Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court the decision and final judgment of the district court in favor of Truss Works, Inc. to foreclose a construction lien against Oswood Construction Company, holding that the district court did not err.After Truss Works filed its construction lien it brought this action seeking to foreclose on its lien. Oswood counterclaimed, alleging that Truss Works caused Oswood $118,571 in damages. After a trial, the district court entered judgment in Truss Works's favor. Oswood appealed, arguing that the district court's findings of fact were clearly erroneous because the court never addressed Oswood's counterclaim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court's findings implicitly addressed Oswood's counterclaim; and (2) the court's findings of fact were supported by substantial evidence, and the court did not commit an error of law. View "Truss Works, Inc. v. Oswood Construction Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court ordering Plaintiff to pay the attorney fees and costs of Defendant, the prevailing party in a construction defect suit initiated by Plaintiff, holding that the district court erred in part.Plaintiff filed an action against Defendants alleging negligence, breach of contract, and other claims. The district court held in favor of Defendants on all of Plaintiffs' claims. The court then awarded attorney fees and costs to Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court erred by determining that Defendant had a reciprocal right to an award of attorney fees under Mont. Code Ann. 70-19-428 and Mont. Code Ann. 28-3-704. View "Rafes v. McMillan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of two counts of bail-jumping, one count for each scheduled trial he missed, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error.On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in granting the State's Gillham motion to allow his former attorney to testify and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the District Court did not err by allowing Defendant's former attorney to testify as a state witness in his bail-jumping trial, and the testimony did not violate Defendant's right to effective assistance of counsel; and (2) Defendant's remaining ineffective assistance of counsel claims were unavailing. View "State v. Payne" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of attempted deliberate homicide, holding that a challenged jury instruction did not undermine the fundamental fairness of the proceeding.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of attempted deliberate homicide. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court's "specific purpose" jury instruction warranted review under either the doctrine of plain error or ineffective assistance of counsel and that the prosecutor's comment warranted plain error review by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court's instruction did not result in a manifest miscarriage of justice, and the claimed error by trial counsel in failing to object to the instruction did not prejudice Defendant; and (2) the prosecutor's conduct did not warrant plain error review. View "State v. St. Marks" on Justia Law

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In this contract dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court awarding Flathead Management Partners (FMP) $191,876 in expectancy damages, holding that the district court did not err when it denied Gary Jystad's motion for judgment on the pleadings and when it concluded that the contract at issue was enforceable.After a fire destroyed Jystad's home he entered into a contract with FMP to restore the property and to oversee the reconstruction of the main residence. After the parties worked together for a few months, Jystad informed FMP that the contract was void because it did not contain the statutorily required disclosures for a general contractor constructing a new residence. FMP filed this action claiming expectancy damages for the full contract price. The district court granted judgment for FMP, holding that FMP was not a general contractor and that the contract was not for the construction of a new residence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it determined that the contract was not for the construction of a new residence and that FMP was not a general contractor; and (2) the court did not abuse its discretion in the award of damages. View "Flathead Management Partners, LLC v. Jystad" on Justia Law

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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