Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
Hamlin Construction & Development Co. v. Mont. Dep’t of Transportation
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court regarding several orders unfavorable to Plaintiff in this dispute over the development of a subdivision on property containing a floodplain within Lewis and Clark County, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.In its challenged orders, the district court dismissed Plaintiff's negligence and negligent misrepresentation claims, denied Plaintiff's motion for a declaratory judgment that Mont. Code Ann. 76-5-109(4) is unconstitutional, dismissed Plaintiff's claims for inverse condemnation and nuisance, and dismissed Plaintiff's suit against the Montana Department of Transportation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's inverse condemnation claim; (2) did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim; (3) did not err in finding Mont. Code Ann. 76-5-109(4) was constitutional; and (4) did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's remaining nuisance claims. View "Hamlin Construction & Development Co. v. Mont. Dep't of Transportation" on Justia Law
Skyline Consulting Group v. Mortensen Woodwork, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the order entered by the district court denying Skyline Consulting Group's motion to vacate and set aside bond substitution and reinstate construction lien, holding that the district court erred in concluding that Skyline had waived its right to challenge the substitute bond.In this dispute between two subcontractors, Mortensen Woodwork petitioned the district court to substitute Skyline's construction lien against certain property with the intent to pursue foreclosure. Skyline named SP Hotel Owner in the lien. Mortensen then secured a bond from a surety company for 150 percent of the amount Skyline claimed and filed a petition to substitute the bond for the lien. The district court did so. Skyline requested that the district court reinstate its lien because Mortensen was not authorized to substitute a bond. The district court denied the request. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Skyline did not waive its right to challenge the substitute bond in a separate arbitration proceeding; and (2) the district court erred in concluding that Montana law authorized Mortensen, a subcontractor, to substitute a bond for Skyline's construction lien. View "Skyline Consulting Group v. Mortensen Woodwork, Inc." on Justia Law
Thermal Design, Inc. v. Thorson
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment, decree of foreclosure, and order of sale by the district court, and the orders and actions contained within these documents, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.Thermal Design, Inc. filed a complaint to foreclose its construction lien against Mark and Pam Duffy and Central Copters, Inc. The complaint also asserted claims against TNT Building Systems. A jury found that TNT, acting as an agent of Central Copters, entered into a contract with Thermal Design for the insulation system, and both TNT and Central Copters were jointly and severally liable for breaching the contract with Thermal Design. As to a crossclaim between TNT and Central Copters, the jury found that both parties breached their agreement but that only TNT incurred damages. The district court entered a final order restating that, as a matter of law, Thermal Design had a valid construction lien attaching to both the Duffys’ real property and Central Copters’ building that should be foreclosed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in the proceedings below. View "Thermal Design, Inc. v. Thorson" on Justia Law
Truss Works, Inc. v. Oswood Construction Co.
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
Rafes v. McMillan
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
State v. Payne
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
State v. St. Marks
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
Flathead Management Partners, LLC v. Jystad
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
HRC Two Rivers, LLC v. Aultco Construction, Inc.
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
TCH Builders v. Elements of Construction, Inc.
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