Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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Colorado Center Development, LLC, the owner of certain property in Denver, Colorado, hired J.E. Dunn Construction Company to construct an office building (the Project). Colorado Center purchased from Defendant Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company a Builder’s Risk insurance policy (the Policy). The Policy provided protection against “direct physical loss or damage caused by a covered peril to ‘buildings or structures’ while in the course of construction, erection, or fabrication.” J.E. Dunn hired plaintiff Rocky Mountain Prestress, LLC (RMP) as a subcontractor to perform work including “engineer[ing], supply[ing,] and install[ing] all precast concrete components, connections, and erections aids” and “[s]upply[ing] and install[ing] grout and/or patching of all connections required by the engineering for the structural integrity of the precast.” Because of “potential concerns that arose at another project” relating to “sinking pillars/columns,” J.E. Dunn requested RMP to retain a third-party engineering firm to investigate “potential structural issues” with RMP’s work on the Project. The engineering firm concluded that the Project required “repairs to insufficiently grouted joints between precast concrete column and pilaster elements” at 264 locations throughout the structure. The engineering firm began its investigation in August 2016, and the final grouting repair work was completed in February 2017. In the meantime, in November 2016, RMP submitted a claim to Liberty seeking coverage under the Policy. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurance company on three independent grounds: (1) RMP had not shown that the claimed loss was fortuitous; (2) the claimed loss did not constitute “direct physical loss or damage” as required for coverage under the policy; and (3) even if there might otherwise have been coverage, the claimed loss fell within the policy’s exclusion for defective workmanship. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision based on the defective-workmanship exclusion. View "Rocky Mountain Presstress v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal were commercial general liability policy exclusions that barred coverage for damage to “that particular part” of the property on which an insured is performing operations, or which must be repaired or replaced due to the insured’s incorrect work. The Tenth Circuit concluded the phrase “that particular part” was susceptible to more than one reasonable construction: it could refer to the distinct component upon which an insured works or to all parts ultimately impacted by that work. The Court surmised the contract had to then be interpreted consistent with the mutual intent of the parties, with the ambiguity resolved most favorably to the insured and against the insurance carrier. The Court adopted the narrower interpretation of the phrase “that particular part,” under which the exclusion extends only to the distinct components upon which work was performed. This conclusion was contrary to the district court's interpretation, and therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "MTI v. Employers Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether Aspen Insurance (UK) Ltd. And Lloyd’s Syndicate 2003 (collectively, “Aspen”) had to reimburse Black & Veatch Corporation (“B&V”) for costs B&V incurred due to damaged equipment a subcontractor made for power plants in Ohio and Indiana. The district court held Aspen did not have to pay B&V’s claim under its commercial general liability (“CGL”) insurance policy because B&V’s expenses arose from property damages that were not covered “occurrences” under the Policy. Because the only damages involved here were to B&V’s own work product arising from its subcontractor’s faulty workmanship, the court concluded that the Policy did not provide coverage and granted Aspen’s motion for partial summary judgment. B&V appealed. The Tenth Circuit found that the Policy contained a choice-of-law clause, making the Policy subject to New York law. The Court also found a trend among state supreme courts that supported the contention that construction defects could constitute “occurrences” under CGL policies, and that contractors have coverage for the unexpected damage caused by defective workmanship done by subcontractors. The Tenth Circuit predicted the New York Court of Appeals would decide that the damages here constituted an “occurrence” under the Policy, and as such, vacated the district court’s summary judgment decision and remand for further proceedings. View "Black & Veatch Corp. v. Aspen Insurance" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Wichita and affiliated tribes made plans to build a History Center on a plot of land held by the federal government in trust for the Wichita Tribe, Delaware Nation, and Caddo Nation jointly. One of those neighbors, the Caddo Nation, claimed the land may contain remains of ancestral relatives. Before the Wichita Tribe began construction, Caddo Nation sued the Wichita Tribe for allegedly violating the procedures required by the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) throughout the planning process. Caddo Nation sought an emergency temporary restraining order preventing Wichita Tribe from continuing construction until it complied with those procedures. When the district court denied that request, Caddo Nation appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals without seeking further preliminary relief. In the intervening year while the case was on appeal with the Tenth Circuit, Wichita Tribe completed construction of the History Center. The Tenth Circuit concluded it had no jurisdiction over this appeal because the relief Caddo Nation requested from the district court was moot. View "Caddo Nation of Oklahoma v. Wichita & Affiliated Tribes" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a grant of summary judgment against Plaintiff-Appellant Parker Excavating, Inc. (“PEI”) on its civil rights claim against Defendants-Appellees Lafarge West, Inc. (“Lafarge”), Martin Marietta Minerals, Inc. (“MMM”), and Nick Guerra, an employee of Lafarge and MMM. Lafarge, a construction company, was the primary contractor on a paving project for Pueblo County, Colorado (“the County”). PEI, a Native American-owned construction company, was a subcontractor for Lafarge. MMM replaced Lafarge as the primary contractor. PEI’s participation in the project was terminated before it entered into a new subcontract with MMM. PEI alleged Lafarge retaliated against it with a letter of reprimand and a demand to sign letters of apology after PEI Vice President Greg Parker complained that County employees discriminated against PEI on the basis of its Native American ownership. In separate orders, the district court granted summary judgment on PEI’s 42 U.S.C 1981 retaliation claim to: (1) MMM and Guerra, because PEI could not show its opposition to County employees’ discrimination was “protected” opposition under section 1981; and (2) Lafarge, because PEI could not show Lafarge took an adverse action against it. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Parker Excavating v. LaFarge West" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Ralph Rogerson, a licensed pest-control applicator in Kansas, challenged a regulation of the Kansas Department of Agriculture on the ground that it required excessive pesticide treatment in preconstruction applications. He filed suit for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Secretary of the Department, claiming that the regulation: (1) was preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) because it conflicted with pesticide labels approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and (2) was preempted by the Sherman Antitrust Act because it limited consumer choice and competition through retail price maintenance. The United States District Court for the District of Kansas rejected both claims, and Plaintiff appealed. The Tenth Circuit affirmed: the Kansas regulation was neither expressly nor impliedly preempted by FIFRA. And Plaintiff conceded the absence of an essential element of his Sherman Act claim. View "Schoenhofer v. McClaskey" on Justia Law