Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Farfield Co
In 2002, Farfield contracted with SEPTA for improvements on Philadelphia-area railroad tracks. The federal government partially funded the project. Work concluded in 2007. As required by federal regulation, Department of Labor (DOL) prevailing wage determinations were incorporated into the contract. Farfield was required to submit to SEPTA for transmission to the Federal Transit Administration a copy of Farfield’s certified payroll, setting out all the information required under the Davis-Bacon Act, 40 U.S.C. 3142(a), with a “Statement of Compliance” averring that the information in the payroll was correct and complete and that each worker was paid not less than the applicable wage rates and benefits for the classification of work performed, as specified in the applicable wage determination. Falsification of a payroll certification could subject Farfield to criminal penalties or civil liability under the False Claims Act (FCA).A union business manager suspected that Farfield had won government contracts with low bids by intending to pay less-skilled workers to perform certain work that would otherwise have been the bailiwick of higher-skilled, higher-paid workers. Ultimately, the union filed a qui tam FCA complaint. The United States declined to intervene. The court entered a $1,055,320.62 judgment against Farfield: $738,724.43 to the government and $316,596.19 to the union, plus $1,229,927.55 in attorney fees and $203,226.45 in costs. The Third Circuit affirmed. In view of the totality of the circumstances, Farfield’s Davis-Bacon violations were not minor or insubstantial. View "International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Farfield Co" on Justia Law
Historic Alexandria Foundation v. City of Alexandria
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court determining that the Historic Alexandria Foundation lacked standing to pursue the claims asserted in this case, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's judgment.Vowell, LLC filed applications to obtain certain permits for the renovation of property located in the Old and Historic District of the City of Alexandria. The Old and Historic Alexandria District Board of Architectural Review (the BAR) approved Vowell's applications, and the City Council affirmed the BAR's decision. The Foundation appealed the City's Council decision. The circuit court dismissed the matter with prejudice, concluding that the petition did not establish that the Foundation was an aggrieved party with standing to pursue the appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Foundation lacked standing because the allegations of the petition failed to establish that the Foundation suffered particularized harm that differed from that suffered by the public in general. View "Historic Alexandria Foundation v. City of Alexandria" on Justia Law
Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission v. Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry
A Compact between Pennsylvania and New Jersey created the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, which is authorized to “acquire, own, use, lease, operate, and dispose of real property and interest in real property, and to make improvements,” and to "exercise all other powers . . . reasonably necessary or incidental to the effectuation of its authorized purposes . . . except the power to levy taxes or assessments.” The Commission undertook to replace the Scudder Falls Bridge, purchased land near the bridge in Pennsylvania, and broke ground on a building to house the Commission’s staff in a single location. Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry inspectors observed the construction; the Commission never applied for a building permit as required under the Department’s regulations. The Commission asserted that it was exempt from Pennsylvania’s regulatory authority. The Department threatened the Commission’s elevator subcontractor with regulatory sanctions for its involvement in the project. The Commission sought declaratory and injunctive relief.After rejecting an Eleventh Amendment argument, the Third Circuit upheld an injunction prohibiting the Department from seeking to inspect or approve the elevators and from further impeding, interfering, or delaying the contractors. Pennsylvania unambiguously ceded some of its sovereign authority through the Compact. The fact that both states expressly reserved their taxing power—but not other powers—indicates that they did not intend to retain the authority to enforce building safety regulations. View "Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission v. Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry" 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
Alaska, Dept. of Transportation & Public Facilities v. Osborne Construction Co.
In August 2013 the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT) entered into a contract with Osborne Construction Company to upgrade the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting building at the Fairbanks International Airport to withstand damage in the event of an earthquake. The DOT appealed a superior court decision reversing the agency's decision in an administrative appeal. The agency denied a contractor’s claim for additional compensation because the claim was filed outside the filing period allowed by the contract. After applying its independent judgment to interpret the contract, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the DOT that the contractor failed to file its claim within the period allowed. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the superior court’s decision and reinstated the agency’s. View "Alaska, Dept. of Transportation & Public Facilities v. Osborne Construction Co." on Justia Law
Mississippi State Board of Contractors v. Hobbs Construction, LLC
At stake in this appeal before the Mississippi Supreme Court was the ability of Hobbs Construction, LLC, to continue doing business in the state as a commercial general contractor. The Mississippi State Board of Contractors revoked the certificate of responsibility (COR) held by Hobbs. The chancery court granted Hobbs’s motion for a preliminary injunction and enjoined the Board’s revocation decision during the pendency of the appeal. Later the chancery court entered an order reversing the Board’s decision and reinstating Hobbs’s COR. The Board appealed, arguing that the chancery court erred because the Board’s revocation decision was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary and capricious, was within the Board’s power to make, and did not violate Hobbs’s statutory or constitutional rights. The Board argued also that the chancery court erred by granting a preliminary injunction. The Supreme Court determined the Board violated Hobbs’s constitutional right to due process of law by not providing sufficient notice of the charges that were considered at the revocation hearing and were a basis for the revocation decision, therefore it affirmed the chancery court's. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found the chancery court did not err by granting a preliminary injunction. View "Mississippi State Board of Contractors v. Hobbs Construction, LLC" on Justia Law
Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Fowlkes Plumbing, L.L.C.
In May 2015, the Chickasaw County School District entered into a contract with Sullivan Enterprises, Inc., for window restoration work on the Houlka Attendance Center. In July 2015, during construction, a fire began that completely consumed the attendance center. Liberty Mutual, the school district’s insurer, paid the school district $4.3 million for the damage to the building. Liberty Mutual then filed a subrogation suit against Sullivan Enterprises, Fowlkes Plumbing, LLC, and Quality Heat & Air, Inc. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi found that the waiver of subrogation did not apply to damages to the “non-Work” property, thus Liberty Mutual could proceed in litigation as to “non-Work” property damages. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed an interlocutory appeal and certified a question to the Mississippi Supreme Court regarding whether the subrogation waiver applied to “non-Work” property. The Supreme Court determined that based on the plain meaning of the contract language, the waiver of subrogation applied to both work and non-work property. View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Fowlkes Plumbing, L.L.C." on Justia Law
Minn-Kota Ag Products, Inc. v. N.D. Public Service Commission, et al.
Minn-Kota Ag. Products, Inc. appealed a district court order dismissing Minn-Kota’s appeal of findings of fact, conclusions of law and order issued by the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) for lack of standing and affirming an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) order denying Minn-Kota’s petition to intervene. In 2017, Minn-Kota began construction of a large, $20 million grain handling facility near the municipalities of Barney and Mooreton, North Dakota. During construction of the facility, Minn-Kota received proposals to provide electric power to the facility from Otter Tail Power Co., an electric public utility, and Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative, a rural electric cooperative. Minn-Kota determined Otter Tail would provide cheaper and more reliable electric service and chose Otter Tail as its preferred provider. Dakota Valley protested Otter Tail’s application and requested a hearing. Otter Tail and Dakota Valley were represented at the hearing, and each offered evidence and testimony. Minn- Kota was not a formal party represented at the hearing and, other than the testimony offered by Schuler, Minn-Kota did not contribute to the hearing. In December 2017, the PSC held a work session to contemplate and discuss Otter Tail’s application. The concerns expressed by the PSC at the work session made it clear the PSC was likely going to deny Otter Tail’s application. As a result, Minn-Kota submitted a petition to intervene, which an ALJ determined Minn-Kota submitted after the deadline to intervene had passed, and denied it. Minn-Kota argued it has standing to appeal the PSC’s decision because it participated in the proceedings before the PSC, and the PSC’s decision should be reversed because it was not supported by the facts or law. In the alternative, Minn-Kota argued the case should have been remanded to the PSC and it should have been allowed to intervene and introduce additional evidence into the record. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined Minn-Kota had standing, but did not provide a compelling argument on how Otter Tail did not adequately represent its interests at the administrative hearing or throughout the entirety of the proceedings. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and thus affirmed the PSC's order. View "Minn-Kota Ag Products, Inc. v. N.D. Public Service Commission, et al." on Justia Law
Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun.
In Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun., 365 Or 371, 446 P3d 53 (2019), the Oregon Supreme Court held that the Energy Facility Siting Council had failed to substantially comply with a procedural requirement when it amended rules governing how it processes requests for amendment (RFAs) to site certificates that the council issued. The Court therefore held that the rules were invalid. In response to that decision, the council adopted temporary rules governing the RFA process. Petitioners contended that those temporary rules were also invalid. According to petitioners, the rules were invalid because the council failed to prepare a statement of its findings justifying the use of temporary rules. Petitioners also maintained that the council’s rules exceed the 180-day limit on temporary rules or otherwise improperly operated retroactively. After review, the Supreme Court disagreed with petitioners’ arguments and concluded the temporary rules were valid. View "Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun." on Justia Law
Andrews v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District entered into a contract with the Joint Venture, for the “Primary Settling Tanks and Grit Removal Facilities” project to be carried out at the Calumet water reclamation plant. Under the contract, the Joint Venture was responsible to determine the procedures and methods for the work and furnish all temporary structures and safety equipment and was responsible for the safety of all personnel on the worksite. The contract required the Joint Venture to submit plans for the work to the District’s engineer but state that the engineer’s acceptance of the plans did not relieve the Joint Venture of its responsibility for safety, maintenance, and repairs on the project. Andrews, a Joint Venture employee, suffered severe, career-ending head injuries while working on the project.In a suit alleging construction negligence, willful and wanton construction negligence, and loss of consortium, the District alleged immunity under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/2-109, 2-201). The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that the District was not entitled to summary judgment of immunity. The Act immunizes a local governmental entity from liability for injuries arising out of its employee’s acts or omissions while determining policy and exercising discretion. The District did not provide evidence that its employees made discretionary or policy decisions with respect to the two-ladder configuration that resulted in Andrews’s injuries. Seven witnesses testified that no District employees weighed in on worksite safety decisions. View "Andrews v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago" on Justia Law