Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the City of Powell, Ohio and dismissing Golf Village North LLC's claims brought under 28 U.S.C. 1983 for violating its procedural and substantive due process rights, holding that there was no error.Golf Village, a developer, sought to build a "residential hotel" on its property in Powell, Ohio but never filed the required zoning application. Instead, Golf Village requested that the City confirm the residential hotel was a permitted use of the property. The City directed Golf Village to file an appropriate application for "zoning Certificate approval" to receive an answer. Rather than reply, Golf Village sued the City. The district court granted summary judgment for the City. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Golf Village's procedural due process and substantive due process rights were not violated in this case. View "Golf Village North, LLC v. City of Powell, Ohio" on Justia Law

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After Nygard removed his driveway and was about to pour a new one, an Orono inspector told Nygard that he needed a permit. The next day, Nygard finished the driveway and applied for a permit. The new driveway was narrower than the previous one. The city responded with a form, imposing several conditions. Nygard crossed out some conditions, initialed the modified form, and returned it. After several exchanges, the city notified Nygard that he must agree to the conditions or “this matter will be turned over to the prosecuting attorney.” Nygard did not acknowledge the conditions. A police officer drafted a statement of probable cause, alleging that “work had been completed without having first obtained a permit” and listing some alleged deficiencies in its construction. According to the Nygards, the police did not inspect the property and some allegations were not true.Nygard was acquitted of violating the city code. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming the code was void for vagueness and alleging First Amendment retaliation, abuse of process, and malicious prosecution. Nygard’s prosecution was not based on falsehoods. The report did not claim that the conditions were required by the code but that Nygard had not agreed to the conditions and had replaced a driveway without a permit. Any failure to investigate did not defeat probable cause; the city already knew that he installed a driveway without a permit. View "Nygard v. City of Orono" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's order permanently enjoining enforcement of Ohio Rev. Code 9.75, which prohibits a public authority from requiring that contractors on public-improvement projects employ a specific number or percentage of the public authority's residents, holding that section 9.75 is a general law and prevails over local laws.The appellate court affirmed the trial court's order permanently enjoining enforcement of section 9.75, holding that Ohio Const. art. II, 34 did not authorize the General Assembly to infringe on the City of Cleveland's municipal home-rule authority under Ohio Const. art. XVIII, 3 to impose city-residency preferences in Cleveland's public-improvement contracts. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter to the trial court to dissolve the injunction, holding that the statute provides for the comfort and general welfare of all Ohio construction employees and therefore supersedes conflicting local ordinances. View "Cleveland v. State" on Justia Law

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NRP made preliminary arrangements with the City of Buffalo to build affordable housing on city‐owned land and to finance the project in part with public funds. The project never came to fruition, allegedly because NRP refused to hire a political ally of the mayor. NRP sued the city, the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, the mayor, and other officials The district court resolved all of NRP’s claims in favor of defendants. The Second Circuit affirmed. NRP’s civil RICO claim against the city officials is barred by common‐law legislative immunity because the mayor’s refusal to take the final steps necessary to approve the project was discretionary legislative conduct, and NRP’s prima facie case would require a fact-finder to inquire into the motives behind that protected conduct. NRP’s “class of one” Equal Protection claim was properly dismissed because NRP failed to allege in sufficient detail the similarities between NRP’s proposed development and other projects that previously received the city’s approval. NRP’s claim for breach of contract was properly dismissed because the city’s “commitment letter” did not create a binding preliminary contract in conformity with the Buffalo City Charter’s requirements for municipal contracting. NRP fails to state a claim for promissory estoppel under New York law, which requires proof of “manifest injustice.” View "NRP Holdings LLC v. City of Buffalo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a certified question from the Unitde States District Court by holding that Ohio Rev. Code 4123.35(O) is not unconstitutional as applied to the tort claims of an enrolled subcontractor’s employee who is injured while working on a self-insured construction project and whose injury is compensable under Ohio’s workers’ compensation laws.Daniel Stolz was injured while working as a concrete finisher for Jostin Construction. Jostin was a subcontractor of Messer Construction Company, the general contractor for the project. Under section 4123.35(O), Messer provided workers’ compensation coverage on the project for employees of subcontractors like Jostin that chose to enroll in Messer’s self-insurance plan. Stolz eventually sued Messer and several subcontractors for negligence. Messer and three enrolled subcontractors argued that they were immune from liability under section 4123.35(O). The Supreme Court concluded that the statute provides immunity to both general contractors and enrolled subcontractors from tort claims brought by employees of other enrolled subcontractors. Stolz later amended his complaint to allege that section 4123.35(O) is unconstitutional. The enrolled subcontractors petitioned the district court to certify a question of state law to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that section 4123.35(O) does not violate the Ohio Constitution’s right-to-remedy, right-to-jury, or equal-protection provisions. View "Stolz v. J & B Steel Erectors, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s denial of the motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by several property developers (Developers) alleging that the City of West Jordan violated statutory provisions that regulate how a municipality may spend impact fees collected from developers. The court held (1) Developers had standing to challenge the constitutionality of the impact fees they were assessed; (2) Developers failed to state a takings claim for which relief can be granted because Developers’ allegations that West Jordan either failed to spend impact fees within six years or spent the fees on impermissible expenditures were inadequate to support a constitutional takings claim; and (3) Developers did not have standing to bring a claim in equity. View "Alpine Homes, Inc. v. City of West Jordan" on Justia Law

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Midwest Fence, which provides guardrails, challenged federal and state programs that offer advantages in highway construction contracting to disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs). For purposes of federally-funded highway construction, DBEs are small businesses that are owned and managed by “individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged,” 49 C.F.R. 26.5, primarily racial minorities and women, who have historically faced significant obstacles in the construction industry due to discrimination. States that accept federal highway funding must establish DBE participation goals for federally funded highway projects and must attempt to reach those goals through processes tailored to actual market conditions. Midwest, which is not a DBE, alleged that the DBE programs violated its equal protection rights. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government-defendants. While DBE programs permit contracting decisions to be made with reference to racial classifications and are subject to strict scrutiny, they serve a compelling government interest and are narrowly tailored to further that interest. Remedying the effects of past or present discrimination can be a compelling governmental interest. The program provides states with ample discretion to tailor their DBE programs to the realities of their own markets and requires the use of race- and gender-neutral measures before turning to race- and gender-conscious ones. View "Midwest Fence Corp. v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the City of Omaha enacted an ordinance requiring contractors doing work within the City to obtain a license. Appellant challenged the ordinance on various grounds. As relevant on appeal, Appellant alleged that the passage of the ordinance did not comply with the procedural requirements of the Omaha City Charter, that the ordinance placed an unfair restriction on and monopolized the City’s contracting industry, and that the ordinance violated his constitutional rights. The district court granted summary judgment for the City on all but one of Appellant’s claims. After a bench trial, the district court ruled in favor of the City, concluding that the City was empowered to enact the ordinance and that the ordinance did not prevent Appellant from working on his own property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the City had the authority to enact the ordinance. View "Malone v. City of Omaha" on Justia Law

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Demien, the unsuccessful bidder for the construction of a new firehouse, filed suit against the District under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the District violated federal and state constitutional rights, as well as state law, in the bidding process. The district court dismissed the complaint. The court concluded that it need only determine whether Damien has Article III standing under Federal law and not whether Damien has standing under Missouri law. Determining that Demien has Article III standing, the court concluded that Demien has abandoned its claims under the First Amendment by failing to argue them before the district court, and that Demien failed to allege that the District deprived Demien of any entitlement, and so it failed to state a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. The court concluded that, under Missouri law, there is no property right to the lowest bidder, and standing to bring a state court claim of deprivation of property rights does not establish a protected property interest. In this case, the District stated that it may accept the lowest bid, but does not need to. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Demien Construction Co. v. O'Fallon Fire Protection Dist." on Justia Law

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Defendants, an unlicensed residential builder; his businesses; and Denaglen Corp., a check-cashing service, appealed the Court of Appeals' decision to affirm the grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs, homeowners who contracted to have their home restored following a flood. On appeal, this case raised four issues: (1) whether MCL 339.2412(1), which prohibited an unlicensed builder from "bring[ing] or maintain[ing] an action . . . for the collection of compensation," prevents an unlicensed builder from defending on the merits against claims asserted against him by a homeowner; (2) whether MCL 339.2412(1) provided a homeowner with an independent cause of action for damages arising from the statute's violation; (3) whether a contract for the services of an unlicensed builder was void ab initio or whether it may have some form of continuing legal existence; and (4) whether the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to set aside the default of defendant Denaglen Corp., the check-cashing service. In lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court found that the appellate court erred in granting summary judgment to the plaintiffs. While the Court of Appeals correctly held that MCL 339.2412(1) did not prevent an unlicensed builder from defending against a lawsuit on its merits and did not afford a homeowner an independent cause of action to seek damages for its violation. However, contracts between an innocent homeowner and an unlicensed residential builder were voidable by the homeowner and thereby effective in conveying rights and authorities to both parties and third parties. The Court of Appeals therefore erred when it declared the contract at issue void ab initio, "although that court's error was wholly understandable given the confusing state of applicable law." Finally, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to grant defendant Denaglen relief from its default. However, because the proper amount of damages remained in dispute, Denaglen was free to attempt to challenge the extent of its liability. View "Epps v. 4 Quarters Restoration, LLC" on Justia Law