Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun.
In Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun., 365 Or 371, 446 P3d 53 (2019), the Oregon Supreme Court held that the Energy Facility Siting Council had failed to substantially comply with a procedural requirement when it amended rules governing how it processes requests for amendment (RFAs) to site certificates that the council issued. The Court therefore held that the rules were invalid. In response to that decision, the council adopted temporary rules governing the RFA process. Petitioners contended that those temporary rules were also invalid. According to petitioners, the rules were invalid because the council failed to prepare a statement of its findings justifying the use of temporary rules. Petitioners also maintained that the council’s rules exceed the 180-day limit on temporary rules or otherwise improperly operated retroactively. After review, the Supreme Court disagreed with petitioners’ arguments and concluded the temporary rules were valid. View "Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun." on Justia Law
Twist Architecture v. Board of Architect Examiners
Out-of-state architects engaged in the illegal practice of architecture by holding themselves out as being licensed in Oregon. The Oregon Board of Architect Examiners (board) petitioned for certiorari review of the Court of Appeals decision to reverse in part the board’s determination that respondents (the Washington firm Twist Architecture & Design, Inc., and its principals, Callison and Hansen), engaged in the unlawful practice of architecture and unlawfully represented themselves as architects. The board argued respondents, who were not licensed to practice architecture in Oregon, engaged in the “practice of architecture” when they prepared master plans depicting the size, shape, and placement of buildings on specific properties in conformance with applicable laws and regulations for a client that was contemplating the construction of commercial projects. The board further argued that respondents’ use of the term “architecture” in the logo on those master plans and the phrase “Licensed in the State of Oregon (pending)” on their website violated the law prohibiting unlicensed individuals from representing themselves as architects or indicating that they were practicing architecture. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the board, reversed the Court of Appeals, and affirmed the board's order. View "Twist Architecture v. Board of Architect Examiners" on Justia Law
Goodwin v. Kingsmen Plastering, Inc.
This case required the Oregon Supreme Court's interpretation of ORS 12.135(1)(a). ORS 12.135(1)(a) provided that an action arising from the “construction, alteration or repair of any improvement to real property” must be commenced within “[t]he applicable period of limitation otherwise established by law.” The question in this construction defect case was precisely what is the period of limitation “otherwise established by law.” Plaintiffs argued their action was subject to a six-year statute of limitations set out in ORS 12.080(3). Defendant argued that the action was not for injury to an “interest” in real property, but for damage to the property itself, which is governed by a shorter, two-year statute of limitations described in ORS 12.110(1) that applied to tort actions generally. The trial court agreed with plaintiffs that the six year-limitation period applied, but granted summary judgment for defendant on the ground that plaintiffs brought their action more than six years after the construction was completed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that, although the six-year statute applied, a “discovery rule” applied, there remained an issue of fact as to whether plaintiffs initiated their action within six years from the time that they knew or should have known of the injury that formed the basis for their claim. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that plaintiffs’ action was subject to the six-year statute: that statute applied to actions for interference with or injury to an “interest” in real property, such as trespass or waste, not to actions for damage to property itself, which are subject to the two-year statute of limitations. There remained, however, a question of fact as to when plaintiffs discovered the damage to their property, which would have triggered the two-year statute of limitations. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the Court of Appeals with regard to summary judgment, and remanded for for further proceedings. View "Goodwin v. Kingsmen Plastering, Inc." on Justia Law
Shell v. Schollander Companies, Inc.
Defendant was a general contractor that builds “spec” houses (houses built without pre-existing construction contracts in anticipation of eventual sale to the public). On May 30, 2000, defendant and plaintiff entered into a purchase and sale agreement for a house. Although most of the construction had been completed, the agreement specified that defendant would make changes to the interior of the house. Specifically, defendant agreed to upgrade some of the flooring, install an air conditioning unit, and install a gas dryer in the laundry room. After defendant made those changes and the parties conducted a walk-through inspection, the sale closed on July 12, 2000. The primary question in this construction defect case was which of two statutes of repose applied when a buyer enters into a purchase and sale agreement to buy an existing home. Although each statute provided for a 10-year period of repose, the two periods of repose ran from different dates. One runs from “the date of the act or omission complained of;” the other ran from the date that construction is “substantial[ly] complet[e].” In this case, the trial court found that plaintiff filed her action more than 10 years after “the date of the act or omission complained of” but less than 10 years after the construction was “substantial[ly] complet[e].” The trial court ruled that the first statute, ORS 12.115(1), applied and accordingly entered judgment in defendant’s favor. The Court of Appeals affirmed. After review of the parties' arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court found no reversible error in the Court of Appeals' decision and affirmed. View "Shell v. Schollander Companies, Inc." on Justia Law
Assoc. Unit Owners of Timbercrest Condo v. Warren
In this construction defect case, defendant moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion. Plaintiff then filed a "motion for reconsideration" of the summary judgment ruling. The court meanwhile entered judgment, and plaintiff filed a notice of appeal. When the trial court later denied the motion for reconsideration, plaintiff did not file a new notice of appeal. The question in this case was whether plaintiff needed to do so. Defendant argued that, because a motion for reconsideration constitutes a motion for new trial, its filing rendered plaintiff's earlier notice of appeal premature and, as a consequence, a nullity. Plaintiff argued that the motion for reconsideration did not constitute a motion for a new trial and thus had no effect on the filing of the notice of appeal. The Court of Appeals concluded that, under "Carter v. U.S. National Bank," (747 P2d 980 (1987)), a motion for reconsideration constitutes a motion for a new trial. Nevertheless, the court held that the filing of the motion did not have the effect of rendering the appeal a nullity. Consequently, the court concluded that plaintiff was not required to file a new notice of appeal. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that "Carter" and earlier decisions declaring that a motion for reconsideration of a summary judgment constitutes a motion for a new trial were incorrectly decided. In this case, plaintiff's filing of the motion for reconsideration of the summary judgment did not render the filing of the notice of appeal premature. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals on different grounds. View "Assoc. Unit Owners of Timbercrest Condo v. Warren" on Justia Law
Stuart v. Pittman
Plaintiff John Stuart decided to build a new house on a small farm. He contacted his insurance agent of nineteen years, Defendant Ronald Pittman for "course-of-construction" insurance to cover any problems in the course of building his house. Mr. Pittman discussed the scope of coverage that the policy would provide. Relying on Mr. Pittman's oral assurance of what the policy would cover, Plaintiff agreed to it. Construction started in 2003. Plaintiff received a premium statement, but not a written copy of the policy. An ice storm struck Plaintiff's building project. Plaintiff contacted Mr. Pittman to initiate an insurance claim. Mr. Pittman told Plaintiff that damage should be covered by the policy. In 2004, Plaintiff received a declaration page from Country Mutual Insurance Company, and found that damage to his house was not covered. Plaintiff brought an action against both Mr. Pittman and the Insurance Company alleging breach of the oral "policy" that he and Mr. Pittman agreed to at the onset of the building project. At the conclusion of the trial's evidentiary phase, Defendant moved for a directed verdict, arguing that Plaintiff failed to prove that the oral insurance binder covered his project. The trial court denied the motion, and the jury would later rule in favor of Plaintiff. The verdict was overturned on appeal. The court held that there was no evidence from which a jury could have found in favor of Plaintiff. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Plaintiff argued that the appellate court misinterpreted the Oregon law that required him to prove that the oral binder superseded the "usual exclusions" of the written policy. The Supreme Court found that the written policy was, as a matter of law, deemed to include all terms of the oral binder. Accordingly, the Court reversed the appellate court's decision and affirmed the judgment of the trial court.