Articles Posted in Construction Law

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The utility and its insurers filed suit against BendTec for negligence, alleging that its pipes were the source of grit and had been improperly cleaned. The district court granted summary judgment to BendTec. The court affirmed the judgment, agreeing with the district court's conclusion that the negligence claim was barred under the two year limitations period in Minn. Stat. 541.051 since the installation of the turbine was an improvement to real property. Because the two year statute of limitations in Minn. Stat. 541.051 applies and the subdivision 1(e) exception does not, and plaintiffs did not file this lawsuit within the limitations period, the district court correctly granted summary judgment to BendTec. View "Associated Electric & Gas Ins. v. BendTec, Inc." on Justia Law

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Demien, the unsuccessful bidder for the construction of a new firehouse, filed suit against the District under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the District violated federal and state constitutional rights, as well as state law, in the bidding process. The district court dismissed the complaint. The court concluded that it need only determine whether Damien has Article III standing under Federal law and not whether Damien has standing under Missouri law. Determining that Demien has Article III standing, the court concluded that Demien has abandoned its claims under the First Amendment by failing to argue them before the district court, and that Demien failed to allege that the District deprived Demien of any entitlement, and so it failed to state a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. The court concluded that, under Missouri law, there is no property right to the lowest bidder, and standing to bring a state court claim of deprivation of property rights does not establish a protected property interest. In this case, the District stated that it may accept the lowest bid, but does not need to. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Demien Construction Co. v. O'Fallon Fire Protection Dist." on Justia Law

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Duit, an Oklahoma highway contractor, contracted with the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (ASHTD) to reconstruct I-30 between Little Rock and Benton. Duit encountered soil conditions that, it alleges, differed materially from information provided by the ASHTD during bidding. Duit’s claims for compensation were denied by the ASHTD, the Arkansas State Claims Commission, and the General Assembly. Duit sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, citing the “in re Young” exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity. Duit alleged violations of the Federal Aid Highway Act, 23 U.S.C. 101, and the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses and sought to “enjoin Defendants from accepting federal aid … until . . . they fully comply with the federally mandated differing site clause.” The court dismissed the FAHA claim because that statute is enforced exclusively by an executive agency, dismissed the due process claim because Duit’s interest in future highway contracts is not a protected property interest and because the state appeals process for claim denials satisfies procedural due process requirements. The court declined to dismiss the equal protection claim, concluding Duit sufficiently alleged that the Commission treated out-of-state-contractor Duit differently from similarly situated in-state contractors without a rational reason. The Eighth Circuit held that Duit lacks standing to bring its equal protection claim and that the court erred in not dismissing that claim. View "Duit Constr. Co. Inc. v. Bennett" on Justia Law

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In 2003, the governors of Cedar Rapids Lodge obtained the rights to build an AmericInn franchise. The company used Lightowler as the project architect. Lightowler used a standard form agreement that specified that its terms would be governed by the law of North Dakota. After changes requested by the Fire Marshal and for compliance with franchise standards, Lightowler submitted revised plans in February, 2004. Construction began in January 2004. In July, 2004, Lidberg of AmericInn led a construction site visit attended by the governors, and Olson, a Lightowler engineer. Lidberg and Olson prepared reports detailing deficiencies. The last act performed by Lightowler on the project was a response to the contractor in September, 2004. Lidberg led a second site visit in October, 2004, produced a report identifying additional deficiencies, and sent it to Siebert and Lightowler. The hotel opened for business in December, 2004, but problems continued. In December, 2009 Cedar Rapids Lodge brought claims against its former governors and others involved in the hotel project and alleging professional negligence by Lightowler. The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Lightowler, concluding that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations under either North Dakota or Iowa law. View "Cedar Rapids Lodge & Suites, LLC v. Lightowler Johnson Assocs., Inc." on Justia Law

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Weitz contracted with Hyatt to build an Aventura, Florida assisted-living facility, which was completed in 2003. Hyatt obtained post-construction insurance from defendants. Weitz was neither a party nor a third-party-beneficiary. The policies exclude faulty workmanship and mold, except to the extent that covered loss results from the faulty workmanship, such as business interruption losses. The construction was defective. Hyatt notified defendants of a $11 million loss involving moisture and mold at the care center, settled that claim for $750,000, and released defendants from claims relating to the care center. Hyatt next discovered moisture, mold, and cracked stucco at the residential towers. Hyatt gave defendants notice, but bypassed inevitable defenses based upon policy exclusions, and sued Weitz. Weitz sued its subcontractors and its own construction contract liability insurers. Weitz settled with Hyatt for $53 million and was indemnified by its insurers for $55,799,684.69. Weitz sued, claiming coverage under defendants’ policies, based on equitable subrogation or unjust enrichment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed dismissal, recognizing that Weitz, as subrogee, was subject to any defense Hyatt would have faced, and that Hyatt had discharged defendants from liability; that suit was barred by the contractual period of limitations; that Weitz was barred from suing for damage to the plaza because Hyatt did not give defendants notice of that damage; and that Weitz had already collected several million more than it paid. View "Weitz Co. v. Lexington Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Contractor contracted to build a restaurant in Minnesota, promising to pay each subcontractor, upon receipt of payment from the owner, the amount to which the subcontractor was entitled. Appellant became the subcontractor for carpentry and drywall work. Upon completing its work, Appellant was not paid the full amount owed. After Contractor settled a dispute with the restaurant, it offered Appellant a smaller sum, claiming it was Appellant's pro rata share of the settlement proceeds. Appellant rejected the offer and sued Contractor and its Owner in state court. Owner and his wife subsequently filed a petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief, with the debt to Appellant unsatisfied. Appellant commenced this adversary proceeding to have the debt declared nondischargeable. The bankruptcy appellate panel (BAP) determined that neither 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(4) nor 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(6) barred discharge of the debt. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Owner was not a section 523(a)(4) fiduciary by reason of a Minnesota statute or Owner's Minnesota common law duties, nor did Contractor's use of its own property amount to embezzlement; and (2) the BAP did not err in finding no malicious injury, which resolved the section 523(a)(6) issue. View "Reshetar Sys., Inc. v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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Torrance Bunch and Fernando Sanchez-Garcia were each convicted by a jury of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. The jury also found Bunch guilty of three counts of distribution of five grams or more of methamphetamine. On appeal, Bunch alleged that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and Sanchez-Garcia contended that the district court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial and committed other trial-related errors. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) by repeatedly rejecting all options except self-representation, after having been warned of the consequences, Bunch necessarily chose self-representation, and thus, the district court's ruling did not violate Bunch's rights under the Sixth Amendment; (2) the prosecutor's comments during closing argument were not improper, and thus Sanchez-Garcia was not entitled to a mistrial; (3) the district court did not commit plain error by proceeding with a joint trial; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting a recording of a telephone call into evidence. View "United States v. Sanchez-Garcia" on Justia Law

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This case concerns the payment for architectural services provided by SHA to Ladco in conjunction with a large office building project. In its breach of contract claim, SHA contended that it was not paid for the services it completed under the project. The district court denied Ladco's motion for summary judgment and ultimately, the jury found in favor of SHA. Ladco subsequently appealed the district court's denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law and remanded the case for entry of judgment for SHA and against Ladco, but only for unpaid invoices, rather than the amount awarded by the jury. The court agreed with the district court that the parties' contract was ambiguous and there was no sufficient evidence as to who drafted the Statement of Intent. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to give a contra preferentem instruction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.

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This declaratory judgment action was brought by Secura, an insurer for Horizon, a subcontractor on a troubled construction project. Horizon's two other insurers, State Auto and Federated later joined. Their dispute with Weitz arose out of a construction project in which Weitz was the general contractor for Metropolitan. After Weitz and Metropolitan brought breach of contract claims against each other, both filed third party complaints against Horizon for defective plumbing. Horizon's insurers defended and settled all claims against it and reimbursed Weitz for its defense of claims against Horizon. Weitz then contended that since it was an "additional insured" on Horizon's policies, the insurers should pay for attorney fees and costs it incurred in defending against Metropolitan's entire counterclaim. The insurers filed this action seeking a final judgment that they not be required to pay the attorney fees and costs. Applying Missouri law, the court rejected Weitz's argument that Metropolitan's counterclaim asserted potentially covered losses under the policies. Therefore, the court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the insurers because Metropolitan's counterclaim did not state an "occurrence" giving rise to a possibility of coverage under the policies.

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Carolyn M. Louper-Morris and her son, William J. Morris, were convicted of, among other things, conspiracy and fraud charges related to the activities they carried out through their company, CyberStudy101. Louper-Morris raised six issues on appeal: (1) the district court erred by denying her motion to dismiss the indictment because the United States made a material misrepresentation to the grand jury; (2) the district court erred in overruling her objection under Batson v. Kentucky; (3) the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions; (4) the United States intimidated one of her witnesses thereby depriving her of the right to present a complete defense; (5) the district court erred by enhancing her base level offense for her role as a leader or organizer under U.S.S.G. 3B1.1; and (6) cumulative trial errors warranted reversal or at least remand. Morris raised six issues on appeal: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the wire and mail fraud statutes exceeded Congress' authority to legislate in violation of the Tenth Amendment; (3) the district court erred by not allowing the jury to view the live website at issue; (4) the district court erred in overruling his objection under Batson; (5) the district court erred in enhancing his base offense level under U.S.S.G. 3B1.1 and 2B1.1(b)(9)(C); and (6) the district court's restitution order improperly included restitution to an entity that was already receiving compensation from a settlement agreement. The court rejected each of defendants' claims and affirmed the judgment.