Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
Riverbend Condo Association v. Groundhog Landscaping & Property Maintenance, Inc.
Plaintiff Riverbend Condo Association appealed a superior court order dismissing its complaint against defendant Groundhog Landscaping and Property Maintenance, Inc., on res judicata grounds. In 2017, plaintiff brought a breach of contract action against defendant. Neither party appeared at the scheduled trial management conference set by the superior court. The superior court thus canceled trial and dismissed the case. Plaintiff filed a "motion to reopen," asking the court to reopen the matter and reschedule the trial management conference. The superior court denied the motion, stating that plaintiff's pleading constituted an untimely motion to reconsider. Plaintiff thereafter brought a second action, alleging among other things, breach of contact. Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the action was barred by res judicata. The trial court ultimately granted defendant's motion. On appeal, plaintiff contended its complaint was not barred by the trial court’s dismissal of its first action against defendant, as that dismissal was not a final judgment on the merits. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Riverbend Condo Association v. Groundhog Landscaping & Property Maintenance, Inc." on Justia Law
Town of Londonderry v. Mesiti Development, Inc.
Respondents Mesiti Development, Inc., JVL Construction Company, Inc., and Brook Hollow Corporation, appealed a superior court order dismissing their counterclaims against petitioner Town of Londonderry. In 2012, the Town filed a bill of interpleader to determine whether $264,517.02 in surplus impact fees collected under the Town’s impact fee ordinance should have been refunded to the developers who paid the impact fees or to the current owners of the properties for which the fees had been paid. Although the Town’s impact fee ordinance specifies that the current owners are entitled to the refunds, the Town sought to confirm that the ordinance is consistent with the impact fee statute. The bill listed seventeen properties and their respective impact fee payors and current owners. Additional parties intervened thereafter. Several parties, including the respondents, moved to add counterclaims alleging, among other things: (1) violations of RSA 674:21, V; (2) negligence; (3) violation of fiduciary duties owed to impact fee payors; (4) violation of the public trust in government; and (5) violation of the municipal budget law. The Town filed a motion to dismiss these counterclaims, which the trial court granted. This appeal followed. Finding no reversible error in the order dismissing these claims, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Town of Londonderry v. Mesiti Development, Inc." on Justia Law
Kimball Union Academy v. Genovesi
Defendant John Genovesi appealed the superior court's refusal to dismiss a claim against him for professional negligence brought by plaintiff Kimball Union Academy (KUA). KUA wanted a new field house built for its campus. The designer was supposed to supply a locally licensed architect and engineer for the project. Defendant was not licensed in New Hampshire nor did he live in state, but was hired anyway to serve as project engineer. Among other things, defendant failed to provide special inspection instructions for the footings and foundation system as required by the local building code. KUA had a number of problems with the footing and foundation that prompted it to terminate its contract with the designer and sue all parties involved. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that defendant's design work in New Jersey led to the injury to KUA in New Hampshire. The Court therefore affirmed the trial court's decision. View "Kimball Union Academy v. Genovesi" on Justia Law
Axenics, Inc. v. Turner Construction Co.
Defendants Stryker Biotech, LLC, Stryker Sales Corporation (collectively Stryker) and Turner Construction Company, appealed a superior court ruling which found them liable on a theory of unjust enrichment and awarded damages to the plaintiff, Axenics, Inc. f/k/a RenTec Corporation. Axenics cross-appealed, challenging the amount of damages awarded and the trial court's failure to find the defendants liable on its breach of contract and New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act (CPA) claims. This case arose from the construction of a biotech facility for Stryker for which Turner served as the general contractor. Axenics subcontracted with Turner to furnish labor, materials, equipment, and services for the installation of "process pipe" at the facility. A dispute arose when Axenics notified Turner of additional change orders related to delays and work that it believed to be outside the scope of the contract. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the subcontract addressed the subject matter of Axenics' unjust enrichment claim. The Court reversed the trial court's decision finding Turner liable to Axenics on its theory of unjust enrichment. Furthermore, the Court found no evidence that Stryker accepted a benefit that would be unconscionable to retain. Therefore the Court held that the trial court erred in allowing Axenics to recover against Stryker under a theory of unjust enrichment. The Court found that an internal memorandum was admitted into evidence in error; the trial court erred in relying upon it in assessing damages. The Court affirmed the trial court's decision with respect to Axenics' CPA claims. The case was ultimately affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Axenics, Inc. v. Turner Construction Co." on Justia Law
Phaneuf Funeral Home v. Little Giant Pump Co.
Plaintiff Phaneuf Funeral Home appealed a superior court order that granted motions for summary judgment in favor of Defendants Little Giant Pump Company, Boyer Interior Design, Leviton Manufacturing Company and The Elegant Earth, Inc. Phaneuf hired Boyer to do interior design and light renovation work in the basement and adjacent hallway of the funeral home. In the hallway, Boyer installed a wall-mounted water fountain that it purchased from Elegant, an Alabama-based household goods retailer. Defendant Leviton supplied the fountain’s power cord to Little Giant, which manufactured the fountain. A fire broke out at the funeral home. Alleging that the water fountain’s defective pump and power cord caused the fire, Phaneuf brought negligence and strict product liability claims against each defendant, although it later withdrew its negligence claim against Boyer. Each defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that Phaneuf’s claims were time-barred by RSA 508:4-b, I (2010), the statute of repose for “Damages From Construction.” The superior court agreed, and granted each motion. Upon review of the facts in the superior court record, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's grant of summary judgment as to Boyer, but reversed as to the remaining defendants. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Phaneuf Funeral Home v. Little Giant Pump Co." on Justia Law
Lamprey v. Britton Construction, Inc.
Plaintiff Josephine Lamprey appealed a superior court order that dismissed her against Defendants, Britton Construction, Inc. (Britton), DeStefano Architects, PLLC f/k/a Lisa B. DeStefano (DeStefano) and Dave Sherwood, pursuant to the statutes of limitations and repose. Plaintiff hired the defendants to design and build her home. DeStefano was the architect; Britton was the general contractor; and Sherwood was the mason who installed the home’s extensive stonework, including a stone veneer, terrace and stone chimneys. Plaintiff began living in the house in November 2001, but never obtained a certificate of occupancy. Within one year, water damage appeared on the wood floors. In 2006, Plaintiff hired Sherwood to repair loose stones on her terrace. In 2010, when Plaintiff replaced her stone terrace with granite, the mason in charge of the replacement noticed problems with the home’s stonework requiring significant repairs. As a result, Plaintiff sued the defendants, alleging negligence and breaches of warranty in her home’s construction. Britton requested dismissal pursuant to the statute of limitations for personal actions. Sherwood moved to dismiss, arguing that the construction statute of repose also barred Plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff responded by arguing, among other things, that the statutes should be tolled because Sherwood had fraudulently concealed her home’s masonry problems. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part. The trial court properly dismissed all claims against Destefano. Although the trial court properly dismissed the claims against Britton and Sherwood initially, "it unsustainably exercised its discretion by not permitting Plaintiff to amend her writ to add fraudulent concealment allegations related to the bent masonry ties that concealed defects in her home’s stone veneer. Plaintiff’s amended claims against Britton and Sherwood related to the stone veneer were allowed. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Lamprey v. Britton Construction, Inc." on Justia Law
Wyle v. Lees
Defendants Scott and Christina Lees appealed a trial court decision that found in favor of Plaintiff Stephen Wyle on his claim of negligent misrepresentation. In 2002, Defendants purchased a two-unit apartment building. Defendants wished to expand the building, and approached a contractor to add a third apartment to the back of the property. Conditional approval for the site plan was granted in November 2003 and final approval was obtained in January 2004. However, Defendants did not obtain the proper permits prior to building or occupying the unit. As a result, the town's building inspector never inspected the unit. The Lees again hired the contractor both to complete a second addition to the property. Defendants again failed to secure the necessary building permits. After the completion of construction, town officials visited the property a number of times in 2006 and 2007. The town informed Defendants that "[s]ave for acceptable field changes[,] the site plan requirements have been satisfied." Defendants listed the property for sale in 2007. After entering into the agreement, Plaintiff had a comprehensive home inspection performed and sent a list of specific concerns regarding the property to Defendants. The concerns were either remedied by the Defendants or waived by Plaintiff prior to closing. Approximately six weeks after closing, the entire property was inspected by the town building inspector and fire chief which revealed numerous building and life safety code violations. Plaintiff was ordered not to occupy the unit until he corrected the violations and made the site compliant with site plan regulations. After correcting the violations, Plaintiff then brought a single claim against Defendants for negligent misrepresentation. Following a two-day bench trial, the trial court issued an order awarding damages to the Plaintiff. Upon review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court found that the evidence at trial established that Defendants negligently misrepresented that the premises were licensed for immediate occupancy and that they had obtained all the necessary permits. Accordingly, the Court found that the trial record supported the decision in favor of Plaintiff, and the grant of damages. View "Wyle v. Lees" on Justia Law