Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

by
The State of Michigan contracted with E.L. Bailey to construct a prison kitchen. After delays, the parties sued each other for breach of contract. Bailey had obtained surety bonds from Great American Insurance Company (GAIC) and had agreed to assign GAIC the right to settle claims related to the project if Bailey allegedly breached the contract. Exercising that right, GAIC negotiated with the state without Bailey’s knowledge, then obtained a declaratory judgment recognizing its right to settle. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting, for insufficient evidence, a claim that GAIC settled Bailey’s claims against the state in bad faith. Although “there can be bad faith without actual dishonesty or fraud,” when “the insurer is motivated by selfish purpose or by a desire to protect its own interests at the expense of its insured’s interest,” “offers of compromise” or “honest errors of judgment are not sufficient to establish bad faith.” There was no evidence that GAIC’s settlement of Bailey’s claims was undertaken with selfish purpose at Bailey’s expense. GAIC and Bailey shared an interest in securing the highest settlement possible from the state. Even if GAIC misunderstood Michigan law, leading it to miscalculate its liability and accept a lower settlement, “honest errors of judgment are not sufficient to establish bad faith.” View "Great American Insurance Co. v. E.L. Bailey & Co." on Justia Law

by
The Tennessee Department of Transportation engaged Mountain States to build two bridges over the Cumberland River at its intersection with Highway 109 in Gallatin. On May 21, 2013, the boom cable of a Terex HC 165 crane snapped while the crane operator was excavating material from under water, causing the boom—the extendable overhead arm of the crane controlled by the load-bearing wire boom cable—to collapse onto the adjacent highway. As the cable broke under tension, it whipped back to shatter the windows of the crane operator’s cab and the boom hit a passing vehicle. Though no person was injured, the subsequent OSHA investigation determined that at least four people were exposed to risk as a result of the accident. An Administrative Law Judge determined that Mountain States had committed a willful violation of the wire rope inspection standard of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act because, before the accident, Mountain States had knowledge that the boom cable had “visible broken wires” within the meaning of the provision requiring repair or replacement before further use. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the citation and penalty, finding substantial evidence to support findings of constructive and actual knowledge. View "Mountain States Contractors, LLC v. Perez" on Justia Law

by
Baker, an Ohio concrete construction business, subcontracts its work to smaller firms. In 2000, Baker signed a multi-employer collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the Reinforced Concrete Contractors Association and the Union, covering current employees and employees not yet hired. A prehire CBA is allowed only in the construction industry, 29 U.S.C. 158(f). The CBA renewed automatically. On January 25, 2013, Baker sent the Union a letter, asserting: “Baker’s notice of its intent to terminate the Agreement, including any subsequent successor agreements.” The Union responded: "notice of withdrawal should be made not more than 60 days prior to the termination of the Agreement. The Agreement is in effect … until May 31, 2015, therefore your request was untimely." Baker reiterated that none of its employees perform work covered by the Agreement and that none had performed bargaining unit work covered by the Agreement for at least seven years. The Union filed a grievance. Baker stated that it did not recognize the arbitrator’s authority, but would appear to preserve its position. The arbitrator found Baker in violation of the CBA. The district court vacated the award. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, adopting the single-employee-unit rule; an employer may repudiate statutory and contractual obligations when the employer does not employ anyone within the relevant bargaining unit. View "Baker Concrete Constr., Inc. v. Reinforced Concrete Contractors Ass'n" on Justia Law

by
Over the course of seven years, Circle C, a contractor that built 42 warehouses at Fort Campbell Army base, paid some electricians about $9,900 less than the Davis-Bacon (40 U.S.C. 3142) wages specified in its contract with the Army. The government obtained a damages award of $763,000 under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729, arguing that all of the electrical work was “tainted” by the $9,900 underpayment and, therefore, worthless. The Sixth Circuit, reversed the damage award and remanded for entry of an award of $14,748. Actual damages are the difference in value between what the government bargained for and what the government received. The government bargained for the buildings and payment of Davis-Bacon wages. It got the buildings but not quite all of the wages. The shortfall was $9,916--the government’s actual damages. That amount tripled is $29,748 (31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(G)). Minus a $15,000 settlement payment, Circle C is liable for a total of $14,748. View "Wall v. Circle C Constr., LLC" on Justia Law