Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction Law
by
The Supreme Court held that public policy prohibits an agreement between a builder-vendor and a homebuyer to disclaim and waive the warranty of workmanship and habitability implied in every contract entered into between the buyer-vendor and homebuyer and to replace it with an express warranty.Plaintiff entered into a preprinted purchase agreement with M & RC II, LLC to buy a home that M & RC II's affiliate, Scott Homes Development Company, would build. Plaintiff later sued M & RC II and Scott Homes (together, Defendants) for breach of the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff had waived the implied warranty per the purchase agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the public policy underlying the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability clearly outweighed enforcement of the waiver of that warranty in the purchase agreement. View "Zambrano v. M & RC II LLC" on Justia Law

by
The United States Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court. Cox Construction was the general contractor of a remodeling project. Cox hired Baker & Son Construction, Inc. as a subcontractor. A Baker employee allegedly caused a two-by-four to fall from a railing and strike Ronnie Cox, owner of Cox Construction, who later died from his injury. Baker allegedly called an insurance agent to alert them of the incident. The agent told Baker that no action needed to be taken because at that time, no claim existed. A few months later, Baker received a wrongful death claim from an attorney representing Cox’s widow. Baker notified its insurer, Preferred Contractors Insurance Company (PCIC) of the claim. PCIC denied coverage, but agreed to defend Baker under a reservation of rights. The certified question to the Washington Supreme Court related to the “claims-made” nature of the policy and the timing of Baker’s tender of Ms. Cox’s claim. The Supreme Court replied to the certified question that in light of RCW 18.27, a contractor’s commercial general liability insurance policy that requires the loss to occur and be reported within the same policy year, and provides neither neither prospective nor retroactive coverage violates Washington’s public policy. View "Preferred Contractors Ins. Co. v. Baker & Son Constr., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Cal-Am, a developer and operator of RV and mobile-home parks leased the Yuma Sundance RV Resort from its owner, intending to construct a new banquet and concert hall on the property. The property owner provided the funding for the construction. Cal-Am managed the project. Cal-Am hired a contractor, Nickle, to design and construct the hall, who then hired Edais Engineering to survey the property and place construction stakes to mark the Hall’s permitted location. No contract existed between Edais and Cal-Am. Edais acknowledges that its placement of the stakes was defective. Cal-Am was forced to adjust its site plan, eliminating eight RV parking spaces. Cal-Am sued Edais for claims including negligence. The trial court granted Edais summary judgment on the negligence claim finding that Cal-Am could not recover its purely economic damages. The court of appeals affirmed.The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed, repudiating its 1984 Donnelly Construction holding that a design professional’s duty to use ordinary skill, care, and diligence in rendering professional services extends both to persons in privity with the professional and to persons foreseeably affected by a breach of that duty. Under Arizona’s current framework, which repudiated foreseeability as a basis for duty, design professionals lacking privity of contract with project owners do not owe a duty to those owners to reimburse purely economic damages. View "Cal-Am Properties, Inc. v. Edais Engineering, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this case arising out of a construction contract dispute involving competing claims of breach between the owner and the contractor, the Supreme Court reversed in part the court of appeals' judgment affirming the portion of the trial court's judgment awarding damages to the owner but reversing as to the contractor, holding that the judgment awarding certain expenses to the owner could not stand.The jury found that both the owner and the contractor breached the contract and awarded damages as to both parties. At issue was whether the owner's entitlement to recover contract damages associated with a termination of the contractor for default hinged on strict compliance with the written-notice conditions precedent to such recovery, whether sufficient evidence supported the jury's finding of compliance, and whether a contractual provision governing consequential damages was liability waiver or a covenant not to sue. The Supreme Court held (1) when a contract mandates written notice, a writing is a necessary part of complying with contractual notice conditions, substantially or otherwise; (2) because the owner failed to provide the requisite written notices to be entitled to recover expenses associated with a termination for default, the judgment awarding them to the owner could not stand; and (3) the contract did not contain a covenant not to sue for consequential damages. View "James Construction Group, LLC v. Westlake Chemical Corp." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court finding Plaintiffs responsible for failing to complete a project by the parties' agreed-upon deadline and awarding Defendant $335,000 in liquidated damages on its counterclaim, holding that the trial court's pretrial interpretation of various agreements between the parties was erroneous.At issue was which party was responsible for delays in constructing Dunkin Donuts Park in the City of Hartford. Plaintiffs, the project's developer and the design-builder, sued the City claiming breach of contract, and the City counterclaimed for breach of contract. The trial court concluded, as a matter of law, that Plaintiffs controlled the architect and were therefore liable for changes to and mistakes in the ballpark's design. Thereafter, the jury found Plaintiffs responsible for failing to complete the stadium by the agreed-upon deadline. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the parties' contracts did not unambiguously grant Plaintiffs legal control of the architect and the stadium's design across all relevant time periods. View "Centerplan Construction Co. v. Hartford" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court determining that the covenant of good faith and fair dealing applied when it awarded delay damages to a subcontractor, holding that the district court properly determined that the covenant of good faith and fair dealing applied and that the contractor breached the covenant.At issue on appeal was (1) whether the district court properly applied the covenant of good faith and fair dealing when it awarded delay damages to a subcontractor, and (2) whether the subcontractor waived its right to receive delay damages by signing a waiver and release to receive its retention. The Supreme Court held (1) the covenant of good faith and fair dealing allowed for the subcontractor to receive delay damages; and (2) the conditional release and waiver the subcontractor signed did not preclude it from receiving delay damages. View "APCO Construction, Inc. v. Helix Electric of Nev., LLC" on Justia Law

by
In this construction contract action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Helix Electric of Nevada, LLC's claims for retention against APCO Construction, Inc. and the award of attorney fees for APCO pursuant to Nev. R. Civ. P. 68 for less than APCO's requested amount.Gemstone Development West, Inc. sought to construct condominiums and hired APCO as its general contractor. APCO subcontracted with Helix at Gemstone's direction. Helix was paid less than it billed, and the difference, $505,021, was withheld in retention. Under the subcontract, the retention would be released only upon the occurrence of several conditions. Later, the relationship between the parties soured, and the project was terminated. APCO, Helix, and other subcontractors recorded mechanics' liens against the property. After a trial, the district court dismissed Helix's claims for retention against APCO and granted attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly concluded that a subcontract provision conditioning the payment of funds on APCO first being paid was unenforceable, but the unenforceablity of the pay-if-paid condition did not also invalidate the remaining conditions precedent for obtaining the retention payment; and (2) none of the remaining arguments on appeal warranted reversal. View "Helix Electric of Nev., LLC v. APCO Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's summary judgment in this case involving a school district's breach of warranty claims against a general contractor and an artificial-field-turf manufacturer, holding that the court of appeals erred.The Supreme Court reversed in part and reinstated the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the contractor, holding (1) a trial court’s on-the-record, oral ruling sustaining an objection to summary judgment evidence suffices to strike the evidence from the summary judgment record when the ruling is not reduced to a written order; and (2) the court of appeals erred in reversing the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the contractor and remanding the claims against the turf manufacturer for a new trial without addressing the merits of the issues on appeal that could result in rendition of judgment in favor of the manufacturer. View "FieldTurf USA, Inc. v. Pleasant Grove Independent School District" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court the decision and final judgment of the district court in favor of Truss Works, Inc. to foreclose a construction lien against Oswood Construction Company, holding that the district court did not err.After Truss Works filed its construction lien it brought this action seeking to foreclose on its lien. Oswood counterclaimed, alleging that Truss Works caused Oswood $118,571 in damages. After a trial, the district court entered judgment in Truss Works's favor. Oswood appealed, arguing that the district court's findings of fact were clearly erroneous because the court never addressed Oswood's counterclaim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court's findings implicitly addressed Oswood's counterclaim; and (2) the court's findings of fact were supported by substantial evidence, and the court did not commit an error of law. View "Truss Works, Inc. v. Oswood Construction Co." on Justia Law

by
Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company appealed a district court judgment ordering it to pay Larry Pavlicek $214,045.55 under a commercial general liability insurance (CGL) policy Grinnell had with JRC Construction. Grinnell argued the district court misinterpreted the insurance policy, and that it was not required to indemnify JRC Construction because its work product was defective. In 2013, Pavlicek hired a contractor to construct a steel building on his property. JRC Construction installed the concrete floor and floor drain for the project. Another subcontractor installed the in-floor heating system for the concrete floor. After JRC completed the floor drain, it failed to properly install the concrete floor, and its attempts to repair the concrete damaged the drain. Pavlicek sued JRC for breach of contract relating to the defective work. In February 2020, Pavlicek filed a supplemental complaint against Grinnell, alleging it was required to satisfy the judgment as JRC’s insurer. Grinnell claimed it had no obligation to indemnify JRC under the CGL policy. The district court concluded JRC’s defective work on the concrete floor was not covered under the CGL policy, but damage to the floor drain was covered. Because removal and replacement of the floor and in-floor heat were necessary to repair the drain the court concluded the CGL policy covered all of those costs. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that although the CGL policy provided coverage to repair the floor drain, it did not cover the cost of replacing the concrete floor because that damage was the result of JRC’s defective work. The district court erred in finding the CGL policy covered the entire concrete floor replacement because replacement of the floor was the only way to repair the floor drain. Further, the Supreme Court found the district court erred in concluding the CGL policy provided coverage for replacement or repair of the in-floor heating system beyond that which may be necessary to repair the drain. View "Pavlicek v. American Steel Systems, Inc., et al." on Justia Law