Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court dismissing the third-party complaint filed by HRC Two Rivers LLC and HRC Cottages Inc. (collectively, the General Partners) against Aultco Construction Inc. as barred under the principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel, holding that a prior suit by the partnership entity precluded the General Partners from pursuing their claims against Aultco. The HRC entities were general partners of Two Rivers Apartments LLLP, which contracted with Aultco Construction Inc. to build an apartment building. In 2015, Two Rivers filed suit against Aultco for negligent construction resulting in mold in that apartments' attic. The case was litigated, settled, and dismissed with prejudice. The apartment tenants then filed suit against Two Rivers Apartments and the General Partners alleging that they were not given the required disclosure of mold testing and its results. The General Partners filed a third-party complaint against Aultco for contribution and indemnity. The district court granted Aultco's motion to dismiss on the grounds of either res judicata or collateral estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the third-party complaint on the grounds of res judicata and collateral estoppel. View "HRC Two Rivers, LLC v. Aultco Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court awarding attorney's fees to TCH Builders and Remodeling, holding that the district court abused its discretion by assessing all of TCH's attorney fees against the construction lien bond posted by Homes For Our Troops (HFOT). TCH filed a construction lien against HFOT's property and initiated this action claiming, among other things, breach of contract and foreclosure of the construction lien bond. The district court dismissed all claims against HFOT except for TCH's lien claim against HFOT's bond. A jury found in favor of TCH. The district court entered an order ruling that all attorney fees incurred by TCH throughout the course of the proceeding were payable from the bond posted by HFOT. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for redetermination of the amount of fees to be assessed against HFOT's bond, holding that the assessment of the entirety of TCH's attorney fees against HFOT's bond was inequitable, arbitrary, and not reasonable. View "TCH Builders v. Elements of Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the district court that a confessed judgment was unreasonable and the product of collusion, and, on the basis of these findings, reversed and remanded the district court’s amended judgment with instructions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it opted to reduce the settlement amount rather than dismiss the action. Plaintiff brought this action against a contractor after it discovered construction defects and associated problems with a massive luxury home. The district court entered a $12 million stipulated judgment against the contractor. The Supreme Court reversed with instructions for the district court to address an insurer’s request to intervene to challenge the reasonableness of the confessed judgment and whether it was the product of collusion. On remand, the district court reduced the judgment to approximately $2.4 million. The Supreme Court held (1) the confessed judgment was unreasonable and the product of collusion; (2) the district court should have dismissed the action rather than reduce the settlement amount; and (3) the district court properly awarded attorney fees and costs to the insurer, but the case is remanded for recalculation of the award to include only costs allowable under Mont. Code Ann. 25-10-201. View "Abbey/Land, LLC v. Glacier Construction Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this home construction contract dispute, the Supreme Court (1) affirmed the district court’s decision awarding contractual damages to Contractor and dismissing Homeowners’ counterclaims for damages and attorney’s fees; but (2) reversed the district court’s denial of Contractor’s right to foreclose its construction lien placed on Homeowners’ property and the court’s decision to deny Contractor attorney’s fees pursuant to the lien foreclosure statute. The Court held that the district court erred as a matter of law when it reasoned that Contractor was not entitled to a favorable judgment for the foreclosure of the construction lien on the basis of Homeowners’ dissatisfaction with the work performed. Remanded. View "Vintage Construction, Inc. v. Feighner" on Justia Law

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Michael Mandell and Bayliss Ward and Bayliss Architects, P.C. (Bayliss) agreed that Bayliss would provide architectural and construction services for Mandell’s home. Mandell refused to pay Bayliss’s final invoice, and Bayliss filed a construction lien on the property. Mandell initiated this action stating counts of breach of contract, declaratory judgment that the lien was invalid, and quiet title to the property. Bayliss counterclaimed for foreclosure of the construction lien, quantum meruit, and breach of contract. The district court partially granted Mandell’s claim for declaratory relief, ruling that because Bayliss failed to obtain a written contract for construction services, the contract was void and the lien for those services was invalid. After a trial, the district court granted relief in quantum meruit and awarded attorney fees to Bayliss. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding that the district court (1) did not err in granting equitable relief in quantum meruit, despite violation of the statutory requirement that residential construction contracts be in writing; and (2) erred in awarding attorney fees for the quantum meruit claim. Remanded. View "Mandell v. Bayliss Ward" on Justia Law

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Jerry and Karen Slack hired Jeffrey Fisher and his construction company, Fisher Builders, to build a remodeled home. During the project, the deck collapsed, and the Slacks’ construction permit was revoked. The Slacks filed a negligence action against Fisher and his company. Fisher had a commercial general liability insurance policy with Employers Mutual Casualty Company (EMC). EMC filed a declaratory action alleging that there was no coverage and that it had no duty to defend or indemnify any party in the negligence action. Fisher and Fisher Builders ultimately settled with the Slacks and assigned their rights under the EMC insurance policy to the Slacks. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of EMC, ruling that Fisher’s conduct was clearly intentional and did not fit within the meaning of “occurrence” under the policy, regardless of whether Fisher intended the consequences. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court (1) erred by concluding that, in the context of general liability insurance, the term “occurrence,” defined by the policy as “an accident,” categorically precludes coverage for any intentional conduct on the part of the insured with unintended results; and (2) erred when it granted summary judgment in favor of EMC, as issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. Remanded. View "Employers Mut. Cas. Co. v. Slack" on Justia Law

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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

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The Leonards entered into contracts with Centennial for the sale of a log home kit and construction of a custom log home. The Leonards later released Centennial from any claims for damages for defective construction or warranty arising out of the home's construction. Greg and Elvira Johnston held a thirty-six percent interest in the property at the time the release was signed. Eventually, all interest in the property was transferred to the Elvira Johnston Trust. A few years later, because of a number of construction defects affecting the structural integrity of the house, the Johnstons decided to demolish the house. The Johnstons sued Centennnial for negligent construction, breach of statutory and implied warranties, and other causes of action. The district court granted summary judgment for Centennial, finding that the Johnstons' claims were time-barred and were waived by the Leonards' release. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the court's ruling that the Johnstons' claims were time-barred and directed that the decision on remand apply only to the interest owned by the Johnstons at the time the release was executed; and (2) affirmed the district court's conclusion that the release was binding on the Leonards' sixty-four percent interest, later transferred to the Trust. View "Johnston v. Centennial Log Homes & Furnishings, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose out of several business transactions entered into by parties involved in the development of condominiums on Hauser Lake. Cherrad, Merritt & Marie, and Max & V (the Hale interests) were limited liability companies owned by Conrad and Cheryl Hale. Craig Kinnaman was sole proprietor of a business called CK Design. Merritt & Marie purchased the Hauser Lake property. Subsequently, the Hales and Kinnaman agreed to develop a portion of the property. Cherrad was the developer, and Mountain West Bank (MWB) made three loans to Cherrad to develop the project. CK Design suffered delays in the project and later left the project. In 2007, Kinnaman committed suicide, and the Estate recorded a $3.3 million construction lien on the condominiums. MWB brought this action 2008 against the Hale interests and the Estate seeking foreclosure on the three secured loans. The Hale interests and the Estate cross-claimed against each other. The district court (1) declared the Estate's construction lien invalid; and (2) determined Cherrad owed the Estate $76,278 for work that CK Design performed on the project. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mountain West Bank, N.A. v. Cherrad, LLC" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a construction contract dispute between Total Industrial Plant Services, Inc. (TIPS) and Turner Industries Group, LLC (Turner). Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland (Fidelity) was the surety for Turner's substitution bond filed in lieu of TIPS's construction lien. TIPS filed a complaint against Turner and Fidelity, alleging various causes of action. The trial court granted TIPS's motion for partial summary judgment and ordered Turner to return the retainage it had withheld. After a trial, the district court found in favor of Defendants and dismissed TIPS's remaining claims. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the district court did not err by (1) denying TIPS's claim for additional compensation under a theory of either quantum meruit or breach of contract; (2) failing to find that TIPS was the prevailing party and awarding costs and fees to Turner; (3) finding TIPS's construction lien was barred by the ninety-day statute of limitations; (4) granting partial summary judgment to TIPS and ordering Turner to return the retainage; and (5) dismissing Turner's bill of costs for being untimely. The Court, however, found the district court erred by denying TIPS prejudgment interest on the retainage. Remanded. View "Total Indust. Plant Servs. v. Turner Indust. Group, LLC" on Justia Law