Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Minnesota Supreme Court
Jackson v. State
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the postconviction court summarily denying Appellant's claims for ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel without holding an evidentiary hearing, holding that Appellant's claims were barred by the relevant statute of limitations.Appellant was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder under an aiding-and-abetting theory of liability. The district court imposed a sentence of life without the possibility of release. Appellant later filed his postconviction petition requesting an evidentiary hearing on his claims for ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel and mentioning a motion for testing conducted under Minn. Stat. 590.01, subd. 1a. The postconviction court concluded that Appellant's claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations, Minn. Stat. 590.01, subd. 4. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant's claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations; and (2) Appellant's reference to testing did not satisfy the requirements of subdivision 1a. View "Jackson v. State" on Justia Law
Storms, Inc. v. Mathy Constr. Co.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) contracted with Mathy Construction Company for a public highway project. Mathy subcontracted with Storms, Inc. for excavation and fill work. After Storms completed its work, MnDOT issued a deductive change order reducing Mathy’s contract amount by $327,064 because of errors in the estimated quantities of excavation and fill required for Storms’ work. Mathy reduced Storms’ subcontract by the same amount. Storms subsequently sued Mathy for the reduction in the subcontract price. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Storms, concluding that Mathy had breached the subcontract. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Mathy did not breach its subcontract with Storms by issuing a corresponding deductive change order to Storms. View "Storms, Inc. v. Mathy Constr. Co." on Justia Law
Ryan Contracting Co. v. O’Neill & Murphy, LLP
Meagher & Geer, PLLP (MG) represented Ryan Contracting Company (Ryan) in an action to foreclose on several mechanic’s liens. Later, represented by O’Neill & Murphy, LLP (O’Neill), Ryan brought suit against MG for legal malpractice arising out of MG’s allegedly defective filing and foreclosure of Ryan’s mechanic’s liens. The district court granted MG’s motion to dismiss on the ground that O’Neill failed to timely file expert witness affidavits. Ryan then brought suit against O’Neill for legal malpractice arising out of O’Neill’s representation of Ryan in the MG lawsuit. The district court granted summary judgment for O’Neill, concluding that the mechanic’s liens were not perfected, not because of MG’s conduct, but because of Ryan’s error in not filing the pre-lien notice to the property owner required by Minn. Stat. 514.011. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that Ryan was exempt from the pre-lien notice requirement under section 514.011, and there were genuine issues of fact regarding the other issues. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding that the court of appeals did not err in concluding that Ryan was not required to give pre-lien notice to enforce its mechanic’s liens. View "Ryan Contracting Co. v. O’Neill & Murphy, LLP" on Justia Law
J.D. Donovan, Inc. v. Minn. Dep’t of Transp.
At issue in this case was whether truck drivers hauling asphalt cement from a commercial oil refinery to a contractor’s facility are performing “work under a contract” under Minn. Stat. 177.44(1) and, therefore, must be paid prevailing wages. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MDOT) determined that the construction companies that were awarded contracts to work on state highway projects violated the project contracts by failing to ensure that drivers that assisted in the acquisition and transport of asphalt cement for the projects were paid prevailing wages. Appellants argued that the hauling activities of these drivers did not constitute “work under a contract” under Minn. Stat. 177.44(1) and, alternatively, that the hauling activities were exempt from the prevailing wage requirements under the “commercial establishment exception” in the Prevailing Wage Act. The district courts granted summary judgment to MDOT. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that hauling activities must be to, from, or on the site of a public works project to qualify as “work under a contract,” and therefore, the hauling activities in this case did not constitute “work under the contract” subject to the prevailing wage requirements. View "J.D. Donovan, Inc. v. Minn. Dep’t of Transp." on Justia Law
328 Barry Avenue v. Nolan Props. Group, LLC
Appellant used Respondent as the general contractor for the construction of a building. When the building began having problems with water intrusion, Appellant brought suit claiming that Respondent acted negligently in its duties as general contractor. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Respondent, concluding that the action was untimely under the two-year statute of limitations for improvements to real property in Minn. Stat. 541.051(1)(a). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the court of appeals correctly found that the plain language of section 541.051(1) does not require that construction be substantially complete to start the running of the statute of limitations; but (2) there remained a genuine issue of material fact as to when Appellant discovered its injury, and therefore, the district court erred in granting summary judgment. Remanded. View "328 Barry Avenue v. Nolan Props. Group, LLC" on Justia Law
Hawes v. State
After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of aiding and abetting the first-degree murder of his brother as well as obstructing an investigation. Appellant was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility for parole. Appellant subsequently filed a petition for postconviction relief, which the postconviction court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim failed because Appellant failed to show that, but for his attorneys' alleged errors, there was a reasonable probability the outcome of his trial would have been different; and (2) any error in the admission of statements made by Appellant's sister and girlfriend was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Hawes v. State" on Justia Law
Eng’g & Constr. Innovations, Inc. v. L.H. Bolduc Co., Inc.
L.H. Bolduc Company, Inc. (Bolduc) was the subcontractor of Engineering and Construction Innovations, Inc. (ECI). Bolduc damaged a sewer pipe while working on a construction project. ECI repaired the damage and sought reimbursement from Bolduc's insurer, The Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut (Travelers) under an endorsement to Bolduc's policy naming ECI as an additional insured for liability caused by acts or omissions of Bolduc. Travelers denied coverage. ECI subsequently sued Bolduc and Travelers (collectively, Appellants) for negligence and breach of contract. A jury found that Bolduc was not negligent, and the district court granted summary judgment for Appellants on ECI's breach of contract claims, concluding that Appellants had no obligation to reimburse ECI for damages not caused by Bolduc. The court of appeals reversed, determining (1) ECI was entitled to coverage as an additional insured without regard to Bolduc's fault; and (2) Bolduc was required to indemnity ECI. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) ECI did not qualify as an additional insured with respect to the pipe damage; and (2) Bolduc could not be required to indemnify ECI without violating Minn. Stat. 337.02, which prohibits indemnification for the fault of others in construction contracts. View "Eng'g & Constr. Innovations, Inc. v. L.H. Bolduc Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Remodeling Dimensions, Inc., v. Integrity Mut. Ins. Co.
A home remodeling contractor (Contractor) received a demand for arbitration regarding allegedly defective work it performed on a remodeling project. Contractor's insurer (Insurer) accepted defense of the claim under a reservation of rights. The arbitrator issued an arbitration award in favor of the homeowners. When Insurer refused to pay the award, Contractor paid the homeowners and sued Insurer for indemnification under the policy. The district court granted Contractor's motion for summary judgment, concluding that a vague arbitration award made it impossible to determine whether the insurance policy covered any of the homeonwers' successful claims and was directly attributable to the inaction of the attorney appointed by Insurer to represent Contractor. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a portion of the homeowners' claim may be covered under the policy; (2) Insurer was not vicariously liable of the absence of an explanation of the arbitration award; and (3) Insurer was directly liable to Contractor for the failure of the attorney to request an explanation of the arbitration award to determine what portion of the award, if any, was for the covered claim. Remanded. View "Remodeling Dimensions, Inc., v. Integrity Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Eclipse Architectural Group, Inc. v. Lam
This case involved two mechanic's liens foreclosed against a hotel property. An agent of the lien claimants personally served mechanic's liens statements on the property owner. Appellant, a community bank, challenged the validity of this service. Appellant argued that a lien claimant may not personally serve a mechanic's lien statement, and therefore, service was improper. As a result, Appellant contended that the mechanic's liens were invalid and could not be foreclosed. The district court determined that service was proper and entered judgment in favor of the lien claimants. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a lien claimant may personally serve a mechanic's lien statement, and therefore, service of the mechanic's lien statements in this case was proper. View "Eclipse Architectural Group, Inc. v. Lam" on Justia Law
In re Individual 35W Bridge Litig.
This case arose out of the 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35W Bridge. Individual plaintiffs commenced lawsuits against two contractors that performed work on the bridge pursuant to contracts entered into with the State. The contractors brought third-party complaints against Jacobs Engineering Group on the basis that Jacobs' predecessor negligently designed the bridge. One contractor also filed a third-party complaint against the State. The State cross-claimed against Jacobs for contribution, indemnity, and statutory reimbursement. Jacobs moved to dismiss the State's cross-claim as time-barred, arguing that the reimbursement provision of the compensation statutes compensating survivor-claimants of the collapse did not retroactively revive causes of action against Jacobs that had been previously extinguished by a prior version of the statute of repose. The district court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the provision retroactively revived the State's action for statutory reimbursement against Jacobs; (2) the provision did not violate Jacob's constitutional right to due process; and (3) revival of the action for statutory reimbursement did not unconstitutionally impair Jacobs' contractual obligations. View "In re Individual 35W Bridge Litig." on Justia Law