Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Ries v. JM Custom Homes, LLC
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of a general contractor based on the general contractor's statutory immunity under S.D. Codified Laws 62-3-10, holding that the circuit court properly concluded that workers' compensation was the sole remedy available to Appellant.Plaintiff received a work-related injury at a construction site where his employer was a subcontractor. Plaintiff received workers' compensation benefits from his employer and then filed a negligence claim against the construction project's general contractor. The general contract subsequently amended its answer to assert statutory immunity under section 62-3-10. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the general contractor, concluding that the general contractor remained potentially liable for workers' compensation under S.D. Codified Laws 62-3-10 and, because of the exclusivity provisions of section 62-3-2, workers' compensation was Plaintiff's sole remedy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment for JM. View "Ries v. JM Custom Homes, LLC" on Justia Law
Hancock v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendants' respective motions to dismiss the underlying survivorship and wrongful death action in which Plaintiffs sought damages arising from the death of Kyle Hancock, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.Hancock was working for R.F. Warder when he was buried alive at an excavation site. Warder was an independent contractor hired by the City of Baltimore to perform the excavation work. Because Plaintiffs were barred from bringing negligence claims against Warder, Plaintiffs named as defendants the City and Keith Sutton, who was on site at the time of the accident. The circuit court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) one who hires an independent contractor is not liable to the contractor's employee for injuries caused by the contractor’s negligence in performing the work for which it was hired; and (2) the duty of a contractor or subcontractor on a construction job to exercise due care to provide for the safety of the employees of other contractors or subcontractors is owed with respect to conditions that the contractor or subcontractor creates or over which it exercises control. View "Hancock v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law
Maxim Crane Works, LP v. Zurich American Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court held that the Texas Workers' Compensation Act (TWCA) does not affect the enforceability of an additional-insured provision under the Texas Anti-Indemnity Act (TAIA).A general contractor's employee injured in an accident obtained a negligence judgment in Texas state court against the subcontractor that operated the crane (Berkel) and the company that leased the crane (Maxim). Berkel was an indemnity and Maxim was an indemnity for TAIA purposes because Berkel had provided Maxim with coverage as an additional insured. After the injured worker settled with Maxim, Maxim unsuccessfully sought reimbursement from Berkel's insurer (Zurich). The court of appeals reversed the judgment against Berkel, concluding that Berkel and the injured worker were "statutory co-employees" of the general contractor under the TWCA, and therefore, the TWCA provided the worker's exclusive remedy. In a separate suit in federal court, Maxim and Zurich disputed over whether the additional-insured coverage was enforceable. The Supreme Court answered a certified question by holding that the word "employee" in Tex. Ins. Code 151.103 bears its common meaning, which is not affected by whether the indemnity and injured employee are considered co-employees for purposes of the TWCA. View "Maxim Crane Works, LP v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Fountain v. Fred’s, Inc., et al.
The South Carolina Supreme Court granted review of a court of appeals' decision affirming a trial court's finding that Respondents Fred's, Inc. (Fred's) and Wildevco, LLC (Wildevco) were entitled to equitable indemnification from Petitioner Tippins-Polk Construction, Inc. (Tippins-Polk). Respondent Fred's was a Tennessee corporation that operated a chain of discount general merchandise stores in several states, including South Carolina. Respondent Wildevco is a South Carolina limited liability company that owned a tract of undeveloped commercial property in Williston, South Carolina. In February 2005, Wildevco and Fred's entered into a lease agreement in which Wildevco agreed to construct a 16,000-square-foot commercial space located in Williston, South Carolina, according to Fred's conceptual design specifications. In turn, Fred's agreed to lease the property for ten years. In April 2005, Wildevco entered into a contract with general contractor Tippins-Polk for the construction of the Fred's store and adjoining strip center. Pursuant to the lease agreement between Wildevco and Fred's, Wildevco was the party responsible for "keep[ing] and repair[ing] the exterior of the  Premises, including the parking lot, parking lot lights, entrance and exits, sidewalks, ramps, curbs," and various other exterior elements. Fred's was responsible for maintenance of the interior of the premises. Five years after the Fred's store opened, on a sunny day in March, Martha Fountain went to the Williston Fred's to purchase light bulbs. Her toe caught the sloped portion of the ramp at the entrance of the store, causing her to trip and fall. Fountain sustained serious injuries to her hand, wrist, and arm and has undergone five surgeries to alleviate her pain and injuries. Fountain and her husband filed a premises liability suit against Fred's and Wildevco, alleging Respondents breached their duty to invitees by failing to maintain and inspect the premises and failing to discover and make safe or warn of unreasonable risks. Pertinent to this appeal, Tippins-Polk argued the court of appeals erred in finding a special relationship existed between it and Fred's and in finding Respondents proved they were without fault as to the Fountain premises liability claim. Because the Supreme Court found Respondents failed to establish they were without fault in the underlying action, judgment was reversed. View "Fountain v. Fred's, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Porter v. Knife River, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court that granted summary judgment in favor of highway construction contractors and subcontractors (collectively, contractors) in this action alleging negligent maintenance of a construction site, holding that the contractors were entitled to summary judgment.Officer Curtis Blackbird died on duty when his police cruiser crashed into a parked crane and a portion of Highway 94 that was closed for construction. Plaintiff brought this action against the contractors, alleging negligence. The district court granted summary judgment for the contractors. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no triable issue of fact, and therefore, the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the contractors. View "Porter v. Knife River, Inc." on Justia Law
Rafes v. McMillan
The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court ordering Plaintiff to pay the attorney fees and costs of Defendant, the prevailing party in a construction defect suit initiated by Plaintiff, holding that the district court erred in part.Plaintiff filed an action against Defendants alleging negligence, breach of contract, and other claims. The district court held in favor of Defendants on all of Plaintiffs' claims. The court then awarded attorney fees and costs to Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court erred by determining that Defendant had a reciprocal right to an award of attorney fees under Mont. Code Ann. 70-19-428 and Mont. Code Ann. 28-3-704. View "Rafes v. McMillan" on Justia Law
United Fire & Casualty Co. v. Prate Roofing & Installations LLC
All Seasons inspected SparrowHawk's warehouse roofs and discovered hail damage. Because All Seasons did not hold an Illinois roofing license, it arranged for Prate to serve as general contractor with All Seasons as subcontractor. All Seasons was to provide materials and labor, maintain safety, and supervise the project. All Seasons purchased a commercial general liability policy and general liability extension endorsement from United, listing Prate as an “additional insured” in a “vicarious liability endorsement.” All Seasons then subcontracted with Century. Ayala, a Century employee was working on a SparrowHawk warehouse when he fell to his death.The Illinois workers’ compensation system provided limited death benefits but precluded tort remedies against his direct employer, Century. Ayala’s estate sued Prate, All Seasons, and SparrowHawk. Prate tendered the defense to United, which declined to defend and sought a declaratory judgment. All Seasons and United reached a settlement with the estate, paying the policy limits.The district court granted Prate summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting United’s argument that because its named insured was an independent contractor, Illinois law would not impose any liability on the additional insured and there was no risk of covered liability. The duty to defend depends on the claims the plaintiff asserts, not on their prospects for success. The settlement of the underlying claims against the named insured, however, removed any possibility that the additional insured might be held vicariously liable for actions of the named insured; the duty to defend ended when that settlement was consummated. View "United Fire & Casualty Co. v. Prate Roofing & Installations LLC" on Justia Law
StarNet Insurance Co. v. Ruprecht
Deerfield. the general contractor, subcontracted with P.S. Demolition, which agreed to indemnify and hold Deerfield harmless from all claims caused in whole or in part by P.S. P.S. employees were working at the site when an unsecured capstone fell, killing one and injuring another. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act limited P.S.’s liability to $5,993.91 and $25,229.15. The state court held that P.S. had waived the Kotecki cap that would ordinarily apply those limits to a third party (Deerfield) suing for contribution for its pro-rata share of common liability for a workplace injury. A bankruptcy court determined that P.S. had no assets; the state court determined that P.S.’s liability was limited to its available insurance coverage. Deerfield settled with the plaintiffs for substantially more than $75,000 plus an assignment of Deerfield’s contribution claim against P.S.StarNet, P.S.’s employer liability insurer, entered into a settlement with the plaintiffs, reserving its defenses to insurance coverage. The plaintiffs dismissed their negligence claims against P.S. The workers’ compensation and employers' liability policy issued to P.S. provides that StarNet will pay damages for which P.S. is liable to indemnify third parties, excluding “liability assumed under a contract, including any agreement to waive your right to limit your liability for contribution to the amount of benefits payable under the Workers Compensation Act ... This exclusion does not apply to a warranty that your work will be done in a workmanlike manner.The Seventh Circuit affirmed a declaratory judgment that StarNet owes P.S. no coverage for the employees’ injuries beyond the amounts specified by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and the Kotecki cap. The court rejected arguments that P.S.’s liability in the personal injury action arose in part from P.S.’s failure to conduct the demolition in a workmanlike manner so that the exception applies. View "StarNet Insurance Co. v. Ruprecht" on Justia Law
Peoples Gas System v. Posen Construction, Inc.
The Supreme Court accepted certification of a question about theUnderground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act, Fla. Stat. Chapter 556, and answered that the Act creates a standalone cause of action and that the cause of action sounds in negligence.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified the question of whether a member-operator has a cause of action under Fla. Stat. 556.106(2)(a)-(c) to recover damages or obtain indemnification from an excavator for payments to a third party for personal injuries related to the excavator's alleged violation of the statute. The Supreme Court answered (1) liability under the Act is subject to proof of proximate causation and to the defense of comparative fault; (2) losses recoverable under the Act can include purely economic damages, independent of personal injury or property damage; and (3) the Act does not create a cause of action for statutory indemnity. View "Peoples Gas System v. Posen Construction, Inc." on Justia Law
JLB Builders, LLC v. Hernandez
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that a fact issue existed as to whether a general contractor on a construction project owed a duty of care to its independent contractor's employee who was injured on the job, holding that no genuine issue of material fact existed regarding the existence of a duty.The trial court entered judgment in favor of the general contractor, concluding that there was no evidence to support the negligence elements of duty, breach, and causation. The court of appeals reversed as to the negligence claim, concluding that a fact issue existed regarding whether the contractor exercised actual control and thus owed the employee a duty, whether the contractor breached that duty, and whether the contractor's breach proximately caused the employee's injuries. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the contractor owed the employee no duty as a matter of law. View "JLB Builders, LLC v. Hernandez" on Justia Law