Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in New Jersey Supreme Court
Townof Kearny v. Brandt
The Town of Kearny hired Brandt-Kuybida Architects to design and plan the construction of a new public safety facility. Construction began in 1994. The general contractor, Belcor Construction, signed a "Certificate of Substantial Completion" in late 1995. Approximately ten days later, the architects signed the same Certificate. The Certificate defined the date of substantial completion in language similar to that of the construction contract. The signatories to the Certificate, however, left the "date of issuance" and the "date of completion" of the project blank. In Spring1996, the Town's Construction Official issued the first Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO), limited to the police section of the building. Structural defects in the facility surfaced shortly after the Kearny Police Department took occupancy, including leaks, buckled tiles and cracks in the walls. By 2007, ceilings in the facility had fallen and pipes had separated and pulled, all of which were attributed to uneven settlement. The Town never issued a final certificate of occupancy and on February 8, 2007, had the building vacated. Belcor initiated arbitration proceedings against the Town because the Town withheld final payment under the contract. Belcor and the Town resolved their dispute by Stipulation of Settlement. Both the Stipulation of Settlement and the related Town of Kearny Resolution identified the date of substantial completion of the facility as February 1, 1996. The issues before the Supreme Court were: (1) when could a building be considered substantially complete for purposes of calculating the ten-year period of the statute of repose; and (2) whether the Comparative Negligence Act and the Joint Tortfeasors Contribution Law authorized the allocation of fault to defendants who obtained dismissals pursuant to the statute of repose. The Supreme Court concluded after review that (1) the ten year period of the statute of repose started when the first Temporary Certificate of Occupancy was issued for the facility; and (2) when the claims against a defendant are dismissed on statute of repose grounds, fault may be apportioned to the dismissed defendant under the Comparative Negligence Act and the Joint Tortfeasors Contribution Law. View "Townof Kearny v. Brandt" on Justia Law
Northgate Condominium Association, Inc. v. Borough of Hillsdale Planning Board
Caliber Builders, Inc., sought to develop a parcel of land commonly referred to as "Golden Orchards." A small portion of the parcel is in Washington Township, but the bulk of it is in the Borough of Hillsdale, where it is included in the residential (R-2) zone. Intending of constructing an age-restricted housing development, which was a conditional use in the R-2 zone, Caliber submitted a preliminary site plan application to the Hillsdale Planning Board. Plaintiff Northgate Condominium Association, Inc., manages and operates a previously-existing condominium community built on an adjacent parcel of land in Washington Township. In this appeal, the issue before the Supreme Court was whether the lot designations contained in the notice of public hearings on an application for a conditional use approval sufficiently complied with the provisions of the Municipal Land Use Law to confer jurisdiction on the Planning Board, and whether the project design of the internal roadway complied with requirements of the Residential Site Improvement Standards. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the developer's notice of public hearings, although using lot numbers that were not included on the official tax map, did not misidentify the lot to be developed, complied with the provisions of the Municipal Land Use Law, and conferred jurisdiction on the Planning Board. "Plaintiff fail[ed] to point to anything in the record supporting its claim that the project design of the internal roadway did not comply with density requirements under the Residential Site Improvement Standards." View "Northgate Condominium Association, Inc. v. Borough of Hillsdale Planning Board" on Justia Law
State In the Interest of V.A.
The issue before the Supreme Court centered on a decision by a county prosecutor to seek waiver of three juveniles, aged sixteen at the time of their offenses, to adult court for acts of delinquency that, as charged, were equivalent to aggravated assault, robbery, and second-degree conspiracy. A Family Part judge found probable cause that the juveniles committed the offenses but denied the waiver motion. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that the Family Part overstepped its bounds. The case called into question the standard of review to be exercised by a court reviewing such motions for waiver. "An abuse of discretion review does not allow the court to substitute its judgment for that of the prosecutor. Rather, a review for abuse of discretion involves a limited but nonetheless substantive review to ensure that the prosecutor’s individualized decision about the juvenile before the court, as set forth in the statement of reasons, is not arbitrary or abusive of the considerable discretion allowed to the prosecutor by statute. Cursory or conclusory statements as justification for waiver will not suffice to allow the court to perform its review under the abuse of discretion standard because such statements provide no meaningful explanation of the prosecutor’s reasoning." Applying that standard, the Court held that in this case the prosecutor’s explanation in the Statements of Reasons lacked detail. The Court reversed and remanded this case for a more full explanation by the prosecutor according to the new standard outlined in the Court's opinion. View "State In the Interest of V.A." on Justia Law
Allen v. V & A Bros., Inc.
Plaintiffs William and Vivian Allen contracted defendant V and A Brothers, Inc. (V&A) to landscape their property and build a retaining wall to enable the installation of a pool. At the time, V&A was wholly owned by two brothers, Defendants Vincent DiMeglio, who subsequently passed away, and Angelo DiMeglio. The corporation also had one full-time employee, Defendant Thomas Taylor. After V&A completed the work, Plaintiffs filed a two-count complaint naming both corporate and individual defendants. The first count was directed solely to V&A and alleged that the corporation breached its contract with Plaintiffs by improperly constructing the retaining wall and using inferior backfill material. The second count was directed to the corporation and Vincent's estate, Angelo, and Taylor individually, alleging three "Home Improvement Practices" violations of the state Consumer Fraud Act (CFA). Before trial, the trial court granted the individual defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint against them, holding that the CFA did not create a direct cause of action against the individuals. Plaintiffs' remaining claims were tried and the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs on all counts, awarding damages totaling $490,000. The Appellate Division reversed the trial court's order dismissing the claims against the individual defendants under the CFA. The panel remanded the matter to determine whether any of the individual defendants had personally participated in the regulatory violations that formed the basis for Plaintiffs' CFA complaint. The panel precluded relitigation of the overall quantum of damages found by the jury in the trial against the corporate defendant. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that employees and officers of a corporation might be individually liable under the CFA for acts they undertake through the corporate entity. Furthermore, individual defendants are not collaterally estopped from relitigating the quantum of damages attributable to the CFA violations. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Allen v. V & A Bros., Inc." on Justia Law