Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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A general contractor was covered as an additional insured on a commercial general liability (CGL) policy issued to its roofing subcontractor. The insurer refused to defend the general contractor after it was sued by homeowners for construction defects concerning roofing, prompting this lawsuit. After a bench trial, the trial court concluded the insurer owed no duty to defend. It believed the exclusion in the additional insured endorsement for damage to "property in the care, custody or control of the additional insured" precluded any duty to defend the general contractor in construction defect litigation. The general contractor disputed the insurer's interpretation of the policy and contended there was a duty to defend. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed and reversed judgment: “the facts indicate only shared control between the general contractor and its roofing subcontractor. Because the insurer did not prove coverage for the underlying construction defect litigation was impossible, it owed the general contractor a duty to defend the homeowner claim.” View "McMillin Homes Construction v. Natl. Fire & Marine Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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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

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The Subletting and Subcontracting Fair Practices Act governs public works projects, requires a prime contractor to obtain the awarding authority's consent before replacing a subcontractor listed in the original bid (Pub. Contract Code 4107(a)), and limits the awarding authority’s ability to consent. If the original subcontractor objects to being replaced, the awarding authority must hold a hearing. San Francisco entered a contract with prime contractor Ghilotti for a major renovation of Haight Street. Consistent with its accepted bid, Ghilotti entered a contract with subcontractor Synergy for excavation and utilities work. After Synergy broke five gas lines and engaged in other unsafe behavior, the city invoked a provision of its contract with Ghilotti to direct Ghilotti to remove Synergy and substitute a new subcontractor. Under protest, Ghilotti terminated Synergy and identified two potential replacement contractors. Synergy objected. A hearing officer determined that Synergy’s poor performance established a statutory ground for substitution. Synergy and Ghilotti argued that the hearing officer lacked jurisdiction because Ghilotti had not made a “request” for substitution. The trial court agreed. The court of appeal reversed. Although the statute contemplates that the prime contractor will normally be the party to seek substitution, the procedure followed here “complied in substance with every reasonable objective of the statute.” View "Synergy Project Management, Inc. v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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In the underlying action, a plaintiff filed a tort action against the subcontractor and developer for injuries allegedly arising from the subcontractor's work. The subcontractor did not defend the developer, and the jury found that plaintiff's injuries were not caused by the subcontractor's work. The court held that, where plaintiff in an underlying tort action alleges that his injuries arose out of the subcontractor's work, the developer is entitled as a matter of law to a defense under the indemnity clause. In this case, the trial court erred by submitting the question of the subcontractor's duty to defend to a jury. The court also held that the developer was entitled to a jury trial in its action for damages alleging breach of the covenant to provide insurance. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded. View "Centex Homes v. R-Help Construction Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellants, Sorokine and Koudriavtseva, are husband and wife. DBS and Kornach are California licensed contractors; DBS worked on their San Rafael house, while Kornach did not. Kornach, a longtime friend of Sorokine’s, had purchased materials for DIY projects at the property because of the discounts afforded to licensed general contractors. Sorokine does not speak English; Kornach often interpreted for Sorokine. After Koudriavtseva fired DBS, she hired unlicensed builders to complete the work and remedy alleged defects. DBS sued, alleging breach of contract and foreclosure of mechanic’s lien. Appellants’ response named as cross-defendants DBS, Komach, and ACIC, which had issued a surety bond to Kornach. The court of appeal reversed a directed verdict against appellants on a claim they violated an Internal Revenue Code provision and awarding $20,000 in sanctions and $122,995 in attorney fees against them. There was no evidence that appellants knew that 1099s issued to Komach were incorrect. The court also reversed directed verdicts against appellants on claims they had asserted against others; appellants were unable to prove damage because the trial court had granted a motion in limine preventing appellants from introducing evidence of payments made to an unlicensed contractor. The court also reversed an award of cost of proof damages to Kornach based on requests for admissions propounded by a different party. View "Design Built Systems v. Sorokine" on Justia Law

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Berkeley appealed the judgment against it in a construction dispute regarding a building on the Merced Campus. After the University denied Berkeley's claim for compensation for work performed, Berkeley filed suit alleging causes of action for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and breach of the implied covenant of the correctness of the plans and specifications. The Court of Appeal held that the jury's findings were not fatally inconsistent and the verdict was not against the law; the trial court did not err in instructing the jury that specification 03300 of the contract constituted a performance specification, and Berkeley was required to exercise its skill and judgment in selecting the means, methods, and equipment necessary to meet the end result called for in the specification; there was no abuse of discretion or deprivation of a fair trial; Berkeley has not demonstrated any prejudicial error in the trial court's exclusion of evidence of the total cost method of calculating damages; and Berkeley has not established any reversible error in the trial court's award of mediation fees as costs. However, the court held that the expert witness fees were improperly included in the award of costs and therefore must be modified. The court otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "Berkeley Cement, Inc. v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought a writ of mandate and declaratory relief, alleging that the City of Monterey Park breached its duty under Labor Code section 1072 to award a 10-percent bidding preference only to contractors who declare in their bids they will retain existing employees for at least 90 days. The trial court held that there was no such duty and ruled in favor of the City. The Court of Appeal held that words "shall declare as part of the bid" in Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (a), mean the bidder must state in its bid whether it will retain the employees of the prior contractor for 90 days. If the public agency (or "awarding authority") gives the statutory preference to bidders who do not agree in their bids to retain the employees of the prior contractor for at least 90 days, a bidder who makes the commitment is not really getting a statutory preference. The court held that whether a variance is inconsequential is a question of fact, subject to review for substantial evidence, that is not properly decided on demurrer. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded with directions for the trial court to vacate its order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend and to enter a new order overruling the demurrer. View "International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. City of Monterey Park" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's denial of JMS's petition for writ of administrative mandate seeking to set aside an administrative decision by the District that allowed a contractor to substitute another subcontractor in the place of JMS on a construction project. The court held that the hearing officer had jurisdiction to approve the request for substitution under Public Contract Code section 4107; neither substitution hearing nor the substitution decision affected a fundamental vested right; the hearing afforded JMS the due process required for a substitution hearing; substantial evidence supported the substitution decision; and thus the petition was properly denied. View "JMS Air Conditioning & Appliance Service, Inc. v. Santa Monica Community College District" on Justia Law

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In 2012, the Campbell Union School District (CUSD) Governing Board enacted a fee on new residential development under Education Code section 17620. The fee, $2.24 per square foot on new residential construction, was based on a study that projected that “it will cost the District an average of $22,039 to house each additional student in new facilities.” This figure was based on a projected $12.8 million cost to build a new 600-student elementary school and a projected $24.4 million cost to build a new 1,000-student middle school. SummerHill owns a 110-unit residential development project in Santa Clara, within CUSD’s boundaries. In 2012 and 2013, SummerHill tendered to CUSD under protest development fees of $499,976.96. The trial court invalidated the fee and ordered a refund of SummerHill’s fees. The court of appeal affirmed, holding that the fee study did not contain the data required to properly calculate a development fee; it failed to quantify the expected amount of new development or the number of new students it would generate, did not identify the type of facilities that would be necessary to accommodate those new students, and failed to assess the costs associated with those facilities. View "SummerHill Winchester LLC v. Campbell Union School District" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment denying Acco's petition for writ of mandamus seeking review of an administrative decision adopted by the Registrar, finding Acco in violation of Business and Professions Code section 7110 for failing to obtain a building permit before replacing a boiler. The court held that the Legislature's use of the term "willful" in section 7110 only requires a showing of general intent. The court also held that there was substantial evidence to support the Administrative Judge's determination that Acco willfully violated the applicable building laws. The court noted that the fact that an individual employee may not have been aware of a specific local permit requirement does not excuse a corporate licensee from complying with the building laws. View "Acco Engineered Systems v. Contractors' State License Board" on Justia Law