Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Degala v. John Stewart Co.
JSC, the property owner, hired Cahill as the general contractor on the residential rehabilitation project. Cahill hired Janus as a subcontractor for demolition work. Degala was a Janus employee. The project site was in a known high-crime area. The contract between JSC and Cahill required Cahill to “take reasonable precautions for the safety of, and ... provide reasonable protection to prevent damage, injury or loss to ... employees on the work and other persons.” The subcontract between Cahill and Janus provided that Janus’s scope of work excluded “[s]ite security,” and that Janus was “responsible for securing [its] own tools and equipment.” Janus agreed to comply with Environmental, Health & Safety guidelines.Degala was attacked and seriously injured by unknown assailants while working at the site, He sued JSC and Cahill, alleging that they breached their duty to take reasonable security precautions. The trial court entered summary judgment, finding Degala’s claims barred by the “Privette doctrine,” under which the hirer of an independent contractor is not liable for on-the-job injuries sustained by the contractor’s employees; the court rejected Degala’s argument that defendants could be liable under the “Hooker exception,” which applies when the hirer retains control over any part of the contractor’s work and exercises that control in a way that affirmatively contributes to the plaintiff’s injury. The court of appeal reversed, finding triable issues of fact as to whether the defendants are liable under a retained control theory. View "Degala v. John Stewart Co." on Justia Law
Ries v. JM Custom Homes, LLC
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of a general contractor based on the general contractor's statutory immunity under S.D. Codified Laws 62-3-10, holding that the circuit court properly concluded that workers' compensation was the sole remedy available to Appellant.Plaintiff received a work-related injury at a construction site where his employer was a subcontractor. Plaintiff received workers' compensation benefits from his employer and then filed a negligence claim against the construction project's general contractor. The general contract subsequently amended its answer to assert statutory immunity under section 62-3-10. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the general contractor, concluding that the general contractor remained potentially liable for workers' compensation under S.D. Codified Laws 62-3-10 and, because of the exclusivity provisions of section 62-3-2, workers' compensation was Plaintiff's sole remedy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment for JM. View "Ries v. JM Custom Homes, LLC" on Justia Law
Winakor v. Savalle
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court concluding that the Home Improvement Act (Act), Conn. Gen. Stat. 20-418 et seq., did not apply to work performed by Defendant on Plaintiff's property, holding that Plaintiff's claim under the Act was unavailing.The trial court found in favor of Plaintiff on his claims alleging breach of contract, violations of the Act, and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq. The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiff. The appellate court affirmed with respect to the breach of contract count but reversed with respect to the remaining claims, ruling that the work performed by Defendant fell within the new home exception of the Act, and therefore, Plaintiff failed to state a claim under both the Act and CUTPA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the work performed by Defendant fell within the new home exception. View "Winakor v. Savalle" on Justia Law
Munoz v. Bulley & Andrews, LLC
Munoz sued general contractor, Bulley & Andrews, for injuries he sustained while an employee of its subcontractor, Bulley Concrete. Bulley & Andrews had paid workers’ compensation insurance premiums and benefits for the subcontractor and its employees. Each company has its own distinct federal tax identification number and files separate federal and state income tax returns. The companies have different presidents and employ different workers.The circuit court dismissed, finding that the genderal contractor was immune from the lawsuit under the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/5(a). The appellate court affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The exclusive remedy provisions do not extend to a general contractor who is not the employee’s immediate employer. Immunity does not hinge on the payment of benefits. Bulley & Andrews had no legal obligation to provide workers’ compensation insurance for Bulley Concrete employees. The fact that Bulley Concrete was a subsidiary of Bulley & Andrews is of no import. If a parent company and its subsidiary are operated as separate entities, only the entity that was the immediate employer of the injured worker is entitled to immunity. The Act bars an employee from bringing a civil suit directly against his employer but does not limit the employee’s recovery from a third-party general contractor. View "Munoz v. Bulley & Andrews, LLC" on Justia Law
Glacier Nw., Inc. v. Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters Local Union No. 174
Glacier Northwest Inc. claimed the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 174 (Local 174) was liable for concrete product loss during a strike and for an alleged misrepresentation by a union representative that Glacier claims interfered with its ability to service a concrete mat pour. The trial court ruled the strike-related claims were preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and granted summary judgment for Local 174 on the misrepresentation claims. Glacier appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed on the preemption issue but affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the misrepresentation claims. The Washington Supreme Court granted review and accepted amicus curiae briefing from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, to address whether an employer’s state tort claims against its truck drivers’ union were preempted by the NLRA, and whether any claims that were not preempted were properly dismissed by the trial court. The Supreme Court concluded the NLRA preempted Glacier’s tort claims related to the loss of its concrete product because that loss was incidental to a strike arguably protected by federal law. The Court also affirmed the dismissal of Glacier’s misrepresentation claims because the union representative’s promise of future action was not a statement of existing fact on which those claims could be properly based, and because the statement was not a proximate cause of Glacier’s losses. View "Glacier Nw., Inc. v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters Local Union No. 174" on Justia 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
StarNet Insurance Co. v. Ruprecht
Deerfield. the general contractor, subcontracted with P.S. Demolition, which agreed to indemnify and hold Deerfield harmless from all claims caused in whole or in part by P.S. P.S. employees were working at the site when an unsecured capstone fell, killing one and injuring another. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act limited P.S.’s liability to $5,993.91 and $25,229.15. The state court held that P.S. had waived the Kotecki cap that would ordinarily apply those limits to a third party (Deerfield) suing for contribution for its pro-rata share of common liability for a workplace injury. A bankruptcy court determined that P.S. had no assets; the state court determined that P.S.’s liability was limited to its available insurance coverage. Deerfield settled with the plaintiffs for substantially more than $75,000 plus an assignment of Deerfield’s contribution claim against P.S.StarNet, P.S.’s employer liability insurer, entered into a settlement with the plaintiffs, reserving its defenses to insurance coverage. The plaintiffs dismissed their negligence claims against P.S. The workers’ compensation and employers' liability policy issued to P.S. provides that StarNet will pay damages for which P.S. is liable to indemnify third parties, excluding “liability assumed under a contract, including any agreement to waive your right to limit your liability for contribution to the amount of benefits payable under the Workers Compensation Act ... This exclusion does not apply to a warranty that your work will be done in a workmanlike manner.The Seventh Circuit affirmed a declaratory judgment that StarNet owes P.S. no coverage for the employees’ injuries beyond the amounts specified by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and the Kotecki cap. The court rejected arguments that P.S.’s liability in the personal injury action arose in part from P.S.’s failure to conduct the demolition in a workmanlike manner so that the exception applies. View "StarNet Insurance Co. v. Ruprecht" on Justia Law
Alston v. Town of Brookline, Mass.
The First Circuit resolved a portion of Appellant's appeal in this opinion addressing the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Town of Brookline, Massachusetts, the Brookeline Board of Selectmen, the Town's counsel and Human Resources director, and select members of the board, holding that the summary judgment is affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings.Plaintiff, black man, brought this suit alleging that during his employment as a firefighter, he had been discriminated against and retaliated against for reporting discriminatory conduct. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the summary judgment granted in favor of Defendants, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment as to Plaintiff's retaliation claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the Town, the Board, and certain members of the Board, in their personal and official capacities. The Court then remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Alston v. Town of Brookline, Mass." on Justia Law
JLB Builders, LLC v. Hernandez
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that a fact issue existed as to whether a general contractor on a construction project owed a duty of care to its independent contractor's employee who was injured on the job, holding that no genuine issue of material fact existed regarding the existence of a duty.The trial court entered judgment in favor of the general contractor, concluding that there was no evidence to support the negligence elements of duty, breach, and causation. The court of appeals reversed as to the negligence claim, concluding that a fact issue existed regarding whether the contractor exercised actual control and thus owed the employee a duty, whether the contractor breached that duty, and whether the contractor's breach proximately caused the employee's injuries. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the contractor owed the employee no duty as a matter of law. View "JLB Builders, LLC v. Hernandez" on Justia Law
Dat Luong DBA LVDH Construction v. Western Surety Co.
The employee of a subcontractor on a state public works project sued the prime contractor’s surety bond for unpaid labor under Alaska’s Little Miller Act. The trial court ruled the employee failed to give notice to the contractor within the statutorily required 90 days of his last date of labor on the project. The trial court entered a directed verdict against the employee. The employee appealed to the superior court, which denied the appeal, and then petitioned the Alaska Supreme Court for hearing. This case presented two issues of first impression: (1) how to define “labor;” and (2) whether “notice” was effective on the date of mailing or the date of receipt. Under the Little Miller Act, the Supreme Court defined “labor” as work that was “necessary to and forwards” the project secured by the payment bond, and held the effective date of “notice” to be the date notice is sent via registered mail. The superior court judgment denying the employee's appeal was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Dat Luong DBA LVDH Construction v. Western Surety Co." on Justia Law