Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Ruegg & Ellsworth v. City of Berkeley
Government Code 65913.4 provides for streamlined, ministerial approval of affordable housing projects meeting specified requirements. Berkeley denied Ruegg’s application for ministerial approval of a mixed-use development under section 65913.4. Ruegg alleged violations of both section 65913.4 and the Housing Accountability Act (HAA, section 65589.5). The trial court found Berkeley was not required to approve the proposed project under section 65913.4 and denied Ruegg’s petition without reaching the HAA issues. The court of appeal, without addressing the HAA, directed the trial court to grant the writ petition.On remand, the trial court reasoned that it could not avoid ruling on the HAA issues. With respect to the section 65913.4 claim the court ordered Berkeley to issue the permits; it set a briefing schedule and hearing date concerning the HAA issues. The court of appeal declined to prohibit that hearing. Berkeley issued the permit. After a hearing, the trial court found that the disapproval of the application violated the HAA and that Ruegg was entitled to the “albeit duplicative” injunctive relief. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the trial court had jurisdiction to address the HAA issue, which was not forfeited nor rendered moot by the prior order. View "Ruegg & Ellsworth v. City of Berkeley" on Justia Law
Brunobuilt, Inc. v. Briggs Engineering, Inc.
BrunoBuilt, Inc., was constructing a custom home on a vacant lot in 2016 when a landslide occurred beneath the Terra Nativa subdivision in the Boise foothills. Following damage to the lot, BrunoBuilt filed a professional negligence suit against numerous engineers and engineering firms involved in the construction of the subdivision, arguing that they failed to identify preexisting landslide conditions and other geological circumstances that made residential development unsafe at this site. In the fall of 2018, BrunoBuilt discovered additional damage to the finished custom home itself. It then brought suit against additional defendants, including Briggs Engineering, Inc., and Erstad Architects. Briggs Engineering moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted. The court concluded that BrunoBuilt’s action was time barred by the two-year statute of limitations under Idaho Code section 5-219(4). BrunoBuilt appealed this decision, arguing that the malpractice claim did not begin to accrue until there was damage to the custom home, rather than just the land. To this the Idaho Supreme Court disagreed with BrunoBuilt’s analysis and affirmed the district court that BrunoBuilt’s claim was time barred. View "Brunobuilt, Inc. v. Briggs Engineering, Inc." on Justia Law
River’s Side at Washington Sq. Homeowners Assn. v. Superior Court
Plaintiff River’s Side at Washington Square Homeowners Association was established to manage a development consisting of 25 residential units and common areas. It sued Defendants River’s Side LLC et al. for construction defects in the residential units. Defendants demurred to six of the seven causes of action asserted against them, arguing a homeowners association lacked standing to sue on behalf of its members for defects in residential units that it did not own and had no obligation to repair. Plaintiff alleged it had standing to bring this action on behalf of its members pursuant to Civil Code section 945, Civil Code section 5980, and Code of Civil Procedure section 382. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing under Civil Code sections 945 and 5980, and that Code of Civil Procedure section 382 was inapplicable. Because the order sustaining the demurrer left one cause of action remaining, it was not immediately appealable, and Plaintiff thus challenged the order by petition for writ of mandate. The Court of Appeal concluded Plaintiff had standing to bring claims for damages to the common areas pursuant to Civil Code sections 945 and 5980, and that it at least nominally alleged such damages. The Court further concluded Plaintiff might have standing to bring claims for damages to the residential units that sound in contract or fraud if it could meet the requirements for bringing a representative action pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 382. The Court also determined Plaintiff should have been granted leave to amend to cure any standing defect. The Court thus granted the petition for mandamus relief and directed the trial court to reversed its order granting the demurrer. View "River's Side at Washington Sq. Homeowners Assn. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
Escapes! To the Shores Condominium Association, Inc. v. Hoar Construction, LLC, et al.
Escapes! To the Shores Condominium Association, Inc. ("the Association"), individually and on behalf of certain condominium-unit owners, appealed an order denying a Rule 59, Ala. R. Civ. P. motion to vacate a judgment entered on an arbitration award in favor of Hoar Construction, LLC ("Hoar"), and Architectural Surfaces, Inc. ("ASI"). The arbitration award in favor of Hoar and ASI stemmed from the construction of a condominium building located in Orange Beach known as "Escapes! To the Shores." Hoar was the general contractor for the construction project; Stephen Hill was the architect for the construction project; and ASI was the subcontractor responsible for the installation of the exterior surfaces to the condominium building. After construction of the condominium building was substantially complete, the developer of the project sold the units and transferred ownership and management of the common areas to the Association. The Association thereafter filed suit against Hoar, ASI, and Hill seeking damages arising out of alleged construction and design defects to the condominium building, specifically, "stucco blistering and water intrusion." The Association's claims against Hoar and ASI proceeded to arbitration, but its claims against Hill remained pending in the trial court. A panel of three arbitrators issued a final award in favor of Hoar and ASI, concluding, in relevant part, that the defects to the condominium building were the result of a design defect and not a construction defect. Once the trial court entered a judgment on the arbitration award, the Association thereafter filed a Rule 59 motion to vacate that judgment. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Association has failed to demonstrate that the arbitration panel engaged in misconduct that would warrant vacatur. Accordingly, the order denying the Association's Rule 59 motion and the judgment entered on the arbitration award were affirmed. View "Escapes! To the Shores Condominium Association, Inc. v. Hoar Construction, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
L&C Expedition, et al. v. Swenson, Hagen and Co., et al.
L&C Expedition, LLC (“L&C”) appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of International Fidelity Insurance Company (“IFIC”) and denying summary judgment to L&C. L&C contracted with Unlimited Excavating (“Unlimited”) to perform work on a residential development project. Unlimited completed its work in November 2016 and received final payment in July 2017. In 2019, L&C learned of major problems in the construction and notified Unlimited it needed to make repairs. Unlimited did not make the repairs and L&C demanded IFIC arrange for performance of Unlimited’s work per the terms of the performance bond. IFIC refused to arrange for performance. L&C subsequently initiated suit against IFIC in May 2020 arguing L&C is entitled to recover $393,000 under the terms of the performance bond. The performance bond provided the following: “[a]ny suit under this bond must be [i]nstituted before the expiration of two years from the date on which final payment under the subcontract falls due.” The parties do not dispute the district court’s finding L&C initiated its action outside the limitation period provided within the terms of the bond. L&C argued the district court erred in finding a contractual limitation on the period to assert a claim was enforceable, erred in failing to apply N.D.C.C. § 9-08-05 to preclude modification of the applicable statute of limitations, and erred in interpreting N.D.C.C. § 22-03-03 as providing an exception to the prohibition against modifying the applicable statute of limitations. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "L&C Expedition, et al. v. Swenson, Hagen and Co., et al." on Justia Law
Dobson v. Archibald
Homeowner Trefan Archibald hired an individual, Gina Dobson, to refinish his hardwood floors. Dobson worked as a longshoreman full-time but did some construction work on the side. Archibald selected her for the job based on a referral and her reputation of completing similar construction projects. Upon completion of the floors, Archibald was dissatisfied with the results and refused to pay the agreed-upon price. Dobson sued for breach of contract and, as part of the suit, claimed she was not a contractor and did not need to be registered. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review was: (1) whether such an individual was a “contractor” under RCW 18.27.010(1)(a); and (2) whether nonregistration under RCW 18.27.080 was an affirmative defense that had to be timely pleaded or was otherwise waived. The Court of Appeals held that Dobson was a contractor within the meaning of the contractor registration statutes and that Archibald was not required to raise nonregistration as an affirmative defense. To this, the Supreme Court agreed, holding that Dobson was a contractor as defined by statute and that registration was a prerequisite to suit. Therefore, Dobson was precluded from bringing this lawsuit, and her breach of contract action was properly dismissed. View "Dobson v. Archibald" on Justia Law
Walbeck, et al. v. The I’On Company
This case involved promises made and broken to homeowners by a developer and its affiliated entities. A jury returned verdicts on several causes of action in favor of the homeowners, and the developer appealed. The court of appeals initially upheld the jury's verdict for $1.75 million on the homeowners' breach of fiduciary claim and a verdict for $10,000 on a breach of contract claim by an individual homeowner. Thereafter, upon petitions for rehearing, the court of appeals completely reversed course, dismissing all of the homeowners' claims as a matter of law and reversing and remanding the breach of contract claim by the individual homeowner. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted certiorari and affirmed in part and reversed in part, thus reinstating the jury's verdicts. The Court: (1) reversed the court of appeals' ruling on the statute of limitations because the issue as to when Homeowners had adequate notice to begin the limitations clock was properly presented to the jury and resolved by it; (2) found any procedural issues related to the derivative claims either (a) moot as the HOA was realigned as a plaintiff and the trial court explicitly found it adopted its own claims against the Developers, or (b) demand was saved by futility due to the Developer's continuing veto power; (3) held that Developers breached the fiduciary duties owed to Homeowners; (4) reversed the court of appeals' decision that Developers could not be amalgamated, as there was more than enough evidence of bad faith, abuse, fraud, wrongdoing, or injustice resulting from the blurring of the entities' legal distinctions; and (5) affirmed the court of appeals that the recreational easement was invalid. View "Walbeck, et al. v. The I'On Company" on Justia Law
Vascos Excavation Group LLC v. Gold
Plaintiff and appellant, a contractor, prevailed in an arbitration against its client, the Defendant and Respondent. After finding that Plaintiff was not duly licensed because its responsible managing employee (RME) did not meet the criteria required by law, the trial court granted Defendant's petition to vacate the arbitration award on the ground that the arbitrator exceeded her powers.Plaintiff made two main arguments on appeal. It first contends the trial court misapplied the burden of proof regarding whether Plaintiff was a duly licensed contractor. The Second Appellate District rejected this argument, finding that the trial court correctly determined that Plaintiff had the burden of proof on this issue.Plaintiff also argued the trial court erroneously denied it an evidentiary hearing. In the trial court, however, Plaintiff did not seek an evidentiary hearing. It instead argued that such a hearing was not authorized by law. Therefore, the Second Appellate District held that Plaintiff forfeited the issue on appeal. View "Vascos Excavation Group LLC v. Gold" on Justia Law
LaBarbera, et al. v. Security Nat. Ins. Co.
Plaintiff-appellant Chris LaBarbera hired Richard Knight dba Knight Construction (Knight) to remodel a house pursuant to a contract that provided Knight would defend and indemnify LaBarbera for all claims arising out of the work. Knight obtained a general liability insurance policy from defendant-respondent Security National Insurance Company (Security National) that covered damages Knight was obligated to pay due to bodily injury to a third party. As relevant here, the policy also covered Knight’s “liability for damages . . . [a]ssumed in a contract or agreement that is an ‘insured contract.’ ” Security National acknowledged the indemnity provision in Knight’s contract with LaBarbera was an “insured contract” within the meaning of the policy. The policy also provided, “If we defend an insured [i.e., Knight] against a suit and an indemnitee of the insured [i.e., LaBarbera] is also named as a party to the suit, we will defend that indemnitee” if certain conditions were met. During the remodeling work, a subcontractor suffered catastrophic injuries, and sued both LaBarbera and Knight. LaBarbera’s liability insurer (plaintiff-appellant Lloyd's of London Underwriters) defended him in that lawsuit, and Security National defended Knight. LaBarbera also tendered his defense to Knight and to Security National, but they either ignored or rejected the tender. After settling the underlying lawsuit for $465,000, LaBarbera and Underwriters sued Knight and Security National, seeking to recover the full $465,000 settlement amount and over $100,000 in expenses and attorney fees incurred defending LaBarbera in that lawsuit. Security National moved for summary judgment on the ground that all claims against it were barred because the undisputed facts established it did not have an obligation to defend or indemnify LaBarbera. The trial court granted the motion and entered judgment in favor of Security National. LaBarbera and Underwriters appealed, but the Court of Appeal affirmed, adopting different reasoning than the trial court. The Court agreed with Security National that the indemnitee defense clause in Knight’s general liability insurance policy did not bestow third party beneficiary rights on the indemnitee, LaBarbera, who benefitted only incidentally from the clause. Because LaBarbera was not a third party beneficiary under Knight’s policy, he was precluded from bringing a direct action against Security National. View "LaBarbera, et al. v. Security Nat. Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Tadych v. Noble Ridge Constr., Inc.
Gregory and Sue Tadych filed suit after the one-year limitation period to bring a construction defect suit expired. The trial court entered summary judgment, dismissing the suit and upholding the contractual limitation. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Washington Supreme Court found the contractual limitation here was substantively unconscionable and, therefore, void and unenforceable. "The one-year limitation provision provides a substantially shorter limitations period than plaintiffs are otherwise entitled to under RCW 4.16.310 and benefits the contractor at the expense of the rights of the homeowner." Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for trial. View "Tadych v. Noble Ridge Constr., Inc." on Justia Law