Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
Lee v. Cardiff
Lee’s contract with Cardiff segregated the $231,500 price between the construction of a pool and spa ($88,400) and the construction of a pavilion, an outdoor kitchen, an outdoor fireplace, pavers, and other landscaping items ($143,000). Disputes arose and Cardiff left the project. Lee sued. The court largely rejected Lee’s claims pertaining to the pool construction, agreed with some of her claims pertaining to the pavilion and other landscaping items, and agreed that Cardiff had violated state contracting laws by hiring workers who were not licensed contractors and treating them as independent contractors for purposes of worker’s compensation. Based on that claim, the court ordered disgorgement plus interest ($238,470). It awarded contract and tort damages of $236,634, allocating $35,000 to deficiencies with the pool.The contract did not have an attorney fees clause. The court declined to award discretionary fees under Code of Civil Procedure 1029.8, ruling Cardiff had not knowingly violated the state contractor licensing law and disgorgement was a sufficient penalty for that violation. The court ruled that because Lee was “unsuccessful on the vast majority of [her] swimming pool claims,” there was no prevailing party under Business and Professions Code 7168, which pertains to swimming pool construction contracts.The court of appeal affirmed with respect to section 7168. None of the non-swimming pool projects can reasonably be categorized as part of “a contract for swimming pool construction.” View "Lee v. Cardiff" on Justia Law
McCarthy Corporation v. Stark Investment Group
Craig Stark entered into a contract with McCarthy Corporation to construct a storage facility for recreational vehicles and boats. The relationship turned sour after McCarthy sent Stark an invoice for work Stark believed he had already paid for in full. After the parties were unable to resolve their dispute, Stark terminated McCarthy’s contract. McCarthy then filed a lien against Stark’s property and brought suit for breach of contract and to foreclose its lien. Stark, Stark Investment Group, and U.S. Bank, Stark’s construction lender on the project, counterclaimed for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraudulent misrepresentation, slander of title by the recording of an unjust lien, and breach of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act (“ICPA”). After a bench trial, the district court largely agreed with Stark's counterclaims and dismissed McCarthy's complaint. McCarthy appealed the district court’s findings, damages award, and attorney fees award. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's holdings that McCarthy breached the contract between the parties and McCarthy violated the ICPA. View "McCarthy Corporation v. Stark Investment Group" on Justia Law
Earl v. NVR Inc
In 2012, Earl contracted for the purchase of a house in Allegheny County from NVR, the seller and builder of the house. NVR's agents made representations about the house’s construction, condition, and amenities, including that the house would be constructed in a good and workmanlike manner; that NVR would remedy any deficiencies; and that the house would be constructed in accordance with relevant building codes and standards. Construction was completed around March 2013. Upon moving in, Earl encountered several material defects. NVR’s attempts to repair the defects were inadequate and exacerbated some of the issues, despite NVR’s assurances that the problems were remedied. Several promised conditions and amenities that Earl had relied upon had not been provided.Earl, claiming that NVR’s failure to provide the promised conditions and amenities of the agreement were knowing and willful, sued for violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) and breach of implied warranty of habitability. The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of her UTPCPL claim. Rulings by Pennsylvania appellate courts subsequent to an earlier Third Circuit holding have cast substantial doubt upon the continuing validity of prior interpretations of the UTPCPL. The economic loss and “gist of the action” doctrines no longer bar UTPCPL claims. View "Earl v. NVR Inc" on Justia Law
Sieg v. Fogt
The California Contractors’ State License Board (CSLB) sought revocation or suspension of Sieg’s contractor’s license and restitution. The Accusation alleged that Sieg failed to follow spacing and fastening requirements when installing a hardwood floor, departing from trade standards in violation of Business & Professions Code 7109(a), and failed to complete a construction project for the agreed contract price in violation of section 7113. Sieg filed a Defense and filed a civil lawsuit against the homeowners, which was subsequently dismissed. After a hearing, the ALJ issued a proposed decision recommending a 65-day suspension and a three-year probation term including payment of $27,884.21 restitution. The Registrar adopted the ALJ’s proposed decision but eliminated the 65-day suspension term and required Sieg to obtain a disciplinary bond of $30,000.00 (section 7071.8), for three years.The trial court denied Sief relief. The court of appeal affirmed the decision as supported by substantial evidence, rejecting a due process claim. Sieg had the opportunity to cross-examine each of the CSLB’s witnesses, to present witnesses of his own, and to testify on his own behalf. The court noted that private agreements to depart from statutorily imposed workmanship standards provide no defense to an alleged violation of section 7109(a), in disciplinary enforcement proceedings. View "Sieg v. Fogt" on Justia Law
Trevor v. Icon Legacy Custom Modular Homes, LLC, et al.
Appellants Icon Legacy Custom Modular Homes, LLC and Icon Legacy Transport, LLC challenged a series of trial court orders in favor of appellees Dagney Trevor, Merusi Builders, Inc., Osborne Construction, LLC, and Paul Osborne. This appeal arose from the sale and construction of a new modular home that suffered from significant deficiencies. Trevor purchased the modular home; Icon Legacy Custom Modular Homes, LLC (Icon Legacy) and Icon Legacy Transport, LLC (Icon Transport) manufactured and transported the home; Osborne Construction, LLC (Osborne Construction) and Paul Osborne (Osborne) were collectively the contractor involved in the assembly the home; Merusi Builders, Inc. (Merusi) was a subcontractor involved in the assembly of the home. Though not parties to this appeal, Vermont Modular Homes, Inc., David Curtis, and Blane Bovier were Icon’s Vermont-based “approved builders” and three of the defendants in the suit below. In 2015, Trevor purchased an Icon Legacy Custom Modular Home as a replacement to one she lost to fire. The home sustained significant water damage during a rainstorm when water entered the home before the roof installation was complete. Other structural defects emerged after Trevor moved into the home. Although Icon and Vermont Modular Homes repaired some of the damage, major defects relating to both the water damage and alleged improper construction remained in the home. Ultimately judgement was entered against Icon. Icon appealed, arguing multiple errors leading to the outcome against it. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed as to the trial court's thirty-percent upward adjustment of the lodestar damages calculation, and remanded for the trial court to strike that amount from Trevor's attorney fee award. The Court affirmed the trial court in all other respects. View "Trevor v. Icon Legacy Custom Modular Homes, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Castleberry v. Angie’s List, Inc.
Jessie and Rickey Castleberry appealed a circuit court order dismissing their claims against Angie's List, Inc., based on a forum-selection clause in a contract between Angie's List and the Castleberrys. The Castleberrys, who are father and son, became members of Angie's List in 2014. They claim that they used their membership with Angie's List to locate a contractor, Dream Baths of Alabama, LLC ("Dream Baths"), which the Castleberrys hired to renovate a bathroom in Jessie Castleberry's house to make it handicapped accessible. According to the Castleberrys, Dream Baths was not properly licensed and poorly performed the work it contracted to do. The Alabama Supreme Court found the Castleberrys simply pointed out in the argument section of their brief that, in addition to suing Angie's List, they also sued Dream Baths. They asserted that "[t]his action pertains not only to the agreement between the Castleberrys and Angie's List, but to improper work performed upon a home located in Montgomery County, Alabama by defendant Dream Baths." The Castleberrys provided no significant discussion of the specific claims against Dream Baths and Angie's List. To the Supreme Court, it appealred that the Castleberrys' claims against Angie's List and Dream Baths were based on different categories of wrongdoing that were only tangentially related. The trial court, therefore, did not err in enforcing the forum-selection clause simply because the Castleberrys also sued Dream Baths. View "Castleberry v. Angie's List, Inc." on Justia Law
Sienna Court Condominium Assoc. v. Champion Aluminum Corp.
The owners of units in Sienna Court Condominiums, a newly-constructed 111-residential-unit Evanston property sued, alleging that the developer, TR, sold the units with latent defects that resulted in water infiltration and other conditions that rendered the individual units and common areas unfit for habitation. The complaint alleged breach of an express warranty and breach of an implied warranty of habitability against TR, the general contractor, the architect and engineering design firms, material suppliers and several subcontractors. TR and the general contractor were bankrupt. The unit owners obtained relief from the automatic bankruptcy stay. TR and the general contractor had two separate insurance policies, each providing coverage of $1 million per occurrence with $2 million aggregate limits. Plaintiffs had recovered approximately $308,000 from TR through a warranty escrow fund required by Evanston ordinance. Subcontractors and the material suppliers asserted that they were not subject to an implied warranty of habitabililty. The circuit court denied their motion to dismiss. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, holding that a purchaser of a newly constructed home may not assert a claim for breach of an implied warranty of habitability against a subcontractor who took part in the construction of the home, where the subcontractor had no contractual relationship with the purchaser. View "Sienna Court Condominium Assoc. v. Champion Aluminum Corp." on Justia Law
Haley v. Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co.,
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork, alleging that Kolbe sold them defective windows that leak and rot. Plaintiffs brought common-law and statutory claims for breach of express and implied warranties, negligent design and manufacturing of the windows, negligent or fraudulent misrepresentations as to the condition of the windows, and unjust enrichment. The district court granted partial summary judgment in Kolbe’s favor on a number of claims, excluded plaintiffs’ experts, denied class certification, and found that plaintiffs’ individual claims could not survive without expert support. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs forfeited their arguments with respect to their experts’ qualifications under “Daubert.” Individual plaintiffs failed to establish that Kolbe’s alleged misrepresentation somehow caused them loss, given that their builders only used Kolbe windows. Though internal emails, service-request forms, and photos of rotting or leaking windows may suggest problems with Kolbe windows, that evidence did not link the problems to an underlying design defect, as opposed to other, external factors such as construction flaws or climate issues. View "Haley v. Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co.," on Justia Law
Henderson Square Condo. Ass’n v. LAB Townhomes, LLC
In 2011, Henderson Square Condominium Association sued, alleging: breach of the implied warranty of habitability, fraud, negligence, breach of the Chicago Municipal Code’s prohibition against misrepresenting material facts in marketing and selling real estate, and breach of a fiduciary duty. The defendants were developers that entered into a contract with the city for a mixed use project, the Lincoln-Belmont-Ashland Redevelopment Project. Sales in the project had begun in 1996. The trial court dismissed, finding that plaintiffs failed to adequately plead the Chicago Municipal Code violation and breach of fiduciary duty and that counts were time-barred under the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/13-214). The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. A condominium association generally has standing to pursue claims that affect the unit owners or the common elements. A question of fact remains as to whether defendants’ failure to speak about construction deficiencies or to adequately fund reserves, coupled with earlier alleged misrepresentations, amounted to fraudulent concealment for purposes of exceptions to the limitation and repose periods. It is possible that minor repairs, along with the limited nature of water infiltration, reasonably delayed plaintiffs’ hiring of professional contractors to open the wall and discover latent defects. The date when plaintiffs reasonably should have known that an injury occurred and that it was wrongfully caused was a question of fact. View "Henderson Square Condo. Ass'n v. LAB Townhomes, LLC" on Justia Law
WLW Realty Partners, LLC v. Continental Partners VIII, LLC
Continental Partners bought a lot with two building pads from Yellowstone Development that was part of the Yellowstone Club subdivision. The purchase and sale agreement included an assurance that the houses Continental intended to build on the lot would have ski-in and gravity ski-out access built by the Yellowstone Club. During construction, Continental sold the homes to separate buyers, including the managing member of WLW Realty Partners, LLC. Before construction on the ski-out access on the two homes had begun, the Yellowstone Club filed for bankruptcy protection. The subsequent owners of Yellowstone Club informed the new owners that ski-out access to the homes would not be constructed. WLW Realty filed this action against Continental, alleging, inter alia, negligent misrepresentation and violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). After a bench trial, the district court entered judgment for WLW Realty. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred by (1) imposing liability on Continental for negligent misrepresentation, as WLW Realty failed to satisfy the first and second elements of the tort; and (2) finding that Continental had violated the MCPA, as Continental did not engage in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. View "WLW Realty Partners, LLC v. Continental Partners VIII, LLC" on Justia Law