Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
James Construction Group, LLC v. Westlake Chemical Corp.
In this case arising out of a construction contract dispute involving competing claims of breach between the owner and the contractor, the Supreme Court reversed in part the court of appeals' judgment affirming the portion of the trial court's judgment awarding damages to the owner but reversing as to the contractor, holding that the judgment awarding certain expenses to the owner could not stand.The jury found that both the owner and the contractor breached the contract and awarded damages as to both parties. At issue was whether the owner's entitlement to recover contract damages associated with a termination of the contractor for default hinged on strict compliance with the written-notice conditions precedent to such recovery, whether sufficient evidence supported the jury's finding of compliance, and whether a contractual provision governing consequential damages was liability waiver or a covenant not to sue. The Supreme Court held (1) when a contract mandates written notice, a writing is a necessary part of complying with contractual notice conditions, substantially or otherwise; (2) because the owner failed to provide the requisite written notices to be entitled to recover expenses associated with a termination for default, the judgment awarding them to the owner could not stand; and (3) the contract did not contain a covenant not to sue for consequential damages. View "James Construction Group, LLC v. Westlake Chemical Corp." 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
FieldTurf USA, Inc. v. Pleasant Grove Independent School District
The Supreme Court reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's summary judgment in this case involving a school district's breach of warranty claims against a general contractor and an artificial-field-turf manufacturer, holding that the court of appeals erred.The Supreme Court reversed in part and reinstated the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the contractor, holding (1) a trial court’s on-the-record, oral ruling sustaining an objection to summary judgment evidence suffices to strike the evidence from the summary judgment record when the ruling is not reduced to a written order; and (2) the court of appeals erred in reversing the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the contractor and remanding the claims against the turf manufacturer for a new trial without addressing the merits of the issues on appeal that could result in rendition of judgment in favor of the manufacturer. View "FieldTurf USA, Inc. v. Pleasant Grove Independent School District" 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
San Antonio River Authority v. Austin Bridge & Road, L.P.
In this construction contract dispute, the Supreme Court held that the San Antonio River Authority possessed the authority to agree to arbitrate claims under Texas Local Government Code Chapter 271 and exercised that authority in the contract and that the judiciary, rather than an arbitrator, retains the duty to decide whether a local government has waived its governmental immunity.The River Authority hired Austin Bridge and Road L.P. for a construction project. The parties agreed to submit any disputes about the contract to arbitration. Austin Bridge invoked the contract's arbitration provisions when disagreements about the scope of work and payment arose. After the arbitrator denied the River Authority's plea of governmental immunity, the River Authority sued Austin Bridge, arguing that it lacked the authority to agree to the contract's arbitration provisions. The trial court concluded that the arbitration provisions in the contract were enforceable. The court of appeals agreed that the River Authority had the authority to agree to arbitrate but concluded that a court, rather than an arbitrator, must decide whether the River Authority was immune from the claims against it. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that chapter 271 waived the River Authority's immunity from suit for Austin Bridge's breach of contract claim. View "San Antonio River Authority v. Austin Bridge & Road, L.P." on Justia Law
Bella Palma, LLC v. Young
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant's appeal of the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Plaintiff and against Defendants for want of jurisdiction, holding that, contrary to the decision of the court of appeals, the trial court's judgment was final and appealable.Plaintiff sued Defendants for declaratory judgment and monetary damages arising from a commercial construction project. The trial court awarded summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff. Despite the trial court's confirmation of its intent to render a final judgment, the court of appeals concluded that no final judgment had been rendered. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred by analyzing the record for evidence of finality after the trial court provided a clear and unequivocal statement that it had intended the appealed-from order to be a final judgment. View "Bella Palma, LLC v. Young" on Justia Law
In re Mobile Mini, Inc.
The Supreme Court conditionally granted Mobile Mini, Inc.'s petition for writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to vacate its order denying Mobile Mini's motion to designate a responsible third party in a construction worker's personal injury suit, holding that the trial court was obligated to grant Mobile Mini's motion to designate a responsible third party under the circumstances of this case.Mobile Mini, the owner of a construction trailer, was sued for injuries Luis Covarrubias received when a wind gust blew the door of the trailer closed on his hand. Mobile Mini filed a motion to designate Nolana Self Storage, LLC, the owner of the construction site, as a responsible third party so a jury could determine whether Nolana caused or contributed to Covarrubias's injury. The trial court denied Mobile Mini's request. The court of appeals denied Mobile Mini's mandamus petition. The Supreme Court conditionally granted the petition and directed the trial court to vacate its order denying Mobile Mini's motion to designate Nolana as a responsible third party, holding that Mobile Mini's discovery response disclosing Nolana as a potentially responsible third party was timely even though it was served after the statute of limitations had expired on Covarrubias's tort claims. View "In re Mobile Mini, Inc." on Justia Law
Dudley Construction, Ltd. v. ACT Pipe & Supply, Inc.
In this billing dispute between a general contractor, Dudley Construction, Ltd., and a pipe supplier, ACT Pipe and Supply, Inc., the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals in part and reversed it in part, holding (1) in defending a favorable judgment notwithstanding the jury’s verdict, ACT successfully raised a “cross-point” in the court of appeals that preserved an alternative argument proscribing the jury’s original verdict, even though ACT did not formally label its argument a “cross-point”; and (2) attorney’s fees are not recoverable for a claim brought under the Texas Construction Trust Fund Act. The Court remanded this case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Dudley Construction, Ltd. v. ACT Pipe & Supply, Inc." on Justia Law
Great American Insurance Co. v. Hamel
Homeowners sued Builder for failing to construct their home in a good and workmanlike manner. Builder’s commercial general liability insurer (Insurer) refused to defend Builder in the suit. Judgment was granted in favor of Homeowners after a trial, and Builder assigned the majority of its claims against Insurer to Homeowners. Homeowners subsequently sought to recover the judgment from Insurer under the applicable policy. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Homeowners. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and, in the interests of justice, remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial, holding (1) the judgment against Builder was not binding on Insurer in this suit because it was not the product of a fully adversarial proceeding; but (2) this insurance litigation may serve to determine Insurer’s liability, although the parties in the case focused on other issues during the trial. View "Great American Insurance Co. v. Hamel" on Justia Law
Centerpoint Builders GP, LLC v. Trussway, Ltd.
Centerpoint Builders was hired as the general contractor to build an apartment complex. Centerpoint contracted with a subcontractor to install wooden roof trusses. Centerpoint purchased the trusses directly from Trussway, Ltd., the truss manufacturer. Merced Fernandez, an independent contractor, was rendered paraplegic when a truss broke while he was walking across it. Fernandez sued several entities, including Centerpoint and Trussway, and eventually settled. Centerpoint filed a cross-action against Trussway alleging that Trussway was required to indemnify Centerpoint for any loss arising from Fernandez’s suit. Trussway filed its own indemnity cross claim against Centerpoint. Centerpoint sought partial summary judgment, arguing that it was a seller under Tex. Civil Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. chapter 82 and was thus entitled to indemnity as a matter of law. Chapter 82 entitles the “seller” of a defective product to indemnity from the product manufacturer for certain losses. The trial court concluded that Centerpoint was a seller under chapter 82. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Centerpoint did not fit the statutory definition of a seller and was therefore not eligible to seek indemnity. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Centerpoint, as the general contractor, was not a “seller” entitled to seek indemnity under chapter 82. View "Centerpoint Builders GP, LLC v. Trussway, Ltd." on Justia Law