Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries
Pittman v. Madison County
After four months of pretrial detention at the Madison County jail in 2007, Pittman attempted suicide by hanging himself with a blanket. The attempt left Pittman in a vegetative state. In his suicide note, he stated that the guards were “f***ing” with him and would not give him access to “crisis [counseling].” Banovz, an inmate housed near Pittman’s cell, substantiated the claim that Pittman had made in his suicide note. In a recorded interview with a county detective, Banovz stated that in the days leading up to Pittman’s suicide attempt, Pittman had asked officers Werner and Eaton to refer him to crisis counseling; neither of them followed through with their promises. On remand, in a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, a jury ruled in favor of the defendants. The Seventh Circuit ruled that the district court’s exclusion of the Banovz video interview was a reversible error. After a second trial, the jury again returned a verdict for the defendants.The Seventh Circuit again remanded. One of the jury instructions erroneously directed the jury to evaluate Pittman’s Fourteenth Amendment claim according to a subjective rather than objective standard. The jury was told to consider whether the defendants “consciously failed to take reasonable measures to prevent [Pittman] from harming himself.” View "Pittman v. Madison County" on Justia Law
Hood v. Georgia
Diara Hood was convicted by jury of the felony murder of Steven Carden, the aggravated assault of Thomas Smith, and other related crimes. Following the trial court’s denial of her motion for new trial, Hood appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting other-acts evidence and by charging the jury on that evidence. Although the Georgia Supreme Court concluded the trial court committed two merger errors at sentencing, it otherwise affirmed her convictions. View "Hood v. Georgia" on Justia Law
C.W. Johnson & Sons, Inc. v. Carpenter
After the trial court sustained without leave to amend a demurrer to a building contractor's second amended cross-complaint for breach of contract and quantum meruit based on the ground that the contractor was not licensed during part of the contract, the contractor appealed.The Court of Appeal reversed and overruled the demurrer, holding that the contractor is entitled to an evidentiary hearing on whether it substantially complied with contractor licensing law. In this case, although the contractor cannot divide a single contract into segments and claim compensation for work performed during the segment for which it was licensed, the court held that the contractor acted reasonably and in good faith prior to the license's suspension and thus the contractor is entitled to a hearing under Business and Professions Code section 7031, subd. (a). View "C.W. Johnson & Sons, Inc. v. Carpenter" on Justia Law
Parsons Evergreene, LLC v. Secretary of the Air Force
In 2003, the government awarded Parsons a $2.1 billion indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for planning and construction work to be described in subsequent task orders. In 2005, the government issued a $34 million task order to complete an existing, concept-level design and construct the Temporary Lodging Facility and Visiting Quarters, at the McGuire Air Force Base. Design and construction were completed. The Air Force accepted the completed facilities for “beneficial use” in September 2008. In 2012, Parsons submitted a claim for approximately $34 million in additional costs that Parsons allegedly incurred in the design and construction process. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals awarded Parsons about $10.5 million plus interest.The Federal Circuit reversed in part after holding that the Board had Contracts Dispute Act jurisdiction 41 U.S.C. 7102(a)(1), (3). The court dismissed Parsons’ appeal as to its payroll claim and reversed the Board’s denial of recovery to Parsons for its claim to construction costs. On remand, the Board must award Parsons the difference between its cost in constructing a substituted design compared to the cost Parsons would have incurred in constructing a structural brick design. The court affirmed the Board’s conclusion that Parsons’ costs awarded by the Board were reasonable. View "Parsons Evergreene, LLC v. Secretary of the Air Force" on Justia Law
Steciw v. Petra Geosciences, Inc.
In 2014, plaintiffs filed suit against defendants Shappell Industries and Toll Brothers, Inc. (the Developer) for construction defects arising out of the construction of two residences in a community called San Joaquin Hills. The complaint also named Doe defendants, including two causes of action against unnamed engineers, Does 101-125. Plaintiffs claimed that in 2017, some two years and nine months after the suit was filed, the Developer produced discovery that identified Petra Geosciences, Inc. On August 2, 2017, while the matter was still stayed pending the judicial reference proceeding, plaintiffs filed an amendment to the complaint naming Petra as Doe 101. At the same time, it filed a certificate of merit as required by section 411.35 (certificate of merit required before serving the complaint in a malpractice action against an engineer). Plaintiffs personally served Petra with the summons and complaint on August 9, 2017, three years and 38 days after the complaint was filed. The trial court dismissed plaintiffs’ complaint against defendant Petra because plaintiffs had not served Petra with a summons and complaint within three years, as required by Code of Civil Procedure section 583.210. Plaintiffs appealed the subsequent dismissal, contending the court erred in computing the three-year period. The Court of Appeal found the trial court had stayed the matter for nine months while the parties engaged in a prelitigation alternative dispute resolution procedure mandated by a contract. The court did not exclude that period from the three-year calculation. The question was, did that stay affect service, thereby extending the time to serve Petra? The Court concluded it likely did, but that remand was necessary for further findings. View "Steciw v. Petra Geosciences, Inc." on Justia Law
Idaho v. Pylican
Defendant-respondent Jennie Pylican moved to suppress evidence she unlawfully possessed methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia on the evening of October 12, 2017. At that time, an officer observed Pylican enter a storage facility after hours. When she left, the officer followed and observed her make a turn without signaling. Pylican was initially stopped for the traffic violation and later questioned about her presence in a storage facility after hours. The district court granted the motion, holding that the arresting officer unconstitutionally extended the stop when he questioned Pylican regarding her presence in the storage facility. In the alternative, the district court ruled that the officer unconstitutionally extended both the scope and duration of the seizure by requiring Pylican to exit her car. In an unpublished opinion, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s order granting Pylican’s motion to suppress, holding that the officer did not provide any evidence of suspicious activity at the storage facility that would justify Pylican’s extended detention on that basis. On appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, the State argued the district court erred in grantion Pylican's motion because: (1) the deputy had reasonable suspicion to question Pylican regarding her presence in the storage facility; and (2) the deputy’s order to exit the vehicle did not unconstitutionally extend the duration of the stop. After review of the district court record, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Pylican" on Justia Law
Carter v. Pulte Home Corp.
Pulte, a residential developer, was sued for construction defects by the owners of 38 homes. Many subcontractors worked on the projects, under contracts requiring each subcontractor to indemnify Pulte and to name it as an additional insured on the subcontractor’s commercial general liability insurance. Pulte cross-complained against subcontractors who worked on the homes. Travelers, the insurer for four subcontractors, provided a defense. The “Blanket Additional Insured Endorsements” to Travelers’s named insureds’ policies stated that the “person or organization is only an additional insured with respect to liability caused by ‘your work’ for that additional insured.Travelers filed a complaint in intervention against the insurers for seven subcontractors (respondents), who declined to provide a defense, seeking equitable subrogation. Pulte settled the homeowners’ claims and its claims against all the subcontractors. The court concluded that it “would not be just” to find respondents jointly and severally liable for the costs Travelers sought to recover. There was considerable variation in the number of homes each respondent worked on. The homeowners’ complaints did not indicate which subcontractor worked on which home, and no evidence was presented as to whether the work of any subcontractor was defective.The court of appeal affirmed. Pulte was entitled to indemnity and defense from each respondent only with respect to its own scope of work. Travelers was "not seeking to stand in Pulte’s shoes. It is seeking to stand in a different, more advantageous" shoes. View "Carter v. Pulte Home Corp." on Justia Law
Hanover Insurance Co. v. Dunbar Mechanical Contractors, LLC
Dunbar, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), was awarded an Army Corps of Engineers ditch and tributary project in Arkansas. Dunbar then hired a subcontractor, Harding Enterprises, to work on the project. After Harding Enterprises defaulted, Dunbar made a demand on the bond guaranteed by Hanover, which Hanover denied. Hanover then filed suit seeking a declaration that it had no obligations under the bond and seeking to have the bond rescinded based on illegality of the subcontract.The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Hanover, holding that the district court erroneously concluded that the subcontract was undisputedly in violation of 13 C.F.R. 125.6(b)(2) because the percentage that Dunbar spent on contract performance relative to the prime contract price could not be conclusively ascertained until conclusion of performance of the prime contract. The court also held that the potential that Hanover may have liability under the False Claims Act if it were to perform under the bond does not justify discharging Hanover from its obligations and rescinding the contract. View "Hanover Insurance Co. v. Dunbar Mechanical Contractors, LLC" on Justia Law
Skanska USA Building, Inc. v. M.A.P. Mechanical Contractors, Inc.
Plaintiff Skanska USA Building Inc. served as the construction manager on a renovation project for Mid-Michigan Medical Center–Midland (the Medical Center); plaintiff subcontracted the heating and cooling portion of the project to defendant M.A.P. Mechanical Contractors, Inc. (MAP). MAP obtained a commercial general liability insurance policy (the CGL policy) from defendant Amerisure Insurance Company (Amerisure). Plaintiff and the Medical Center were additional named insureds on the CGL policy. In 2009, MAP installed a steam boiler and related piping for the Medical Center’s heating system. MAP’s installation included several expansion joints. Sometime between December 2011 and February 2012, plaintiff determined that MAP had installed some of the expansion joints backward. Significant damage to concrete, steel, and the heating system occurred as a result. The Medical Center sent a demand letter to plaintiff, asserting that it had to pay for all costs of repair and replacement. Plaintiff sent a demand letter to MAP, asserting that MAP was responsible for all costs of repair and replacement. Plaintiff repaired and replaced the damaged property, at a cost of $1.4 million. Plaintiff then submitted a claim to Amerisure, seeking coverage as an insured. Amerisure denied the claim. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's review centered on whether the unintentional faulty subcontractor work that damaged an insured’s work product constituted an “accident” under a commercial general liability insurance policy. Because the Court concluded the answer was yes, it reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment to the contrary. View "Skanska USA Building, Inc. v. M.A.P. Mechanical Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law
State v. St. Marks
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of attempted deliberate homicide, holding that a challenged jury instruction did not undermine the fundamental fairness of the proceeding.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of attempted deliberate homicide. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court's "specific purpose" jury instruction warranted review under either the doctrine of plain error or ineffective assistance of counsel and that the prosecutor's comment warranted plain error review by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court's instruction did not result in a manifest miscarriage of justice, and the claimed error by trial counsel in failing to object to the instruction did not prejudice Defendant; and (2) the prosecutor's conduct did not warrant plain error review. View "State v. St. Marks" on Justia Law