Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government Law
Georgia Dept. of Corrections v. Developers Surety & Indemnity Co.
The Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) entered into a construction contract with Lewis Walker Roofing (Walker Roofing) to re-roof several buildings at Valdosta State Prison. The Contract contained two “no assignment” clauses, and as a prerequisite to contracting with GDOC, Walker Roofing was required to obtain payment and performance bonds. It obtained such payment and performance bonds from Developers Surety and Indemnity Company. Walker Roofing did not complete its work within the time frame required by the Contract, and GDOC declared Walker Roofing in default. Developers Surety did not notify GDOC within 25 days of receipt of GDOC's notice of default regarding whether it would remedy the default or perform the contract. However, approximately three months after the declaration of default, Developers Surety gave GDOC the option of entering into a contract with another company for the completion of the work. GDOC then contracted with that company to finish the project. Under the payment and performance bonds and prior to Walker Roofing's default, Developers Surety had provided financial assistance to Walker Roofing. Developers Surety filed suit against GDOC for breach of contract and for a declaratory judgment that it had no obligation under the payment and performance bond it issued to Walker Roofing on behalf of GDOC. GDOC filed a counterclaim for breach of contract. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the trial court determined that Developers Surety's claims were not barred by sovereign immunity and that GDOC had breached the construction contract as a matter of law. It concluded that GDOC waived its sovereign immunity by entering into the contract with Walker Roofing, and that the doctrine of equitable subrogation gave Developers Surety the ability to file suit against GDOC once it incurred liability and paid the obligations of its principal under the bond. Consequently, the trial court granted summary judgment to Developers Surety and denied it to GDOC; in the same order, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Developers Surety in the amount equal to the "financial assistance" Developers Surety provided to Walker Roofing. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals to consider whether the State’s sovereign immunity was waived for the claim Developers Surety made on its contract with the State. The Supreme Court found that immunity was indeed waived in this instance, and accordingly, it affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals. View "Georgia Dept. of Corrections v. Developers Surety & Indemnity Co." on Justia Law
Dekalb County Sch. Dist. v. Butler
Appellee Yvonne Butler was a principal at a DeKalb County elementary school. Appellant DeKalb County School District notified appellee it would be terminating her employment for: (1) incompetency; (2) insubordination; (3) wilful neglect of duties; and (4)for other good and sufficient cause. Appellee was placed on suspension while the charges were pending. A hearing was scheduled pursuant to the Fair Dismissal Act (FDA), but the parties agreed to a continuance. The record revealed the hearing never took place. Appellant offered appellee, in lieu of termination, a contract for a classroom teaching position for the 2011- 2012 school year and required that she sign and return the contract before May 19, 2011, if she chose to accept the offer. On May 31, 2011, appellee responded to the May 11 letter by asserting that she had a right to an FDA hearing. In her May 31 response, appellee never indicated she would be accepting the offered position of classroom teacher. On June 30, 2011, upon hiring new counsel, appellee returned the signed teaching contract "under protest." In July, appellant issued appellee a separation notice indicating appellee’s employment had ended as of June 30, 2011. The following March, appellee filed this mandamus action, requesting an FDA hearing, a name-clearing hearing, and damages for breach of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in regard to the proffered 2011-2012 teaching contract. Both parties moved for summary judgment and the trial court granted and denied in part both parties’ motions: the decision effectively granted appellee’s petition for a writ of mandamus and held that appellee was entitled to an FDA hearing because she was a tenured employee and had been demoted from an administrator to a teacher. In addition, the trial court held that the request for a separate name-clearing hearing was moot as appellee could clear her name at the FDA hearing. Finally, the trial court denied appellee’s claim of damages for breach because it found that appellee had not timely accepted the contract to be a classroom teacher for the 2011-2012 school year. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that since appellee had earned tenure as a teacher, at the time of her suspension from the position as principal in 2010, the only right she had under the FDA was continued employment as a teacher. Therefore, the School District complied with the FDA when it offered appellee a teaching position for the 2011-2012 school year rather than insisting upon her termination. At that point, the FDA did not require any additional action by appellant. Thus, it was error for the trial court to conclude that appellant was required to hold a demotion hearing pursuant to the FDA in addition to offering appellee continued employment as a teacher. The Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court in all other respects. View "Dekalb County Sch. Dist. v. Butler" on Justia Law
Autofair 1477, L.P. v. American Honda Motor Company, Inc.
Plaintiff Autofair 1477, L.P. (d/b/a Autofair Honda) appealed a Superior Court order denying its motion for summary judgment and granting summary judgment to defendant, American Honda Motor Company, Inc. (AHM), on plaintiff's petition for attorney's fees. In November 2010, AHM performed a warranty audit at Autofair, after which it proposed $45,733.02 of chargebacks and a potential escrow reversal of $54,571.17 for claimed warranty work that deviated from AHM's policies and procedures. AHM did not debit Autofair's account for these amounts. Autofair contested the escrow reversal and $30,001.51 of the proposed chargebacks. After review, AHM reduced the amount of the proposed chargebacks to $43,957.94. In February 2011, Autofair filed a protest with the New Hampshire Motor Vehicle Industry Board pursuant to the New Hampshire Dealership Act. Even though AHM had neither debited Autofair's account nor held any disputed funds in escrow, Autofair specifically requested a "finding and ruling that the warranty audit charge backs and the [proposed] escrow violate[d] RSA 357-C:4 and RSA 357-C:5, that the audit charge backs be reversed, and the escrow funds released." Prior to a final hearing before the Board, the parties had ongoing discussions and reduced the disputed amount to $29,729.92, and Autofair withdrew its request for relief regarding the proposed escrow. Following a hearing, the Board affirmatively ruled on whether Autofair had reasonably substantiated 123 claims still at issue, and thus whether AHM was entitled to charge back the amounts associated with each claim. In total, the Board determined that AHM was entitled to charge back claims totaling $1,032.13, but not the remaining $28,697.79 of disputed claims. The Board also stated that because "Honda has paid the claims, and not held the funds in escrow, the request in the protest to find a statutory violation due to same is moot." Finally, the Board ordered Autofair to pay $1,032.13 to AHM, with interest. In January 2012, Autofair filed a petition for attorney's fees and costs with the trial court pursuant to RSA 357-C:12, X (2009). Both parties moved for summary judgment. The trial court denied Autofair's motion and granted AHM's cross-motion. It based its ruling upon the fact that the Board had not found that AHM committed a violation of the Dealership Act because it had not charged back Autofair, and the court's conclusion that an award of fees would not be consistent with the public policy behind the Dealership Act. This appeal followed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed.View "Autofair 1477, L.P. v. American Honda Motor Company, Inc." on Justia Law
Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. v. City of Columbia
The respondents, two developers and an architectural firm, Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. (S&W), entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Columbia as part of a larger project team to develop a publicly-funded hotel for the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The City eventually abandoned its plan under the MOU, and the respondents brought suit on several causes of action including breach of contract and equitable relief. The City moved for summary judgment arguing the MOU was not a contract and therefore the contract claims failed. The circuit court agreed and, rejecting the equitable claims as well, granted summary judgment in favor of the City. The respondents appealed and the court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court reversed. Because the MOU was comprised of agreements to execute further agreements, there was no meeting of the minds on numerous material terms which had not yet been defined. Accordingly, the court of appeals was reversed with respect to that portion of the court's judgment; the Supreme Court held the MOU was unenforceable as a matter of law. The Supreme Court agreed with the circuit court and reinstated its judgment in favor of the City. View "Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. v. City of Columbia" on Justia Law
Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. v. City of Columbia
In April 2003, the City of Columbia entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. (S&W) and several other parties, to develop a publicly-funded hotel adjacent to the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. As architect, S&W was to complete sufficient preliminary design work to determine a guaranteed maximum price for the project, which would be used by the City to obtain municipal bond funding to cover the cost of the hotel. Pursuant to the MOU, the construction company was to pay S&W directly. On June 26, 2003, the City received a letter stating S&W would complete its preliminary design on July 10, 2003, and would then stop working until the bond financing for the hotel was finalized. Realizing this could delay the start of construction, S&W offered to continue working the remaining ninety days until the anticipated bond closing date of October 13, 2003, but required assurance it would be compensated for the work it performed during this time frame. It provided an estimate requiring $650,000 and $75,000 per week after that. On July 30, the City approved "$650,000 for interim architectural design services for a period of 90 days prior to bond closing." The bond closing did not occur as scheduled, but S&W nevertheless continued to work. S&W submitted an invoice to the City for $697,084.79 for work that took place from July 10 to December 15, 2003. By letter dated December 17, 2003, S&W informed the construction company that the City had voted that day "to advance [$705,000.000] to the design team for design services and expenses. Because under the MOU the construction company was to pay S&W, not the City, the construction company agreed to reimburse the City for the funds paid to S&W after the bond closing. The City paid S&W's invoice. S&W continued to work on the project, but in March 2004, the City abandoned its plans under the MOU and ended its relationship with S&W. S&W received no further compensation and sued the City for breach of contract under the MOU and the July 2003 agreement. The City argued there was no separate agreement and the payment of interim fees was merely an advance on fees under the MOU and furthermore, the MOU provided that S&W was to be paid by the construction company, not the City. The trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of S&W, finding a contract existed between it and the City. On certiorari, the City conceded a contract exists, but argued the contract terms have been satisfied. The Supreme Court found the City's arguments were unpreserved and affirmed as modified. View "Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. v. City of Columbia" on Justia Law
Golden State v. Eastern Municipal Water Dist.
The Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) hired general contractor S.J. and Burkhardt, Inc. (SJB) for a public works construction project in 2006. Safeco Insurance Company (Safeco) executed performance and payment bonds for the project. Plaintiff Golden State Boring & Pipe Jacking, Inc. (GSB) was a subcontractor for the project, completing its work by September 2006, but it did not receive payment. In March 2008, SJB sent a voluntary default letter to Safeco. In July 2008, GSB sued SJB, EMWD, and Safeco for the unpaid amounts under the contract, separately seeking payment from Safeco under its payment bond. EMWD filed a cross-complaint to interplead retained sums. Safeco made a motion for summary judgment on the cause of action for payment under the bond on the ground that GSB’s claim was untimely. The trial court granted the motion, finding that there had been three cessations of labor that triggered GSB’s duty to file a stop notice in order to secure payment under Safeco's payment bond. At a subsequent court trial on the contract claims, GSB was awarded judgment against SJB, and Safeco was awarded judgment on the interpleader action. GSB appealed the summary judgment ruling, arguing: (1) the trial court erroneously overruled its objections to evidentiary matters presented in support of Safeco’s summary judgment; and (2) the court erred in finding the action was untimely. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Golden State v. Eastern Municipal Water Dist." on Justia Law