Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama

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Plaintiffs David and Lisa McDaniel petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Shelby Circuit Court to vacate its order staying the proceedings against defendants Southern Craftsman Custom Homes, Inc. ("SCCH"); Jeffrey Rusert; Larry Curry, Sr.; SouthFirst Bancshares, Inc., d/b/a SouthFirst Bank ("SouthFirst"); Mari Gunnels; and Danny Keeney. At the time of this opinion, Rusert was awaiting the outcome of a federal criminal investigation against him. In 2017, the McDaniels contacted Rusert for the purpose of entering into an agreement with SCCH to build a house. According to the McDaniels, Rusert represented himself as the president of SCCH. At some point, Rusert recommended that the McDaniels speak with Gunnels, who worked for SouthFirst, to secure a loan to pay for the construction of the new house. In November 2017, with Gunnels's assistance, the McDaniels began the process of applying for a construction loan with SouthFirst. The loan closing occurred on January 26, 2018. The McDaniels executed, among other agreements, a written construction-loan agreement, a promissory note, and a construction-loan disbursement agreement. The McDaniels met with Rusert to discuss some concerns they had with the ongoing construction. During that meeting, Rusert provided the McDaniels with a credit application from a local building-supply company and asked them to execute it so that, he said, he could use the McDaniels' credit to purchase building materials and supplies. The McDaniels learned that the company refused to do business with SCCH, Rusert, and Curry because all three had purportedly failed to pay significant amounts owed the company. The McDaniels immediately contacted Gunnels and placed a "stop-payment" order on the most recent draw request from SCCH and Rusert. Thereafter, the McDaniels sued SCCH, Rusert, Curry, SouthFirst, Gunnels, and Keeney. In their complaint, the McDaniels sought damages for negligence, suppression, fraudulent misrepresentation, civil conspiracy, conversion, and the infliction of emotional distress. The McDaniels further alleged breach-of-contract claims against SouthFirst, SCCH, Rusert, and Curry, as well as a claim of breach of fiduciary duties against SouthFirst. Finally, the McDaniels sought a judgment against SouthFirst, Gunnels, and Keeney declaring the loan agreement and mortgage void. Rusert and SCCH moved to stay the civil proceedings against them pending the outcome of a federal criminal investigation against Rusert, which the trial court granted. The Alabama Supreme Court determined, however, the McDaniels established a clear legal right to relief from the trial court's order. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to vacate its order staying the underlying case. View "Ex parte David and Lisa McDaniel." on Justia Law

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Defendant Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company ("Nationwide") appealed a judgment entered in favor of plaintiff The David Group, Inc. ("TDG"), which held TDG was entitled to coverage and indemnification under a commercial general- liability ("CGL") insurance policy issued by Nationwide. Under the terms of that CGL policy, Nationwide agreed to "pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of 'bodily injury' or 'property damage' to which this insurance applies." According to the policy, its coverage applied to "bodily injury" and "property damage" only if "[t]he 'bodily injury' or 'property damage' is caused by an 'occurrence.'" In October 2006, while TDG's CGL policy with Nationwide was in effect, Saurin and Valerie Shah purchased a newly built house from TDG. After they moved in, the Shahs began experiencing problems with their new house. Despite TDG's efforts at correcting the problems, however, in February 2008, the Shahs sued TDG. Although Nationwide initially defended TDG against the Shahs' action, Nationwide withdrew its defense after conducting its own investigation into the Shahs' allegations. It concluded that it had no duty either to defend or to indemnify TDG because, according to Nationwide, the damage the Shahs complained of did not constitute an "occurrence" so as to trigger coverage under the CGL policy. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in finding that TDG was entitled to coverage and indemnification under its CGL policy with Nationwide. Thus, the Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company v. The David Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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Jessie and Rickey Castleberry appealed a circuit court order dismissing their claims against Angie's List, Inc., based on a forum-selection clause in a contract between Angie's List and the Castleberrys. The Castleberrys, who are father and son, became members of Angie's List in 2014. They claim that they used their membership with Angie's List to locate a contractor, Dream Baths of Alabama, LLC ("Dream Baths"), which the Castleberrys hired to renovate a bathroom in Jessie Castleberry's house to make it handicapped accessible. According to the Castleberrys, Dream Baths was not properly licensed and poorly performed the work it contracted to do. The Alabama Supreme Court found the Castleberrys simply pointed out in the argument section of their brief that, in addition to suing Angie's List, they also sued Dream Baths. They asserted that "[t]his action pertains not only to the agreement between the Castleberrys and Angie's List, but to improper work performed upon a home located in Montgomery County, Alabama by defendant Dream Baths." The Castleberrys provided no significant discussion of the specific claims against Dream Baths and Angie's List. To the Supreme Court, it appealred that the Castleberrys' claims against Angie's List and Dream Baths were based on different categories of wrongdoing that were only tangentially related. The trial court, therefore, did not err in enforcing the forum-selection clause simply because the Castleberrys also sued Dream Baths. View "Castleberry v. Angie's List, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Alvin and Diane Bhones sought a writ of mandamus to direct the circuit court to vacate its order setting aside a default judgment entered in their favor against Travis Peete and Beech Brook Companies, LLC. In 2015, the Bhoneses sued Beech Brook and Peete, the sole member of Beech Brook, based on their allegedly defective construction of the Bhoneses' new home. The complaint stated claims of breach of contract, breach of warranty, fraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, and negligence. The complaint was served on defendants on February 19, 2015, but they did not file an answer. On March 13, 2018, the Bhoneses moved for a default judgment. On March 21, 2018, the trial court entered a default judgment in favor of the Bhoneses. The Alabama Supreme Court found that because defendants did not present evidence to support their allegations that they had a meritorious defense and that the Bhoneses would not be unduly prejudiced if the default judgment was set aside, defendants failed to satisfy their initial burden of alleging and demonstrating the existence of all the Kirtland v. Fort Morgan Authority Sewer Service, Inc., 524 So. 2d 600 (Ala. 1988) factors. Therefore, defendants were not entitled to have the default judgment set aside and that the trial court exceeded its discretion in setting aside the default judgment. View "Ex parte Alvin Bhones and Diane Bhones." on Justia Law

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Consolidated Pipe filed the underlying action against The Ohio Casualty Insurance Company ("Ohio Casualty"), Bolt Construction & Excavating, LLC ("Bolt Construction"), and Michael Bolt (collectively, defendants). The West Morgan East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority ("the Water Authority") contracted with Bolt Construction to perform a public work known as "the Vaughn Bridge Road Water Line Relocation Project No. 14018.00" ("the project"). In the course of performing its contract with the Water Authority, Bolt Construction entered into a contract with Consolidated Pipe pursuant to which Consolidated Pipe was to supply materials for use in the project. Bolt executed a guaranty in conjunction with the contract with Consolidated Pipe in which he agreed to unconditionally and personally guarantee full and prompt payment of all sums owed to Consolidated Pipe by Bolt Construction in the event Bolt Construction failed to pay the contracted-for amount. In its complaint, Consolidated Pipe alleged Bolt Construction failed to pay Consolidated Pipe for the materials it furnished to Bolt Construction for the project. At issue in this case was venue: the Alabama Supreme Court determined that based on a forum-selection clause, the only proper venue for this action was Morgan County. Therefore, the circuit court erred by granting the motion to transfer. Accordingly, the Court granted Consolidated Pipe's petition for mandamus relief, and directed the Morgan Circuit Court to vacate its order transferring this case to Jackson County. View "Ex parte Consolidated Pipe & Supply Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2015, RPM Cranes and its owner Muhammad Wasim Ali sued the defendants CraneWorks, Inc. and its owners, David Upton ("David") and Steve Upton ("Steve"), and Russell Brooks, Rick Yates, and Casey Markos, alleging that Brooks, Yates, and Markos had violated their employment agreements by going to work for CraneWorks and that CraneWorks' hiring of Brooks, Yates, and Markos likewise violated those employment agreements. David and Steve were named as defendants by virtue of their ownership of CraneWorks. RPM and Ali sought monetary damages and injunctive relief. The trial court entered a permanent injunction in favor of RPM and Ali and against the defendants. The Alabama Supreme Court found the injunction at issue in defendants' appeal was not specific in its scope: the order stated that the defendants were "permanently restrained and enjoined from contacting, in any way, whatsoever, any of those clients which are now clients of RPM Cranes." The order failed, however, to specify which clients were included in the injunction. RPM and Ali introduced no evidence as to who RPM's clients were or whether it had developed any clients of its own that Yates and Brooks did not bring onboard as a result of their previous jobs with other entities. In other words, the injunction was broad and vague rather than "specific in [its] terms." The Court reversed the trial court's order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Brooks v. RPM Cranes, LLC" on Justia Law

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Rainbow Cinemas, LLC ("Rainbow"), Ambarish Keshani, and Harshit Thakker (collectively, "the defendants") appealed a circuit court order denying their motion to compel arbitration of a contract dispute with Consolidated Construction Company of Alabama ("CCC"). In the contract at issue here, CCC agreed to provide specified services in constructing a movie theater for Rainbow. The parties signed the American Institute of Architects "Document A101-2007 -- Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor where the basis of payment is a Stipulated Sum" ("the agreement"). The agreement incorporated by reference American Institute of Architects "Document A201-2007 -- General Conditions of the Contract for Construction" ("the general conditions"). In 2016, after having already initiated the arbitration process, CCC sued the defendants. Among other things, CCC alleged that the defendants had fraudulently induced it into entering into the contract. Specifically, CCC alleged that the defendants knew that the contract required an initial decision maker and that the defendants also "knew they had not contracted for [initial-decision-maker] services from the [initial decision maker]." CCC alleged that the defendants "failed to inform CCC ... that Rainbow had not contracted with [architect Hay] Buchanan to act as [the initial decision maker]." The Alabama Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding that the contract incorporated the AAA's Construction Industry Arbitration Rules, which state that "[t]he arbitrator shall have the power to rule on his or her own jurisdiction, including any objections with respect to the existence, scope, or validity of the arbitration agreement." Although the question whether an arbitration provision may be used to compel arbitration between a signatory and a nonsignatory is a threshold question of arbitrability usually decided by the court, here that question was delegated to the arbitrator. The arbitrator, not the court, had to decide that threshold issue. View "Rainbow Cinemas, LLC v. Consolidated Construction Company of Alabama" on Justia Law

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Aliant Bank, a division of USAmeribank ("Aliant"), sued various individuals and business entities involved in a failed effort to develop the Twelve Oaks subdivision in Odenville, alleging that, as a result of those defendants' conspiracy and wrongful actions, Aliant's security interest in the property upon which the Twelve Oaks subdivision was to be built had been rendered worthless. The Circuit Court ultimately entered a number of orders either dismissing Aliant's claims or entering a summary judgment in favor of the various defendants. Aliant filed three appeals. In appeal no. 1150822, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed summary judgment against Aliant: (1) on the negligence and breach-of-fiduciary duty claims asserted against the Board members in count four of Aliant's complaint; (2) on the fraudulent-misrepresentation and fraudulent-suppression claims asserted against Bobby Smith and Twelve Oaks Properties in count seven of Aliant's complaint; and (3) on the conspiracy claims asserted against Smith, Twelve Oaks Properties, Four Star Investments, Mize, and Billy Smith in count seven of Aliant's complaint. The Court affirmed summary judgment against Aliant and in favor of the various Twelve Oaks defendants in all other respects. In appeal no. 1150823, the Court reversed the summary judgments entered against Aliant on the fraudulent misrepresentation and conspiracy claims asserted against Pfil Hunt, and his management company Wrathell, Hunt & Associates, LLC, in count seven of Aliant's complaint; however, the Court affirmed those summary judgments with regard to all other claims asserted by Aliant against Hunt and WHA. Finally, in appeal no. 1150824, the Court affirmed summary judgment against Aliant and in favor of the Engineers of the South, LLC defendants on all counts. View "Aliant Bank v. Four Star Investments, Inc." on Justia Law

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Kiva Lodge Condominium Owners' Association, Inc. ("Kiva Lodge") was an Alabama nonprofit corporation formed for the purpose of administering and maintaining the Kiva Dunes Clubhouse and Condominium ("Kiva Dunes") located in Gulf Shores. In 2009, Kiva Lodge contracted with Hudak & Dawson Construction Co., Inc. ("Hudak") to be the general contractor for the remediation of deficiencies in Kiva Dunes buildings that were allowing water to enter the buildings. Hudak subcontracted the stucco and/or sealant portion of the work to Don Colvin d/b/a Colvin Plastering ("Colvin"). The Hanover Insurance Company ("Hanover"), as surety for Hudak, issued to Kiva Lodge a performance bond ensuring and/or securing the full performance of Hudak's contractual obligations. In September 2012, Kiva Lodge informed Hudak and Colvin of leaks and bubbling in the stucco exterior of the buildings at Kiva Dunes caused by water intrusion. Kiva Lodge alleged that Hudak and Colvin failed to determine and/or disclose the course of the problems and the proper scope of repairs necessary. It also alleged that Hanover breached the terms of its performance bond by failing to promptly remedy the default, complete the work within the scope of the contract in accordance with the terms and conditions, or arrange for payment of an alternative contractor to complete the work. Hanover filed a motion to dismiss Kiva Lodge's claims against Hanover on the ground that, under its performance bond, its claims were time-barred, falling outside of a two-year statute of limitations. In 2015, the circuit court heard arguments concerning Kiva Lodge's motion to compel arbitration, eventually granting the stay and ordering the parties to arbitration. The court also denied Hanover's motion to dismiss. Hudak, Colvin, and Hanover timely appealed the circuit court's order. After review, the Supreme Court found no reversible error in the trial court's order and affirmed. View "Hanover Insurance Co. v. Kiva Lodge Condominium Owners' Association, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hoover General Contractors – Homewood, Inc. ("HGCH"), appealed a circuit court order denying its motion to compel arbitration of its dispute with Gary Key regarding work performed by HGCH on Key's house in Jasper after that house was damaged by a fire. Six months after Key sued HGCH asserting claims stemming from HGCH's work rebuilding Key's house after a fire, HGCH moved the trial court to compel Key to arbitrate those claims pursuant to an arbitration clause in the contract Key had entered into with HGCH. The trial court denied HGCH's motion to compel; however, that denial was error because Key failed to establish through substantial evidence that HGCH had waived its right to arbitration by substantially invoking the litigation process. Accordingly, the order entered by the trial court denying HGCH's motion to compel arbitration was reversed by the Supreme Court and the case remanded for the trial court to enter a new order compelling Key to arbitrate his claims ursuant to the terms of his contract with HGCH. View "Hoover General Contractors - Homewood, Inc. v. Key" on Justia Law