Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Woodrock, Inc. appealed the grant of summary judgment dismissing its negligence and other claims against McKenzie County, North Dakota. In September 2018, Woodrock sued the County for violations of N.D.C.C. ch. 48-01.2 and negligence. Woodrock alleged the County hired Edwards Gravel & Trucking, LLC to supply aggregate to aggregate stockpiles, the County did not obtain a payment bond from Edwards Gravel, Woodrock furnished materials for use in the project, and Edwards Gravel did not pay Woodrock for the materials. Woodrock claimed that the County violated N.D.C.C. section 48-01.2-10 and was negligent by failing to obtain a bond from Edwards Gravel and that the County was liable to the subcontractors and material suppliers who worked on the project. Woodrock requested damages in the amount of $298,629.54. On appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court, Woodrick argued the district court erred in concluding a project to stockpile aggregate materials was not a public improvement and the bond requirement under N.D.C.C. 48-01.2-10 did not apply. The Supreme Court concluded supplying aggregate materials to stockpiles for general use in maintaining and repairing county roads did not constitute “construction of a public improvement.” Therefore, the Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Woodrock, Inc. et al. v. McKenzie Cty." on Justia Law

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Minn-Kota Ag. Products, Inc. appealed a district court order dismissing Minn-Kota’s appeal of findings of fact, conclusions of law and order issued by the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) for lack of standing and affirming an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) order denying Minn-Kota’s petition to intervene. In 2017, Minn-Kota began construction of a large, $20 million grain handling facility near the municipalities of Barney and Mooreton, North Dakota. During construction of the facility, Minn-Kota received proposals to provide electric power to the facility from Otter Tail Power Co., an electric public utility, and Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative, a rural electric cooperative. Minn-Kota determined Otter Tail would provide cheaper and more reliable electric service and chose Otter Tail as its preferred provider. Dakota Valley protested Otter Tail’s application and requested a hearing. Otter Tail and Dakota Valley were represented at the hearing, and each offered evidence and testimony. Minn- Kota was not a formal party represented at the hearing and, other than the testimony offered by Schuler, Minn-Kota did not contribute to the hearing. In December 2017, the PSC held a work session to contemplate and discuss Otter Tail’s application. The concerns expressed by the PSC at the work session made it clear the PSC was likely going to deny Otter Tail’s application. As a result, Minn-Kota submitted a petition to intervene, which an ALJ determined Minn-Kota submitted after the deadline to intervene had passed, and denied it. Minn-Kota argued it has standing to appeal the PSC’s decision because it participated in the proceedings before the PSC, and the PSC’s decision should be reversed because it was not supported by the facts or law. In the alternative, Minn-Kota argued the case should have been remanded to the PSC and it should have been allowed to intervene and introduce additional evidence into the record. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined Minn-Kota had standing, but did not provide a compelling argument on how Otter Tail did not adequately represent its interests at the administrative hearing or throughout the entirety of the proceedings. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and thus affirmed the PSC's order. View "Minn-Kota Ag Products, Inc. v. N.D. Public Service Commission, et al." on Justia Law

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Gentek Building Products, Inc. appealed after a jury awarded Richard and Angela Palmer damages of $10,791, plus interest. Gentek also appealed an order awarding attorney fees of $80,379 to the Palmers, and taxation of costs and disbursements. In 2003, the Palmers purchased and installed “Driftwood” steel siding from Gentek on their home in Williston. Gentek provided a lifetime limited warranty for the siding. In September 2011, the paint began to peel on the siding installed on the south side of the home. In January 2012, the Palmers submitted a warranty claim to Gentek. Gentek offered the Palmers the option of either a cash settlement or replacement with a substitute siding under the warranty, since Gentek had discontinued producing the type of siding originally installed. While the Palmers opted to have their siding replaced with a substitute, Gentek had difficulty finding a contractor willing to perform the warranty work due to the oil boom in the area. Thousands of others also experienced delaminated pain on their siding and filed warranty claims with Gentek, resulting in a class action lawsuit filed in federal district court in Ohio. The federal district court entered a final order and judgment approving a class action settlement. In 2014, the Palmers filed this suit against Gentek, alleging breach of warranty by failing to replace the defective siding. Gentek defended by arguing the Palmers were bound by the federal court's final class action settlement. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the North Dakota district court did not err in holding the Palmers were not bound by the federal district court’s final order and judgment approving a class action settlement. Furthermore, the Supreme Court concluded that the court erred in its award of attorney fees and in not ruling on Gentek’s objection to costs and disbursements. The order awarding attorney fees and taxation of costs and disbursements was reversed, however, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Palmer, et al. v. Gentek Building Products, Inc." on Justia Law

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Oil Capital Ready Mix, LLC; Agape Holdings, LLP; Scott Dyk; and Samuel Dyk (collectively “Dyk”) appealed a judgment awarding Skaw ND Precast LLC (“Skaw”) $69,295 in damages for conversion of its property. In March 2013, Skaw entered into a five-year agreement with Tioga Ready Mix (“Tioga”), a company which produced ready-mix concrete product, to rent a two-acre parcel of land to conduct its business. The base rent for the site was $700 per month, subject to reductions if Skaw purchased designated quantities of ready-mix product from Tioga. The agreement provided it would remain in effect until December 31, 2018, and it did not allow either party to unilaterally cancel the agreement. In spring 2015, Skaw learned that Tioga had arranged to sell Tioga’s assets at a public auction, including the two-acre parcel of property where Skaw conducted its business. Skaw’s owners attended the auction sale in May 2015. The auction service notified all attendees that Skaw’s assets on the premises were not part of the sale, that there was a lease in place between Skaw and Tioga, and that the lease went with the land. Dyk was the successful bidder at the auction and entered into a commercial purchase agreement with the sellers which did not include Skaw’s product inventory or equipment and stated the sale was subject to “rights of tenants,” but did not list Skaw as a tenant. Once Dyk got its ready-mix plant running, Skaw began purchasing concrete ready-mix product from Dyk for its business. When presented with the contract between Skaw and Tioga, Dyk renegotiated the terms; Dyk and Skaw agreed to increase monthly rental payments to $750 per month. During a scheduled shut down of both companies' operations, Dyk built an earthen berm around Skaw’s equipment which prevented Skaw from accessing it. Dyk also transported Skaw’s concrete pad and blocked inventory off of Skaw’s two acres to an area adjacent to Dyk’s offices. Other Skaw assets were transported to undisclosed locations. When Skaw discovered the berm, Dyk informed Skaw that Skaw abandoned their temporary rental agreement in December 2015 and that law enforcement would be notified if there were “any attempts to breach the peace or trespass” on the property. Skaw replied that the 2013 lease was still valid and had not been abandoned, and that Skaw planned to return to the property and continue operations. Dyk argued on appeal of the conversion damages award that the district court erred in ruling the 2013 agreement between Skaw and Tioga was a lease rather than a license. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court’s findings of fact were not clearly erroneous, it affirmed the judgment. View "Skaw ND Precast, LLC v. Oil Capital Ready Mix, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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SWMO, LLC appealed district court orders granting partial summary judgment to Mon-Dak Plumbing and Heating, Inc. and RK Electric relating to their work performed on a building owned by SWMO. SWMO contracted with Eagle Rigid Spans for the construction of a commercial building in Williston, North Dakota. Eagle was the general contractor and Mon-Dak and RK Electric were subcontractors for the project. Mon-Dak and RK Electric contracted with Eagle to provide HVAC, plumbing, and electrical work on the building. During construction, SWMO noticed defects in the materials and workmanship and believed the building was not properly constructed. The trial court ultimately awarded Mon-Dak $125,600 and RK Electric $114,242 from funds deposited into court by SWMO. SWMO claimed disputed issues of fact precluded summary judgment. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined The district court provided no analysis of the documents in its summary judgment orders. "By not addressing the evidence submitted by SWMO, the district court in effect found Mon-Dak’s and RK Electric’s evidence was more persuasive." In viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to SWMO at the time of the motions, SWMO raised a genuine issue of material fact, and Mon-Dak and RK Electric were not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Although the court later found at trial that Eagle materially misrepresented the true amounts paid to its subcontractors, the court did not make findings on whether Eagle misrepresented the payments made to Mon-Dak and RK Electric. The Court therefore reversed and remanded for further findings relating to amounts Mon-Dak and RK Electric were entitled to recover from funds SWMO deposited into court; the parties' remaining arguments were without merit or not necessary to the Court's decision. The trial court was affirmed in all other respects. View "SWMO, LLC v. Eagle Rigid Spans Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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JRC Construction, LLC, appealed a judgment entered after a jury awarded Larry Pavlicek $217,244.55 in damages against JRC. The jury found JRC breached a contract with Pavlicek relating to construction work performed by JRC. JRC argued the district court erred in denying its motion and renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law because Pavlicek failed to prove he had a contract with JRC. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Pavlicek v. American Steel Systems, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Shannon Bakke appeals a judgment in favor of Magi-Touch Carpet One Floor & Home, Inc. and denial of her motion to amend her complaint. Bakke entered into a contract with Magi-Touch for the installation of floor tiles, a shower base, and related products in a bathroom within Bakke's home. Magi-Touch arranged to have the shower base and tile installed by VA Solutions, LLC, an independent contractor. Bakke contended the shower door was improperly installed; the improper installation resulted in the shower door imploding, and the implosion caused damage to property in and around the shower requiring the bathroom door and trim to be repainted. Bakke argued the district court erred in concluding she could not pursue a claim against Magi-Touch because Magi-Touch was not liable for the acts of its independent contractor. Bakke also asserts the district court erred in denying, as futile, her motion to amend her complaint to assert a contract claim against Magi-Touch. Assuming Bakke properly asserted a claim for breach of the parties' contract, the North Dakota Supreme Court held the delegation of Magi-Touch's obligation to provide labor to VA Solutions did not preclude a cause of action against Magi-Touch for a breach of the contract. Further, the Court held the existence of the independent contractor did not relieve Magi-Touch of its obligation to perform under the terms of its contract with Bakke. In the context of a claim for a breach of the parties' contract, the amendment was not futile and should have been allowed. The Court affirmed as to all other issues, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Bakke v. Magi-Touch Carpet One Floor & Home, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ewing Construction Co., Inc., appeals from a judgment denying its N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion to vacate a $951,191.62 default judgment entered in favor of Key Energy Services, LLC. Ewing began serving as the designer of and general contractor for Key's construction of the P3 Service Center project in Williston. Ewing voluntarily canceled its North Dakota contractor license in October 2014. In January 2015, Key sued Ewing and 22 others to invalidate construction liens filed against its property and claiming Ewing failed to pay numerous subcontractors for their work on the project in violation of its contractual obligations. After Ewing failed to answer the complaint, Key moved in June 2016 for a default judgment against Ewing. The district court granted the motion and entered default judgment against Ewing, awarding Key $951,191.62. The default judgment was entered on June 24, 2016, and Key served notice of entry of judgment on June 27, 2016. On May 12, 2017, after attempts were made to enforce the default judgment in Texas, Ewing brought a N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion to vacate the default judgment "because of insufficient service of process, and excusable neglect." Key responded by filing a corrected return of service which the district court accepted and considered. The corrected return of service was notarized and identified the documents served. On July 28, 2017, the court denied the N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion, concluding service of process was sufficient, the motion was untimely, and Ewing failed to establish excusable neglect. Because the district court did not err in ruling service of process was proper and did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to vacate, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Key Energy Services, LLC v. Ewing Construction Co., Inc., et. al." on Justia Law

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Rocky Mountain Steel Foundations, Inc. appealed a judgment invalidating its oil and gas construction liens and awarding attorney fees to Mitchell's Oil Field Services, Inc., also known as Wood Group, and Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America (collectively "Mitchell's"). Mitchell's, as general contractor, entered into a contract with Brockett Company, LLC, as subcontractor, and Amber Brockett, as personal guarantor (collectively "Brockett"), to purchase construction materials for installation on certain oil wells. Brockett purchased materials from Rocky Mountain to fulfill Brockett's contract with Mitchell's. Mitchell's paid Brockett in full. Rocky Mountain delivered the materials, and Mitchell's installed the materials. Rocky Mountain thereafter recorded two oil and gas well liens against the wells because Brockett had not paid Rocky Mountain. Mitchell's recorded lien release bonds, with the liens attached to the bonds. Mitchell's received payment in full, then Rocky Mountain filed to foreclose on the liens. The parties agreed Mitchell's paid Brockett in full before Rocky Mountain delivered the materials to the wells and before Mitchell's or the leaseholders received notice of the liens. The parties agreed Rocky Mountain timely and properly satisfied all statutory and other requirements to create, perfect, and foreclose on the liens. Rocky Mountain recorded the liens on well leaseholds by ConocoPhillips Company and Burlington Resources Oil & Gas Co. (the "owners"). Brockett did not answer or appear at any hearings and admitted to nonpayment, but asserted it has no assets with which to pay. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Rocky Mountain for its breach of contract claim against Brockett. The parties submitted their remaining claims to the district court solely on interpretation of the oil and gas construction liens provided by N.D.C.C. ch. 35-24. The court found N.D.C.C. 35-24-04 invalidated Rocky Mountain's liens after the owners paid Mitchell's. The primary issue before the North Dakota Supreme Court was whether N.D.C.C. 35-24-04 permitted a subcontractor's oil and gas construction lien when an owner fully paid the general contractor. Rocky Mountain argued the district court erred in finding Rocky Mountain's liens were invalidated when the owners fully paid Mitchell's. The Supreme Court agreed: Section 35-24-02, N.D.C.C., allowed contractors to file liens for unpaid materials furnished or services rendered "in the drilling or operating of any oil or gas well upon such leasehold." The district court erred in interpreting N.D.C.C. sections 35-24-04 and -07 to invalidate Rocky Mountain's liens, and also erred in awarding attorney fees to Mitchell's. View "Rocky Mountain Steel Foundations, Inc. v. Brockett Company, LLC" on Justia Law

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Dickinson Elks Building, LLC, appealed a judgment awarding Rick and Janan Snider, doing business as RJ Snider Construction ("RJ Snider"), $198,255.08 for unjust enrichment and quantum meruit claims. In 2011, RJ Snider contracted with Granville Brinkman to furnish materials and labor for construction work on real property owned by Dickinson Elks. RJ Snider's principal place of business was located in Washington. In 2012, RJ Snider applied for a contractor license from the North Dakota Secretary of State, and the license was issued on in February 2012. RJ Snider provided services and materials for Dickinson Elks' property from December 26, 2011, to November 30, 2012. Dickinson Elks paid RJ Snider for all of the services and materials it provided between December 26, 2011, and February 1, 2012. RJ Snider billed Dickinson Elks $174,642.10 for the services and materials it provided from March 15, 2012, until November 30, 2012. Dickinson Elks did not pay any of this amount. In January 2013, RJ Snider recorded a construction lien against Dickinson Elks' property. In May 2014, Dickinson Elks served RJ Snider with a demand to start a lawsuit to enforce the lien and record a lis pendens within 30 days of the demand. RJ Snider sued Dickinson Elks in June 2014, seeking foreclosure of the construction lien and a money judgment. RJ Snider recorded a notice of lis pendens on July 28, 2014. Dickinson Elks moved for summary judgment, arguing RJ Snider's complaint should be dismissed under N.D.C.C. 43-07-02 because RJ Snider was not a licensed contractor when it started work on the property. Dickinson Elks also argued RJ Snider did not have a valid construction lien, because RJ Snider did not record a lis pendens within 30 days of receiving the demand to enforce the lien. The district court partially granted the motion and entered a judgment forfeiting RJ Snider's construction lien because RJ Snider did not record a lis pendens within 30 days of receiving Dickinson Elks' demand to enforce the lien as required under N.D.C.C. 35-27-25. The court concluded RJ Snider's claims were not precluded under N.D.C.C. 43-07-02. RJ Snider amended its complaint, claiming it was entitled to a money judgment against Dickinson Elks under the principles of quantum meruit and unjust enrichment. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded RJ Snider was not precluded from maintaining its claims; however, the Court reversed and remanded for the district court to determine whether any of the damages awarded were for services and materials provided before RJ Snider was licensed. View "Snider v. Dickinson Elks Building, LLC" on Justia Law