractor list. CalTrans rejected DeSilva’s bid as nonresponsive. DeSilva protested CalTrans’s determination that its bid was nonresponsive and protested Papich’s bid. The trial court granted the writ on grounds CalTrans erroneously rejected DeSilva's bid, and erred by awarding the contract to Papich despite Papich’s failure to comply with a material requirement of the information for bids. On appeal, CalTrans and Papich argued DeSilva’s bid was nonresponsive. Appellants also argued CalTrans had discretion to waive Papich’s mistake in failing to acknowledge the addendum to the information for bids. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court did not err. DeSilva’s disclosure of a subcontractor performing work amounting to only one-tenth of one percent of the total value of the contract was not required by the Public Contract Code or CalTrans’s information for bids. The additional information was accurate, albeit unnecessary, and did not render DeSilva’s bid nonresponsive. By contrast, CalTrans initially declared Papich’s bid to be nonresponsive and then waived Papich’s mistake and determined the bid to be responsive. The Court concluded CalTrans abused its discretion by awarding Papich the contract. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court’s issuance of the writ of mandate. View "DeSilva Gates Construction, LP v. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law