Articles Posted in Vermont Supreme Court

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In 2001, plaintiffs Margaret and John Abajian hired architectural firm TruexCullins, Inc., to design additions to their home. Plaintiffs hired Thermal Efficiency Construction, Ltd. (TEC) to serve as the general contractor for the project. TEC contracted with Murphy’s Metals, Inc. to do the roofing work. The roof was installed during the winter of 2001-2002. Plaintiffs had experienced problems with ice damming on their old roof, which was shingled. Defendants recommended that plaintiffs install a metal roof to alleviate the problem. Plaintiffs accepted the suggestion, hoping that the metal roof would result in fewer ice dams. Mr. Abajian testified in his deposition that he “thought that the metal roof was going to eliminate” the ice damming. In 2014, after the roof turned out to be defective, plaintiffs sued the architecture and construction firms that designed and installed the roof for negligence and breach of contract. The trial court granted summary judgment to defendants on the ground that the action was barred by the statute of limitations. Finding no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment to defendants, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Abajian v. TruexCullins, Inc." on Justia Law

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Several carpenters, including one single-member LLC, an installer of cement siding, and a painter contended they were employees of Bourbeau Custom Homes, Inc. for the purposes of Vermont’s unemployment compensation system. Bourbeau challenged that classification, contending that it was not liable for unemployment taxes on monies paid to a carpenter operating as a single-member LLC because an LLC was not an “individual” under the unemployment tax statute and therefore not subject to the ABC test established by 21 V.S.A. 1301(6)(B). Second, Bourbeau argued the Employment Security Board erred in applying the ABC test with respect to all of the workers whose remuneration is the subject of this appeal. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed with Bourbeau on the first point and held that an LLC was not an “individual” for the purposes of assessing unemployment taxes. However, the Court affirmed the Board’s determination that the remaining four individuals were employees for purposes of Vermont’s unemployment compensation system. View "In re Bourbeau Custom Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants-counterclaimants Jeanmarie Leonard and Carol Sayour appealed the grant of summary judgment on their counterclaims in favor of plaintiff Jennifer Weinstein and third-party defendants, Lloyd Weinstein, plaintiff’s husband, and his law firm, The Weinstein Group, P.C. This case started in an application for a permit to construct a barn made by defendants in May 2012. Defendants received a zoning permit from Manchester’s zoning administrator allowing them to construct a barn on Lot #10. Pursuant to the Declaration for Rocking Stone Farm, defendants received a waiver from the Homeowner’s Association. Plaintiff appealed the permit to the Manchester Development Review Board (the “DRB”). The DRB affirmed the grant of the permit. Defendant Leonard and her husband were walking along Lot #10 with a landscape contractor when plaintiff began yelling at them from her upstairs window. Plaintiff then left her home and entered Lot #10, accompanied by a “very large dog.” Despite being asked to leave, she physically confronted the Leonards, who eventually left the lot. Two days later, plaintiff filed an appeal of the DRB’s decision to the Environmental Division of the Superior Court. Plaintiff, a trained attorney, initially represented herself, but Mr. Weinstein and his law firm, The Weinstein Group, P.C., entered an appearance as counsel for her. Both the Association and counsel for defendants advised plaintiff by letter that her opposition to the barn permit constituted a violation of the Non-Interference Clause of the Declaration, which provided that each owner of a lot in Rocking Stone Farm agreed “not [to] take any action to contest or interfere with any development in the Community so long as such development is consistent with the Land Use Approvals.” The Environmental Division rendered judgment in favor of defendants. Plaintiff appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff also filed suit against defendants in superior court with a ten-count complaint, alleging, among other things, that the Declaration had been breached by defendants’ construction of the barn. Defendants filed counterclaims against plaintiff for trespass, civil assault, breach of contract, tortious invasion of privacy, as well as abuse of process and third-party claims against Mr. Weinstein and his law firm for abuse of process and breach of contract. Finding no reason to disturb the trial court’s grant of summary judgment as it did in plaintiff’s favor, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Weinstein v. Leonard" on Justia Law

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This litigation arose from the construction of a 143-unit condominium complex. Plaintiff Long Trail House Condominium Association appealed a trial court’s order granting summary judgment to defendant general contractor Engelberth Construction, Inc. on its complaint. The Association argued that the court erred in: (1) applying the economic loss rule to bar its negligence claim; and (2) dismissing its breach of implied warranty claim. Upon review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court affirmed, finding no error in the trial court's decision. View "Long Trail House Condominium Assoc. v. Engelberth Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case concerns a construction contract dispute between contractor Trombly Plumbing & Heating and homeowners Edward Quinn, Thomas Quinn, and Regina Gority ("Homeowners"). In the summer of 2007, Trombly and the Homeowners agreed that Trombly would perform services relating to the heating and hot water systems of Homeowners' residential vacation property. Between November 2007 and February 2008, Homeowners experienced a number of problems with the home that they attributed to Trombly's work, such as pipes freezing and furnaces shutting down and leaking.  Trombly brought an initial action for breach of contract and violation of the Prompt Payment Act (9 V.S.A. 4001-4009) seeking the balance due plus the cost of collection.  The Homeowners counterclaimed for breach of contract, negligence, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, and consumer fraud.  They sought actual and punitive damages, as well as litigation costs. The trial court ultimately decided that Trombly could not recover from the Homeowners and the Homeowners could not recover from Trombly, and each party would bear its own costs and fees.  The court found that the Homeowners were not liable to Trombly for anything beyond what they had already paid because the work "was not well done," there were many problems with the work, and the problems were not resolved until another plumber came to fix them.  The court thus found the Homeowners to be the prevailing parties on Trombly's claims because Trombly did not prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence.  As Trombly did not prevail on the merits of the case, the court found there could be no award of attorney's fees.  The court also dismissed all of the Homeowners' counterclaims.  It found that the evidence submitted was insufficient, given that there was no testimony from anyone who did repair work about the problems that had to be corrected or whether the amounts paid for corrective work were fair and reasonable. On appeal, Trombly argued the trial court erred by: (1) improperly placing the burden of proof on contractor with respect to homeowners' defenses and making insufficient findings to support its decision, and (2) improperly applying the "substantially prevailing party" standard under the Prompt Payment Act.  Homeowners cross-appealed, arguing the trial court erred in finding that homeowners were not qualified to offer testimony as to damages for the corrective work performed.  Upon review of the trial record and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision with regard to all issues brought on appeal. View "Trombly Plumbing & Heating v. Quinn" on Justia Law