Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court
Strazza Building & Construction, Inc. v. Harris
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court affirming the judgment of the trial court denying a property owner's motion for summary judgment in the underlying dispute with a contractor arising from a construction project, holding that the trial court correctly denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment.Defendants hired Plaintiff to serve as a general contractor to renovate a home located on Greenwich property. Defendants later terminated their contractual relationship with Plaintiff. Plaintiff served mechanics' liens on Defendants and brought this action to foreclose its lien. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the trial court was required to give res judicata effect to the findings of the trial court in a prior action between Plaintiff and one of Defendants' subcontractors. The trial court denied Defendants' summary judgment motion, determine that all four required elements of res judicata were not met. The appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the appellate court did not err in holding that the presumption of privity that the Supreme Court held to apply in Girolametti v. Michael Horton Associates, Inc., 208 A.3d 1223 (Conn. 2019), did not apply to the instant case. View "Strazza Building & Construction, Inc. v. Harris" on Justia Law
Winakor v. Savalle
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court concluding that the Home Improvement Act (Act), Conn. Gen. Stat. 20-418 et seq., did not apply to work performed by Defendant on Plaintiff's property, holding that Plaintiff's claim under the Act was unavailing.The trial court found in favor of Plaintiff on his claims alleging breach of contract, violations of the Act, and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq. The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiff. The appellate court affirmed with respect to the breach of contract count but reversed with respect to the remaining claims, ruling that the work performed by Defendant fell within the new home exception of the Act, and therefore, Plaintiff failed to state a claim under both the Act and CUTPA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the work performed by Defendant fell within the new home exception. View "Winakor v. Savalle" on Justia Law
Centerplan Construction Co. v. Hartford
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court finding Plaintiffs responsible for failing to complete a project by the parties' agreed-upon deadline and awarding Defendant $335,000 in liquidated damages on its counterclaim, holding that the trial court's pretrial interpretation of various agreements between the parties was erroneous.At issue was which party was responsible for delays in constructing Dunkin Donuts Park in the City of Hartford. Plaintiffs, the project's developer and the design-builder, sued the City claiming breach of contract, and the City counterclaimed for breach of contract. The trial court concluded, as a matter of law, that Plaintiffs controlled the architect and were therefore liable for changes to and mistakes in the ballpark's design. Thereafter, the jury found Plaintiffs responsible for failing to complete the stadium by the agreed-upon deadline. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the parties' contracts did not unambiguously grant Plaintiffs legal control of the architect and the stadium's design across all relevant time periods. View "Centerplan Construction Co. v. Hartford" on Justia Law
Girolametti v. Michael Horton Associates, Inc.
In this construction dispute between a property owner and a general contractor the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court that, in the absence of clear evidence of contrary intent by the parties, subcontractors are presumptively in privity with the general contractor for purposes of res judicata as to the subcontractors' claims that did not participate in arbitration.These appeals arose from disputes regarding the construction of a store expansion. Plaintiffs, the store owners, and the general contractor, pursuant to a contract between them, entered arbitration to resolve various disputes regarding the project. None of the five subcontractors (Defendants) were formally a party to the arbitration. The arbitrator issued an award ordering Plaintiffs to pay the general contractor $508,597 for sums due. Plaintiffs subsequently filed suit seeking to recover from Defendants. Defendants moved for summary judgment based on res judicata. The trial court denied the motions on the grounds that Defendants were not parties to the arbitration and were not in privity with the general contractor. The appellate court reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants were in privity with the general contractor for purposes of res judicata and that Plaintiffs' claims were barred because they could have been raising during the arbitration. View "Girolametti v. Michael Horton Associates, Inc." on Justia Law
Burns v. Adler
Contractor and Homeowner entered into an agreement whereby Contractor agreed to furnish materials and supply labor in connection with renovations to Homeowner’s residence. After the renovation project was largely complete, the parties began to dispute the amounts that Homeowner owed Contractor. Contractor then brought this action claiming, inter alia, breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Homeowner raised the special defense that Contractor’s claims were barred because the agreement did not comply with the Home Improvement Act. In response, Contractor argued that Homeowner was precluded from relying on the Act because his refusal to pay Contractor was in bad faith. The trial court agreed with Contractor and rendered judgment for Contractor. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Homeowner did not act in bad faith, and therefore, the trial court improperly found that Homeowner was barred from invoking the protection of the Act. Remanded with direction to render judgment for Homeowner. View "Burns v. Adler" on Justia Law
Capstone Bldg. Corp. v. Am. Motorists Ins. Co.
Plaintiffs served as the general contractor and the project developer for construction of a student housing complex at the University of Connecticut (UConn). UConn procured a commercial general liability (CGL) policy for the project, which insured Plaintiffs and their work. Defendant, American Motorists Insurance Company (AMICO), was the issuing insurer's successor in interest. UConn alleged that Plaintiffs breached the agreement with UConn, and Plaintiffs demanded that AMICO defend against UConn's claims. AMICO denied coverage. Plaintiffs settled their claims with UConn and then brought this action against Defendant for breach of contract and bad faith. The U.S. district court certified three questions of law for the Connecticut Supreme Court's consideration. The Court answered (1) allegations of unintended defective construction work by a subcontractor that damages nondefective property may trigger coverage under a CGL policy; (2) under the plain language of the insurance policy in this case, there is no cause of action based on AMICO's failure to conduct a discretionary investigation of claims for coverage; and (3) in global settlements encompassing multiple claims, the insured has the burden of proving that a pre-suit settlement is reasonable in proportion to claims that the insurer has a duty to defend. View "Capstone Bldg. Corp. v. Am. Motorists Ins. Co." on Justia Law
State v. Lombardo Bros. Mason Contractors, Inc.
The plaintiff, the state, commenced this action against the named defendant, Lambardo Brothers Mason Contractors, and twenty-seven other defendants, to recover damages for the allegedly defective design and construction of the library at the University of Connecticut School of Law. Defendants raised time-based defenses to the state's claims by way of motions to strike or motions for summary judgment, with nearly all of them relying on applicable statutes of limitation and repose. The trial court concluded that the rule of nullum tempus, which exempts the state from the operation of statutes of limitation and statutes of repose, was never adopted as the common law of the state, and consequently, the state's claims against the defendants were barred by applicable statutes of limitation and repose. Accordingly, the trial court rendered judgment for the defendants. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings on the merits of the state's claims, holding that the doctrine of nullum tempus was well established in the state's common law, and the doctrine exempted the state from the operation of the relevant statutes of limitation and repose. View "State v. Lombardo Bros. Mason Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law
Elec. Contractors, Inc. v. Dep’t of Educ.
At issue in this appeal was whether nonunion Plaintiffs, Electrical Contractors, Inc. (ECI) and six of its employees had standing to challenge prebid specifications requiring the successful bidder on two state financed construction projects to perform all project work with union labor under the terms of a project labor agreement. The trial court dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint for lack of standing. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's dismissal of the claims of ECI against the city and other nonstate defendants, and affirmed the court's dismissal of ECI's claims against several state defendants, holding (1) the individual plaintiffs did not have standing to bring their claims; (2) ECI had standing to bring its claims against the nonstate defendants, as it had a colorable claim of injury; (3) ECI had standing to bring its claim against the city for violation of the Connecticut Antitrust Act; (4) Plaintiffs' claims were not preempted by federal labor law; and (5) Plaintiffs failed to allege facts that reasonably supported their claims against the state defendants, and therefore, the trial court's judgment could be affirmed on the alternative ground that Plaintiffs' claims against the state defendants were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. View "Elec. Contractors, Inc. v. Dep't of Educ." on Justia Law
Levine v. Town of Sterling
The Town's building officials refused to issue permits to Plaintiff-Appellant Levine for two dwelling units Plaintiff wanted to build on his property. Plaintiff sued for permission to build but lost at trial and appealed, challenging the Town's authority to change its mind after considerable time and money was spent on development. Plaintiff also argueed that there were problems with the trial court's conclusion on his municipal estoppel claim. The Court found that the town properly enacted its land use ordinance, but the lower court improperly applied the law to Plaintiff's municipal estoppel claim to allow him damages for reliance on Town's initial permission to build. Starting in 2005, Plaintiff sought permission from the Town to develop a parcel of land. In 2006, the Town amended its land use ordinance to prohibit the construction of more than one dwelling on a lot, but did not expressly provide whether the revisions would apply to projects already in development. A February, 2006 meeting of the board of selectmen passed a resolution to allow Plaintiff's project to proceed; a September, 2006 meeting rescinded the February approval, and reserved the right to enforce the Town's land use ordinances against Plaintiff's project. In November, 2006, Plaintiff sought the building permits for work already in progress, and the Town refused to issue them. The Court affirmed the lower court's determination that the Town's board had authority under state law to pass the September, 2006 resolution. However, though the Court agreed with Plaintiff that he had demonstrated significant time and money was spent in developing his land. The Court held that the standard used to decide was too strict under state law, and ordered a new trial to resolve Plaintiff's municipal estoppel claim.