Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Construction Law
Stronghold Engineering, Inc. v. City of Monterey
Stronghold and the city entered into a 2015 contract to renovate the Monterey Conference Center. Before filing a lawsuit asserting a claim for money or damages against a public entity, the Government Claims Act (Gov. Code 810) requires that a claim be presented to the entity. Without first presenting a claim to the city, Stronghold filed suit seeking declaratory relief regarding the interpretation of the contract, and asserting that the Act was inapplicable.Stronghold presented three claims to the city in 2017-2019, based on its refusal to approve change orders necessitated by purportedly excusable delays. Stronghold filed a fourth amended complaint, alleging breach of contract. The court granted the city summary judgment, reasoning that the declaratory relief cause of action in the initial complaint was, in essence, a claim for money or damages and that all claims in the operative complaint “lack merit” because Stronghold failed to timely present a claim to the city before filing suit.The court of appeal reversed. The notice requirement does not apply to an action seeking purely declaratory relief. A declaratory relief action seeking interpretation of a contract is not a claim for money or damages, even if the judicial interpretation sought may later be the basis for a separate claim for money or damages which would trigger the claim presentation requirement. View "Stronghold Engineering, Inc. v. City of Monterey" on Justia Law
McInnis Electric Company v. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC et al.
Construction firm Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, received the prime contract to expand the University of Mississippi Medical Center Children’s Hospital in 2017. Electrical contractor McInnis Electric Company secured the winning bid to install the electrical and low voltage systems package for the project and subsequently signed a subcontract with Brasfield & Gorrie. Terms of the subcontract incorporated the prime contract, which were related to the same project by reference. The contract provided that work was set to begin on the project on February 15, 2018. However, McInnis, was directed not to report on site until June 4, 2018, and, due to delays, was unable to begin until July 23, 2018. As work progressed, the schedule allegedly became delayed as a result of Brasfield & Gorrie’s failure to coordinate the work of the various subcontractors. McInnis averred that Brasfield & Gorrie’s failure to coordinate and facilitate the work of the various subcontractors worsened as the project progressed, and Brasfield & Gorrie experienced turnover in management. This failure allegedly delayed McInnis’s work, which was not on the path toward completion, supposedly through no fault of its own. Construction issues were amplified when on March 11, 2020, Mississippi experienced its first reported case of COVID-19. On April 1, 2020, the Mississippi Governor instituted a shelter in place order in response to the ongoing pandemic, requiring certain nonessential businesses to close and recommending social distancing to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Mississippi. The children’s hospital was not classified as an existing infrastructure as it was a nonoperational work in progress and thus was not subject to the executive order’s exception to the governmental shutdowns. By May 8, 2020, McInnis had suffered an approximately 40 percent loss in its workforce due to employees testing positive for COVID-19. Despite the decrease in the available workforce, Brasfield & Gorrie demanded McInnis perform under its contractual obligation. McInnis took measures to continue the work. Brasfield & Gorrie further declined requests for accommodation and instead terminated McInnis on May 13, 2020. The case before the Mississippi Supreme Court here stemmed from disagreements and a broken contract between the parties, contesting whether arbitration was appropriate to settle their disputes. The trial court compelled arbitration, and the Supreme Court affirmed. View "McInnis Electric Company v. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC et al." on Justia Law
Baskin v. Pierce & Allred Construction, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the conclusion of the trial court that Plaintiff failed to establish Defendant's requisite minimum contacts with Tennessee, and thus the court lacked personal jurisdiction over Defendant with respect to Plaintiff's suit, holding that the trial court correctly dismissed Plaintiff's complaint.Plaintiff, a Tennessee resident, hired Defendant, an Alabama corporation with its principal place of business in Alabama, to build a house on a parcel of land in Alabama. Upon becoming dissatisfied with the quality and expense of the construction work Plaintiff filed suit in the Davidson County Chancery Court. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that Defendant's contacts with Tennessee were minor and attenuated. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of the minimum contacts necessary for a Tennessee court to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over Defendant. View "Baskin v. Pierce & Allred Construction, Inc." on Justia Law
Commercial Painting Co. v. Weitz Co., LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals as to the applicability of the economic loss doctrine in this case, holding that the economic loss doctrine applies only in products liability cases and should not be expanded to apply outside the products liability context.In the underlying suit brought by a drywall subcontractor against a general contractor under theories of breach of contract and tort a jury awarded compensatory and punitive damages to the subcontractor. The court of appeals affirmed in part the award of compensatory damages for breach of contract, dismissed the tort claim, and reversed the award for punitive damages, holding that the economic loss doctrine applied outside the products liability context when the contract was negotiated between sophisticated commercial entities. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the economic loss doctrine only applies in products liability cases and should not be extended to other claims; and (2) the economic loss doctrine did not bar the subcontractor's recovery of compensatory and punitive damages based on its tort claim. View "Commercial Painting Co. v. Weitz Co., LLC" on Justia Law
Smith Masonry v. WIPI Group, USA
The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded in part the judgment of the circuit court determining that Tom Smith Masonry had a valid mechanic's lien for the unpaid balance due under a construction contract with WIPI Group USA, Inc., holding that the circuit court erred in denying Smith Masonry a judgment of foreclosure on the mechanic's lien for the full amount of the recorded lien.Smith Masonry instituted a mechanic's lien foreclosure action against WIPI seeking to recover unpaid balance due under the parties' construction contract and an award of attorney fees. WIPI counterclaimed for breach of contract. The circuit court ultimately denied both parties relief, determining that Smith Masonry had a valid mechanic's lien for the unpaid contract balance but that WIPI was entitled to an offset because the work did not meet the reasonable standard for construction. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded or the court to enter a judgment of foreclosure in favor of Smith Masonry on its mechanics lien, holding that the circuit court erred in determining that WIPI was entitled to a wholesale offset of the amount due under the contract. View "Smith Masonry v. WIPI Group, USA" on Justia Law
Shake Out, LLC v. Clearwater Construction, LLC
Shake Out, LLC entered into a contract with Clearwater Construction, LLC (“Clearwater”), to repair the building Shake Out’s restaurant occupied. The relationship between the parties quickly deteriorated, resulting in Shake Out filing a lawsuit against Clearwater. The parties attempted to mediate their dispute but were unsuccessful. After the case had proceeded for some time, Clearwater sought to compel arbitration pursuant to the contract. Shake Out objected, asserting that Clearwater had waived its right to enforce the arbitration clause because it had participated in the litigation for almost ten months before seeking to compel arbitration. The district court concluded Clearwater had not waived its right to seek arbitration and entered an order compelling arbitration and staying the proceedings. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Shake Out, LLC v. Clearwater Construction, LLC" on Justia Law
BCL Properties, Inc. v. Boyle
The Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment awarding attorney fees in this action brought over a dispute between a general contractor and a property owner related to a residential construction contract but otherwise affirmed the judgment, holding that there was no statute or uniform course of procedure that allowed recovery of attorney fees on this record.After Property Owner failed to pay a construction lien General Contractor filed a breach of contract action and sought to foreclosure on the lien. Property Owner counterclaimed. The district court entered judgment in favor of General Contractor. Thereafter, the district court granted prejudgment interest in the amount of $49,946 and attorney fees in the amount of $115,473. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment in part, holding that the district court (1) erred in awarding attorney fees pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 52-157 of the Nebraska Construction Lien Act; and (2) Property Owner was not entitled to relief on her remaining allegations of error. View "BCL Properties, Inc. v. Boyle" on Justia Law
Eagle Rock Timber, Inc. v. Teton County
After submitting the winning bid, Eagle Rock Timber, Inc. (“Eagle Rock”), contracted with Teton County, Idaho to reconstruct a stretch of road known as “Chapin Lane.” During the course of the project, Eagle Rock claimed it discovered unsuitable base material under portions of the road. Eagle Rock maintained that Teton County’s agent, Darryl Johnson, directed Eagle Rock to remove the material and said that the county would “make it right.” However, when Eagle Rock attempted to recover an amount in excess of the original Contract Price, Teton County denied Eagle Rock’s request, stating that it had not authorized any changes to the Contract. When the parties could not resolve this dispute over the amount owed, Eagle Rock filed suit. Teton County twice moved for summary judgment. The district court denied the first motion, concluding that genuine issues of material fact existed concerning whether Johnson orally waived the writing requirement and whether Johnson had authorized Eagle Rock to remove the unsuitable base material, which could support an equitable remedy. In the County's second motion, the district court granted it, ruling that since Teton County’s agent did not have actual or apparent authority to bind Teton County, the claims asserted by Eagle Rock failed as a matter of law. Eagle Rock appealed, asserting that the district court erred because there were still genuine issues of material fact that should be resolved by a jury. Further, Eagle Rock claimed the district court’s refusal to grant leave to amend its complaint to assert a separate cause of action against Johnson personally was an abuse of discretion. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and denial of leave to amend. However, the Court affirmed the district court in not considering the ratification issue because it was beyond the scope of the pleadings at the time it was presented. View "Eagle Rock Timber, Inc. v. Teton County" on Justia Law
WW Consultants, Inc. v. Pocahontas County Public Service District
The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the business court disposing of WW Consultants, Inc.'s (WWC) claims for contractual indemnity in favor of third-party defendants but affirmed in part as to the denial of WWC's claims for implied indemnity and contribution in favor of third-party defendants, holding that the business court erred by granting summary judgment for third-party defendants on this claim.In this case arising from a dispute involving the construction of a wastewater treatment facility in Pocahontas County, WWC, the project's design engineer, appealed the business court's rulings dismissing or granting summary judgment to three third-party defendant contractors who supplied materials for or worked on the project. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) there were material questions of fact that precluded summary judgment as to WWC's contractual indemnity claim; (2) WWC failed to plead or present facts alleging the requisite special relationships to support its implied indemnity claims; and (3) WWC failed to plead contribution claims that are recognized under the modified comparative fault statutory scheme codified at W. Va. Code 55-7-13a to -13d. View "WW Consultants, Inc. v. Pocahontas County Public Service District" on Justia Law
Christian v. United Fire & Casualty Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment for United Fire and Casualty Company and concluding that Clifford Christian and/or his Estate were not owed a defense or indemnification for claims made against Christian in litigation brought by Linda and Albert Parisian, holding that there was no error.Christian contracted with a general contractor on his project to construct four townhomes, one of which was pre-sold to the Parisians. A subcontractor later sued the general contractor and Parisians to obtain payment for his work to landscape the homesites. Christian was named as a third-party defendant and sought defense and indemnification from United Fire, which had insured the general contractor with a liability policy for the period at issue. After United Fire denied Christian's request Christian's Estate initiated this action. The district court granted summary judgment to United Fire. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the complaint did not allege facts that if proven, would trigger policy coverage. View "Christian v. United Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law