Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

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Several insurance companies (the Insurers) appealed the denial of their motions to intervene in a construction defect action between a property owners' association (the Association) and a number of construction contractors and subcontractors (the Insureds). The underlying construction defect action proceeded to trial, resulting in a verdict for the Association. After review, the South Carolina Supreme Court determined the Insurers were not entitled to intervene as a matter of right, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying them permissive intervention. However, the Court held the Insurers had a right to a determination of which portions of the Association's damages are covered under the commercial general liability (CGL) policies between the Insurers and the Insureds. The Court also recognized that the Insurers had the right and ability to contest coverage of the jury verdict in a subsequent declaratory judgment action. "In that action, the Insurers and the Insureds will be bound by the existence and extent of any jury verdict in favor of the Association in the construction defect action. However, they will not be bound as to any factual matters for which a conflict of interest existed, such as determining what portion of the total damages are covered by any applicable CGL policies." View "Builders Mutual Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Brandon Carter was convicted by jury of malice murder and two firearm offenses in connection with the shooting death of Terrance Baker. On appeal, Carter contended the trial court erred by admitting certain hearsay statements into evidence and by violating his constitutional right to be present during his trial. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed conviction. View "Carter v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In August 2013 the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT) entered into a contract with Osborne Construction Company to upgrade the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting building at the Fairbanks International Airport to withstand damage in the event of an earthquake. The DOT appealed a superior court decision reversing the agency's decision in an administrative appeal. The agency denied a contractor’s claim for additional compensation because the claim was filed outside the filing period allowed by the contract. After applying its independent judgment to interpret the contract, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the DOT that the contractor failed to file its claim within the period allowed. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the superior court’s decision and reinstated the agency’s. View "Alaska, Dept. of Transportation & Public Facilities v. Osborne Construction Co." on Justia Law

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In this construction contract dispute, the Supreme Court held that the San Antonio River Authority possessed the authority to agree to arbitrate claims under Texas Local Government Code Chapter 271 and exercised that authority in the contract and that the judiciary, rather than an arbitrator, retains the duty to decide whether a local government has waived its governmental immunity. The River Authority hired Austin Bridge and Road L.P. for a construction project. The parties agreed to submit any disputes about the contract to arbitration. Austin Bridge invoked the contract's arbitration provisions when disagreements about the scope of work and payment arose. After the arbitrator denied the River Authority's plea of governmental immunity, the River Authority sued Austin Bridge, arguing that it lacked the authority to agree to the contract's arbitration provisions. The trial court concluded that the arbitration provisions in the contract were enforceable. The court of appeals agreed that the River Authority had the authority to agree to arbitrate but concluded that a court, rather than an arbitrator, must decide whether the River Authority was immune from the claims against it. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that chapter 271 waived the River Authority's immunity from suit for Austin Bridge's breach of contract claim. View "San Antonio River Authority v. Austin Bridge & Road, L.P." on Justia Law

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Carmel provided design and construction work for a luxury subdivision, Monterra, in Monterey County for more than 10 years under an oral contract with property owner Mills, the principal of Monterra LLC. Carmel recorded a mechanic’s lien and a site improvement lien against certain lots in Monterra after being informed that Monterra LLC would be unable to continue paying for the work. Carmel sued several of Monterra LLC’s investors with property interests in unsold lots in the development and Monterra LLC, alleging breach of contract and foreclosure of the mechanic’s and site improvement liens. Monterra stipulated to liability before trial; the investor defendants contested liability in a lengthy bench trial. The court of appeal reversed. Carmel applied the payments it received from Monterra LLC to debt that was not subject to liens, in effect increasing the amounts of the Water Lien and Site Improvement Lien. It was improper to allocate a water infrastructure lien only to certain benefited lots; the liens could not accrue contractual interest greater than the reasonable value of the improvements. The trial court applied an incorrect rate to calculate prejudgment interest. The court remanded with instructions to remove contractual interest from both liens, reapportion the water infrastructure lien, and recalculate prejudgment interest. View "Carmel Development Co., Inc. v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Teed promoted himself online as a real estate agent with “over 25 years of experience as a building contractor” with “an extensive background in historic restorations.” Moore believed that Teed was a general contractor. Moore toured homes that Teed had renovated and retained Teed as his agent. Moore bought a large San Francisco fixer-upper house for $4.8 million. The home was built in 1912 and was last updated in the 1950s. Moore borrowed significantly. Teed received a commission from the sale. Teed was not a licensed contractor; his team of contractors gutted large parts of the house and excavated the lot but the foundation was defective. After Moore became aware of the defects, he halted all work and engaged consultants, who concluded, despite Teed's strong resistance, that the foundation had to be torn out and replaced. Teed’s structural engineer agreed and privately apologized to Moore. Moore had paid about $265,000 of the $900,000 promised cost for Teed’s renovations. A jury awarded Moore his out-of-pocket expenses for replacing the foundation and benefit-of-the-bargain damages for the additional cost he incurred in obtaining the promised renovations. Conceding liability, Teed challenged the award. The court of appeal affirmed that benefit-of-the-bargain damages are available to fully compensate a plaintiff for all the detriment proximately caused by a fraudulent fiduciary’s actions and the award of statutory attorney fees and costs based on the jury’s special verdict finding that Teed violated the Contractors’ State License Law. View "Moore v. Teed" on Justia Law

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Skyrise bid $950,000 to supply “stick building” rough frame carpentry for building housing units near the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Upon receiving a letter of intent from Annex, the general contractor, to enter into a contract, Skyrise blocked the project on its calendar and declined other work. Skyrise delayed returning the actual proposed contract for two months. Amex rejected Skyrise’s subsequent proposals for a broader scope of work and a different payment plan and awarded the carpentry contract to another firm. Skyrise sued for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, negligent misrepresentation, violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, and violation of the Wisconsin Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Although the parties signed various proposals during their negotiations, no contract formed. The undisputed, objective evidence demonstrates that both parties intended for their relationship to be governed by a detailed contract that remained under review until Skyrise ultimately rejected that contract by making material alterations. Skyrise knew or should have known, that the negotiations could fall apart before the parties entered into a binding agreement. Annex never represented to Skyrise that it had the framing subcontract. View "Skyrise Construction Group LLC v. Annex Construction LLC" on Justia Law

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North Edwards Water District (the District) selected Clark Bros., Inc. (Clark) as its general or direct contractor on a public works project to build an arsenic removal water treatment plant. Clark hired subcontractor Crosno Construction (Crosno) to build and coat two steel reservoir tanks. The subcontract contained a "pay-when-paid" provision that stated Clark would pay Crosno within a reasonable time of receiving payments from the District, but that this reasonable time "in no event shall be less than the time Contractor and Subcontractor require to pursue to conclusion their legal remedies against Owner or other responsible party to obtain payment . . . ." After Crosno completed most of its work, a dispute arose between the District and Clark halting the project. As Clark sued the District, Crosno sought to recover payments owed under the public works payment bond that Clark had obtained for the project. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review involved Crosno's claim against the bond surety, Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America (Travelers). At issue was whether the pay-when-paid provision in Crosno's subcontract precluded Crosno from recovering under the payment bond while Clark's lawsuit against the District was pending. Relying on Wm. R. Clarke Corp. v. Safeco Ins. Co., 15 Cal.4th 882 (1997), the trial court found the pay-when-paid provision here unenforceable because it affected or impaired Crosno's payment bond rights in violation of Civil Code section 8122. With the facts largely undisputed, the court granted Crosno's motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in its favor for principal due plus prejudgment interest. Travelers argued the trial court misconstrued Wm. R. Clarke and erred in failing to enforce the pay-when-paid provision against the bond claim. After carefully considering the parties' arguments, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court's analysis and affirmed. View "Crosno Construction, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty etc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant's appeal of the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Plaintiff and against Defendants for want of jurisdiction, holding that, contrary to the decision of the court of appeals, the trial court's judgment was final and appealable. Plaintiff sued Defendants for declaratory judgment and monetary damages arising from a commercial construction project. The trial court awarded summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff. Despite the trial court's confirmation of its intent to render a final judgment, the court of appeals concluded that no final judgment had been rendered. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred by analyzing the record for evidence of finality after the trial court provided a clear and unequivocal statement that it had intended the appealed-from order to be a final judgment. View "Bella Palma, LLC v. Young" on Justia Law

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Michael Montgomery, an employee of Taylor Construction working as a truck dispatcher, called Superior Mat Company to rent mats for Taylor Construction’s use. From June 9, 2017, to June 27, 2017, Taylor employees drove to Superior’s location in Covington County and picked up more than seven hundred mats. When Taylor returned the mats, Superior alleged that many were in varying degrees of dirtiness, or in some cases, damaged beyond repair. Taylor paid Superior for the mats until Superior additionally billed Taylor for the mats Taylor did not return. Taylor later stopped payment on all invoices from Superior. Superior filed suit against Taylor in Covington County Circuit Court, alleging breach of contract, open account, quantum meruit, and bad-faith breach of contract. Taylor filed its answer along with a motion to transfer venue under Rule 82(d). After hearing arguments, the circuit court denied Taylor's motion. Taylor appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed, finding the record demonstrated credible evidence that substantial events or acts occurred in Covington County. View "Taylor Construction Company, Inc. v. Superior Mat Company, Inc." on Justia Law