Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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Plaintiffs, in anticipation of Revett Silver Company and RC Resources, Inc. (collectively, "Revett") seeking approval for mine-related construction under a general permit, filed this action against the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) seeking a declaratory judgment that use of general permits to approve stormwater runoff from the Rock Creek Mine would violate Mont. Admin. R. 17.30.1341(4)(e) because Rock Creek is an area of "unique ecological significance" based on considerations of impacts on fishery resource and local conditions at proposed discharge. The district court granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs and declared the general permit void. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that DEQ's approval of the use of the general permit to allow storm water discharges was arbitrary and capricious because DEQ failed to consider the relevant factors set forth in the law prior to its decision, and as a result, committed a clear error of judgment. View "Clark Fork Coalition v. Dep't of Envtl. Quality" on Justia Law

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Lake Cabin Development entered into two separate written agreements with the Robert Hurly and John Hurly families to purchase their respective properties. Pursuant to an agreement, Lake Cabin provided Robert Hurly with a $250,000 option payment. After public opposition to Lake Cabin's proposed development on the land forced Lake Cabin to extend the deadline on the closing date of its agreement with the Hurlys, Lake Cabin declared the contract to be null and void and demanded return of its option payment. Both Hurly families brought separate breach of contract actions. The district court concluded that Robert Hurly was required to refund the $250,000 option payment to Lake Cabin because there was never an enforceable contract between the parties. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court erred in determining that the parties had not entered into a binding agreement, and (2) Lake Cabin was not entitled to a refund of the option payment. Remanded. View "Hurly v. Lake Cabin Dev., LLC" on Justia Law

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A dispute arose between Cascade Development, Inc. and the City of Bozeman. On December 7, 2007, Cascade filed a complaint alleging various claims against Bozeman. A summons and complaint were issued by the clerk's office on the same day, but service was not attempted by Cascade for nearly three years. On December 2, 2010, a professional process server took the summons and complaint to the city attorney's office, and a deputy city attorney took the papers. Bozeman filed a motion to quash service and dismiss the complaint, which the district court granted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court was correct in determining that Cascade had not validly served its summons and complaint on Bozeman pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 4(t), as the deputy city attorney had neither implied authority nor apparent authority to accept service of process on behalf of Bozeman; and (2) the district court was correct in concluding that Bozeman was not estopped from asserting defective service of process. View "Cascade Dev., Inc. v. City of Bozeman" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Scottie and Dawn Pederson (the Pedersons) and Rocky Mountain Bank (the Bank) entered into a construction loan agreement pursuant to which the Bank agreed to lend the Pedersons several thousand dollars. In 2008, the Pedersons and the Bank agreed to finance the construction loan through three short term loans. In 2009, the Pedersons tried to refinance their loans but were unable to do so. Due to alleged failures on the part of the Bank, the Pedersons brought suit against the Bank in 2011, asserting claims for, inter alia, negligence, constructive fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. After it was served with the complaint, the Bank filed a Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, asserting the statutes of limitations had run on all of the Pedersons' claims. The district court granted the Bank's motion and dismissed the Pedersons' claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the applicable statutes of limitations began to run in 2008 because the Pedersons' claims had accrued and they had discovered the facts constituting the claims; and (2) by filing their complaint more than three years later, the Pedersons failed to commence their action within any of the applicable statutes of limitations. View "Pederson v. Rocky Mountain Bank" on Justia Law

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Patterson Enterprises hired Archie Johnson Contracting (AJC) to perform blasting on a road construction project. During the project, an entire section of rock above one of Patterson's excavators collapsed, crushing it. Patterson filed suit against AJC, asserting various claims, including negligence and strict liability. AJC asserted various affirmative defenses, including contributory negligence and assumption of the risk. AJC also filed a counterclaim, asserting breach of contract. The jury (1) returned a verdict finding that AJC's blasting caused the damages sustained by Patterson and that Patterson and its employees assumed the risk of harm; (2) allocated fifty-one percent of the fault to AJC and forty-nine percent to Patterson, and awarded damages to Patterson in the amount of $50,000; and (3) returned a verdict in favor of AJC on its breach of contract claim, awarding damages to AJC in the amount of $19,255. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err (1) when it permitted the defense of assumption of the risk to go to the jury; and (2) in failing to instruct the jury regarding the subjective knowledge requirement set forth in Lutz v. National Crane Corp. View "Patterson Enters., Inc. v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Gary Martin and Lewistown Miller Construction Company entered into a written contract for the construction of a dwelling on Martin's property. When construction was completed, Martin refused to pay additional amounts above the bid price, and LMCC filed a construction lien on the property. LMCC then filed suit, seeking damages for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and foreclosure of the lien. Martin counterclaimed for declaratory relief that the lien was invalid and to quiet title, among other things. The district court (1) granted foreclosure of LMCC's construction lien and awarded damages to LMCC; and (2) denied LMCC's and Martin's request for attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the district court did not err in ordering foreclosure of the construction lien, and the award of damages was not clearly erroneous; but (2) the district court erred in failing to award statutorily mandated attorney fees to LMCC, as it established its lien. Remanded. View "Lewistown Miller Constr. v. Martin" on Justia Law

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CLR Properties and Choice Land Corporation (collectively, CLR) hired Waynco Construction (Waynco) as the general contractor for a commercial real estate improvement project. Waynco solicited a bid from AAA Construction of Missoula (AAA) to perform concrete work. After AAA submitted its bid, Waynco used AAA's bid to formulate Waynco's general contract bid to CLR. CLR accepted Waynco's bid. While AAA completed a majority of the work outlined in its bid by the time it left the project, a dispute arose between Waynco and AAA about the parties' subcontract agreement. Waynco eventually failed to pay AAA for any labor or materials. AAA filed a complaint against CLR and Waynco, alleging that Waynco had breached the contract and CLR had been unjustly enriched from AAA's work. The district court granted CLR's motion for summary judgment on the unjust enrichment claims and, after a trial, held for AAA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly concluded that AAA's bid constituted a binding contract between the parties; (2) substantial evidence supported the district court's conclusion that Waynco was the materially breaching party; and (3) the district court properly denied CLR's claim for attorney fees. View "AAA Constr. of Missoula, LLC v. Choice Land Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Walter Fasch was injured in a single-vehicle ATV accident that occurred within a construction area on a U.S. highway. Fasch filed a negligence action against the Montana Department of Transportation, the construction contractor, and the subcontractor (collectively, Defendants). The district court entered findings of fact, conclusions of law, and an order granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that Defendants owed no duty to Fasch because Fasch was an unforeseeable plaintiff who was not in the zone of risk. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding that reasonable minds could differ as to the resolution of certain factual issues, that the factual issues should be resolved by trial, and that resolution of the factual issues would also affect the determination of the legal issue of duty. View "Fasch v. Weeden" on Justia Law

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Frederick and Mandelena Harmon bought a home pursuant to a buy-sell agreement that realtor Dianne Burright, a licensed real estate salesperson who worked for Fiscus Realty, prepared at the Fiscus Realty office. The home was built by Dianne's husband, Jerry. The Harmons subsequently discovered numerous construction problems. The Harmons sued Defendants Jerry and Dianne Burright and Fiscus Reality, raising several causing of action, including a claim under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (the Act). A jury returned a verdict against the Burrights on breach of warranty and negligent misrepresentation claims and held for Defendants on all other claims. After trial, Defendants filed motions for attorney fees as prevailing parties under the Act, which the district court denied. Fiscus Realty appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an award of attorney fees to Fiscus Realty as the Harmons' claims had a basis in fact and law and were not frivolous, unreasonable or unfounded. View "Harmon v. Fiscus Realty" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Carter Boehm, Trustee, sued Defendants Cokedale, L.L.C. and Allen Carter for property damages when, during construction of a road to reach Defendants' land, rocks of various sizes rolled downhill onto Plaintiff's property. Plaintiff subsequently added claims for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that Boehm was not the trustee of any trust validly established under Montana law, and therefore Boehm was perpetuating the lawsuit on behalf of a non-existent trust. The district court also awarded Defendants attorneys' fees and costs. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the district court properly granted summary judgment to Defendants pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 17(a), which requires that every action shall be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest; and (2) the district court abused its discretion in awarding attorneys' fees to Defendants. The award of fees was reversed. View "Boehm v. Cokedale" on Justia Law