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Charges that constitute compensation for the use of government property are not subject to Proposition 218’s voter approval requirements. To constitute compensation for a property interest, however, the amount of the charge must bear a reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest, and to the extent the charge exceeds any reasonable value of the interest, it is a tax and requires voter approval. Plaintiffs contended that a one percent charge that was separately stated on electricity bills issued by Southern California Edison (SCE) was not compensation for the privilege of using property owned by the City of Santa Barbara but was instead a tax imposed without voter approval, in violation of Proposition 218. The City argued that this separate charge was the fee paid by SCE to the City for the privilege of using City property in connection with the delivery of electricity. The Supreme Court held that the complaint and stipulated facts adequately alleged the basis for a claim that the surcharge bore no reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest and was therefore a tax requiring voter approval under Proposition 218. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara" 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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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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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

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Phoenix Pipeline filed a second amended complaint (SAC) alleging breach of contract claims related to SpaceX's failure to pay for its services from 2010 to October 2013. The trial court subsequently granted SpaceX's demurrer, which argued that the license issued to Phoenix Plumbing was not sufficient to satisfy the requirements of Business Code section 7031. The Court of Appeal held that Phoenix Pipeline's SAC failed to state a claim for construction related services because it did not allege that Phoenix Pipeline was a licensed contractor. The court explained that Phoenix Pipeline may not rely upon a license issued to another and that section 7031 was not limited to contracts with unsophisticated persons or homeowners. The court held, however, that Phoenix Pipeline adequately alleged that it provided some services for which no contractor license was necessary. Finally, the trial court acted within its discretion in declining to permit an amendment alleging that Phoenix Pipeline was an employee. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Phoenix Mechanical Pipeline, Inc. v. Space Exploration Technologies Corp." on Justia Law

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The raise-or-waive rule barred consideration of the argument brought before the Supreme Court on appeal in this breach of a promissory note case. In a prior appeal in this case, the Supreme Court affirmed a judgment of the superior court in favor of the Judgment Creditor against the Judgment Debtors in the amount of nearly $4 million plus post-judgment interest on claims for breach of a promissory note and breach of a guaranty of that note. In this second appeal, one of the judgment debtors (Judgment Debtor) appealed from an order of the superior court directing that Judgment Creditor be substituted for Judgment Debtor as the party to litigate Judgment Debtor’s claims in receivership proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the issue raised on appeal was not properly before the court due to the raise-or-waive rule. View "Tri-Town Construction Co. v. Commerce Park Associates 12, LLC" on Justia Law

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Out-of-state architects engaged in the illegal practice of architecture by holding themselves out as being licensed in Oregon. The Oregon Board of Architect Examiners (board) petitioned for certiorari review of the Court of Appeals decision to reverse in part the board’s determination that respondents (the Washington firm Twist Architecture & Design, Inc., and its principals, Callison and Hansen), engaged in the unlawful practice of architecture and unlawfully represented themselves as architects. The board argued respondents, who were not licensed to practice architecture in Oregon, engaged in the “practice of architecture” when they prepared master plans depicting the size, shape, and placement of buildings on specific properties in conformance with applicable laws and regulations for a client that was contemplating the construction of commercial projects. The board further argued that respondents’ use of the term “architecture” in the logo on those master plans and the phrase “Licensed in the State of Oregon (pending)” on their website violated the law prohibiting unlicensed individuals from representing themselves as architects or indicating that they were practicing architecture. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the board, reversed the Court of Appeals, and affirmed the board's order. View "Twist Architecture v. Board of Architect Examiners" on Justia Law

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Defendant recorded a mechanic’s lien for work done on two properties that had been placed in a trust. The trustee filed a petition challenging the validity of the liens, arguing that the memoranda for mechanic’s lien were defective because they failed to specifically name the trustee, improperly identified the claimant, and failed to list either a date from which interest was claimed or a date on which the debt was due. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the memoranda for mechanic’s lien either complied with the relevant statutes outright or were substantially compliant. View "Desai v. A. R. Design Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant entered into a lease with a Mall to operate a restaurant. The lease required Mall to pay Appellant a finish allowance when certain provisions had been satisfied. The condition at the heart of this dispute required Appellant to provide the Mall evidence that any liens had been satisfied or waived and that “all work has been paid for” before the finish allowance became due. Appellant hired a general contractor to renovate the space. Appellant paid the general contractor in full, but the general contractor did not pay all of the subcontractors. When the Mall did not pay the finish allowance, Appellant filed this lawsuit alleging, inter alia, breach of contract. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Mall. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the unambiguous terms of the lease required evidence that the general contractor and subcontractors had been paid in full before the Mall was obligated to pay the finish allowance. View "P & N Investments, LLC v. Frontier Mall Associates, LP" on Justia Law