Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction Law
by
The Supreme Court reversed in part the decision of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the decision of the district court granting Defendant's motion to suppress his answers to the medical rule-out questions given subsequent to a traffic stop, holding that the ICA erred in affirming the district court's suppression of Defendant's answers to the medical rule-out questions.In granting Defendant's motion to suppress, the district court found that Defendant was subject to custodial interrogation without being given the required warnings under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under this Court's decision in State v. Sagapolutele-Silva, 511 P.3d 782 (Haw. 2022), Defendant was not in custody when he was asked the medical rule-out questions because the circumstances of the stop had not risen to those of a formal arrest. View "State v. Tronson " on Justia Law

by
Defendant was convicted of possession of crack cocaine and a gun in 2007. He was sentenced to 107 months of incarceration. In a violation of parole hearing, the district court sentenced Defendant to consecutive 24-month sentences after finding he violated the conditions of his supervised release by possessing two guns and ammunition.On appeal, Defendant argued that 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3583(g)’s requirement that a judge impose a term of imprisonment based on conduct that constitutes a federal crime violates the Fifth and Sixth Amendments and that his violations should therefore have been determined beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury. He also challenged his sentences on Double Jeopardy grounds.The Ninth Circuit affirmed, explaining that Sec. 3583(g) is more like “ordinary revocation” than “punishment for a new offense,” and that Defendant’s argument is not supported by Justice Breyer’s controlling concurring opinion in United States v. Haymond, 139 S. Ct. 2369 (2019). Defendant's Double Jeopardy challenges similarly failed because 1.) He possessed more than one weapon and 2.) The violations related to separate counts in the indictment. View "USA V. JAMES RICHARDS" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed in part the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in three cases consolidated for appeal involving foreclosures of construction liens under the Nebraska Construction Lien Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. 52-125 to 52-159, holding that summary judgment was proper but that an award of attorney fees was not.At issue in these appeals was whether equitable considerations made summary judgment improper, whether prejudgment interest was authorized in each case, and whether attorney fees were recoverable. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) summary judgment was proper because there was no dispute that the supplier complied with the provisions of the Nebraska Construction Lien Act; (2) an award of prejudgment interest was authorized because the claims were liquidated; and (3) under the circumstances, there was no statutory authorization for an award of attorney fees. View "Echo Group, Inc. v. Tradesmen International" on Justia Law

by
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

by
Vought sued for the balance due on his contract for the renovation of Stock’s house, additional compensation under a disputed change order, and penalties for the violation of a prompt-payment statute, Civil Code section 8800. Stock did not dispute the unpaid amount Vought had earned for finished work, including approved change orders, but disputed the claim for additional compensation and sought liquidated damages for delay. The court held that Vought was entitled to the undisputed balance due plus approximately half the disputed amount of additional compensation; that Stock was entitled to approximately half the amount he claimed as liquidated damages; and that Stock had not violated section 8800 by withholding final payment. The court held that neither side was entitled to attorney fees under section 8800 or to costs under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032.The court of appeal affirmed in part. Stock was not prohibited from withholding the $79,000 otherwise due based on his good faith claim for liquidated damages. Vought was not relieved of the obligation to pay liquidated damages for the delay that it caused although it was not responsible for the entire delay. Neither party was the prevailing party under section 8800 but Vought was the prevailing party for purposes of recovering costs under section 1032; it secured a “net monetary recovery.” View "Vought Construction Inc. v. Stock" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court regarding several orders unfavorable to Plaintiff in this dispute over the development of a subdivision on property containing a floodplain within Lewis and Clark County, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.In its challenged orders, the district court dismissed Plaintiff's negligence and negligent misrepresentation claims, denied Plaintiff's motion for a declaratory judgment that Mont. Code Ann. 76-5-109(4) is unconstitutional, dismissed Plaintiff's claims for inverse condemnation and nuisance, and dismissed Plaintiff's suit against the Montana Department of Transportation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's inverse condemnation claim; (2) did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim; (3) did not err in finding Mont. Code Ann. 76-5-109(4) was constitutional; and (4) did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's remaining nuisance claims. View "Hamlin Construction & Development Co. v. Mont. Dep't of Transportation" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order entered by the district court denying Skyline Consulting Group's motion to vacate and set aside bond substitution and reinstate construction lien, holding that the district court erred in concluding that Skyline had waived its right to challenge the substitute bond.In this dispute between two subcontractors, Mortensen Woodwork petitioned the district court to substitute Skyline's construction lien against certain property with the intent to pursue foreclosure. Skyline named SP Hotel Owner in the lien. Mortensen then secured a bond from a surety company for 150 percent of the amount Skyline claimed and filed a petition to substitute the bond for the lien. The district court did so. Skyline requested that the district court reinstate its lien because Mortensen was not authorized to substitute a bond. The district court denied the request. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Skyline did not waive its right to challenge the substitute bond in a separate arbitration proceeding; and (2) the district court erred in concluding that Montana law authorized Mortensen, a subcontractor, to substitute a bond for Skyline's construction lien. View "Skyline Consulting Group v. Mortensen Woodwork, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment, decree of foreclosure, and order of sale by the district court, and the orders and actions contained within these documents, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.Thermal Design, Inc. filed a complaint to foreclose its construction lien against Mark and Pam Duffy and Central Copters, Inc. The complaint also asserted claims against TNT Building Systems. A jury found that TNT, acting as an agent of Central Copters, entered into a contract with Thermal Design for the insulation system, and both TNT and Central Copters were jointly and severally liable for breaching the contract with Thermal Design. As to a crossclaim between TNT and Central Copters, the jury found that both parties breached their agreement but that only TNT incurred damages. The district court entered a final order restating that, as a matter of law, Thermal Design had a valid construction lien attaching to both the Duffys’ real property and Central Copters’ building that should be foreclosed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in the proceedings below. View "Thermal Design, Inc. v. Thorson" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that public policy prohibits an agreement between a builder-vendor and a homebuyer to disclaim and waive the warranty of workmanship and habitability implied in every contract entered into between the buyer-vendor and homebuyer and to replace it with an express warranty.Plaintiff entered into a preprinted purchase agreement with M & RC II, LLC to buy a home that M & RC II's affiliate, Scott Homes Development Company, would build. Plaintiff later sued M & RC II and Scott Homes (together, Defendants) for breach of the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff had waived the implied warranty per the purchase agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the public policy underlying the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability clearly outweighed enforcement of the waiver of that warranty in the purchase agreement. View "Zambrano v. M & RC II LLC" on Justia Law

by
Cope, injured on a Kentucky job site, filed a workers’ compensation claim. The subcontractor who hired him for the project, CMC, is based in Southern Indiana, and had an insurance policy with AFICA. Schultheis Insurance Agency procured the policy for CMC, but failed to inform AFICA that CMC did business in Kentucky. AFICA sought a declaration that its policy does not cover Cope’s claim.The district court granted AFICA summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plain text of the policy is unambiguous: because CMC failed to notify AFICA until after Cope’s accident that it was working in Kentucky, AFICA is not liable for Cope’s workers’ compensation claim. The policy states : “If you have work on the effective date of this policy in any state [other than Indiana], coverage will not be afforded for that state unless we are notified within thirty days.” View "Accident Fund Insurance Co. v. Schultheis Insurance Agency, Inc." on Justia Law