Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Construction Law
BrunoBuilt, Inc. v. Erstad Architects, PA
The issue this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on a residence in the Boise foothills that was damaged by a landslide, which ultimately prevented the builder from obtaining a certificate of occupancy. BrunoBuilt, Inc., the general contractor of the project, sued multiple parties, including Erstad Architects, PA, the architectural firm for the project, Andrew Erstad, the principal architect, and Cheryl Pearse, the project manager from Erstad Architects, PA (collectively, Defendants), for professional negligence in connection with work completed for construction of the residence. Defendants successfully moved for summary judgment on the basis that the two-year statute of limitations in Idaho Code section 5-219(4) barred BrunoBuilt’s claim. Two years after the district court issued its memorandum decision and order granting summary judgment, BrunoBuilt moved the district court for reconsideration, citing new evidence and arguments. The district court denied the motion for reconsideration, concluding it was “untimely, lacking in diligence, and improper.” BrunoBuilt then appealed, challenging the decision of the district court on summary judgment and additionally asserting that the court erred in an earlier order deconsolidating the cases with other defendants. Prior to oral argument, Defendants moved the Supreme Court to sanction counsel for BrunoBuilt pursuant to Idaho Appellate Rule 11.2 for non-disclosure of material procedural facts in its opening brief. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision granting summary judgment against BrunoBuilt, and agreed that the conduct of BrunoBuilt’s attorney on appeal ran afoul of Rule 11.2, and imposed sanctions. View "BrunoBuilt, Inc. v. Erstad Architects, PA" on Justia Law
Hamilton and High, LLC v. City of Palo Alto
In 1985, Palo Alto established the Commercial Downtown zoning district with parking regulations that allowed for “payment of an in-lieu monetary contribution to the city to defray the cost” of new, off-site parking spaces for “sites which would otherwise be precluded from development due to parking constraints.” In 1995, the city recognized the need to further mitigate insufficient downtown parking facilities and established an in-lieu parking fee for new, nonresidential development in the “University Avenue parking assessment district.” City staff has periodically submitted “five-year findings” on the parking fund, consistent with the Mitigation Fee Act (Gov. Code, 66000).The plaintiffs, developers who paid the fees as a condition of approval of a building project, sued, seeking a refund of their unexpended fees. The city argued that the fee was not subject to the Mitigation Fee Act; that the five-year finding and refund provisions did not apply; that, even if the Act did apply, the claim was barred by the statute of limitations; and that it complied with the Act’s requirements by belatedly adopting five-year findings.The court of appeal reversed the trial court, ordering a refund of the plaintiffs’ unexpended fees. The fee is subject to the Act, and the action is not time-barred. The failure to timely make five-year findings triggered the refund provision. Section 65010(b), does not require that plaintiffs make an independent showing of prejudice for a violation of section 66001(d) View "Hamilton and High, LLC v. City of Palo Alto" on Justia Law
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
Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. v. Osborn III Partners, LLC
In this case concerning the meaning and application of a standard title insurance policy exclusion (Exclusion 3(a)) designed to cover any defects, encumbrances, or adverse claims created or suffered by the insured in the context of construction lending, holding that this Court's opinion in First American Title Insurance Co. v. Action Acquisitions, LLC, 218 Ariz. 394 (2008), sets forth the proper interpretation and application Exclusion 3(a).In its underlying rulings, the trial court invoked Action Acquisitions to interpret Exclusion 3(a) in the construction lending context. The court of appeals reversed, instead applying the bright-line rule articulated in BB Syndication Services, Inc. v. First American Title Insurance Co., 780 F.3d 825 (7th Cir. 2015). The Supreme Court reversed in part and vacated the judgment in part, holding (1) this Court adopts Action Acquisitions' causation test for Exclusion 3(a)'s applicability; and (2) the court of appeals erred in applying the BB Syndication approach. View "Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. v. Osborn III Partners, LLC" on Justia Law
Marin v. Department of Transportation
Decedent was employed by Jones as a construction worker. Jones was under contract with DOT to perform construction work on I-580 in Oakland. Much of this work was performed at night because it required lane closures. A car operated by a drunk driver entered the closed lanes of the project site and struck Decedent, who died on the scene. A wrongful death lawsuit against DOT asserted vicarious liability for the negligence of its employees; failure to discharge a mandatory duty; and dangerous condition on public property. The court dismissed the mandatory duty claim. DOT offered evidence that it did not instruct or control Jones as to how to comply with its safety obligations but that Jones complied with its safety plan on the night in question and that the contract between DOT and Jones delegated to Jones the responsibility for selecting the means for performing, including ensuring worker safety.The trial court concluded DOT was not liable for Decedent’s death as a matter of law because DOT delegated to Jones its duty to provide a safe work environment and the conduct of the drunk driver was not reasonably foreseeable. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that admissible evidence was wrongfully excluded. Plaintiffs failed to present evidence that DOT retained control over the construction site and actually exercised that control in such a way as to affirmatively contribute to Decedent's injuries, as required under California law. View "Marin v. Department of Transportation" 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
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
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