Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Construction Law
Nygard v. City of Orono
After Nygard removed his driveway and was about to pour a new one, an Orono inspector told Nygard that he needed a permit. The next day, Nygard finished the driveway and applied for a permit. The new driveway was narrower than the previous one. The city responded with a form, imposing several conditions. Nygard crossed out some conditions, initialed the modified form, and returned it. After several exchanges, the city notified Nygard that he must agree to the conditions or “this matter will be turned over to the prosecuting attorney.” Nygard did not acknowledge the conditions. A police officer drafted a statement of probable cause, alleging that “work had been completed without having first obtained a permit” and listing some alleged deficiencies in its construction. According to the Nygards, the police did not inspect the property and some allegations were not true.Nygard was acquitted of violating the city code. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming the code was void for vagueness and alleging First Amendment retaliation, abuse of process, and malicious prosecution. Nygard’s prosecution was not based on falsehoods. The report did not claim that the conditions were required by the code but that Nygard had not agreed to the conditions and had replaced a driveway without a permit. Any failure to investigate did not defeat probable cause; the city already knew that he installed a driveway without a permit. View "Nygard v. City of Orono" on Justia Law
United States v. Saddler
Officers responded to a shooting in an apartment building's parking lot. Three victims were transported to the hospital. Officers observed a security camera in the window of apartment 1, pointed toward the parking lot. After interviewing two witnesses, Detective Dunn viewed video footage from a business across the street, which corroborated their account. He learned that Haney, an occupant of unit 1, was involved in a dispute with the sister of two shooting victims. Dunn obtain a warrant to search Unit 1; other officers executed the warrant. An officer moved clothes in the bedroom closet and saw a sawed-off shotgun. He also seized a baggie of white powder, a laptop, and cell phones from the bedroom. Other officers seized cameras, a computer monitor, a Kindle, shotgun shells, pieces of a scale with traces of drug residue, photographs, and documents bearing the names of Haney and Saddler.Saddler later unsuccessfully moved to suppress all evidence seized during the search and an incriminating statement she later made concerning the shotgun. The Eighth Circuit affirmed her subsequent conviction as a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The affidavit described facts that connected Haney to the shooting and created a fair probability that evidence that would aid in a particular apprehension or conviction would be found. Dunn’s reliance on the issuance of the warrant was objectively reasonable. In addition, the seizure of the shotgun satisfied the “plain view” exception. View "United States v. Saddler" on Justia Law
Randy Kinder Excavating, Inc. v. JA Manning Construction Company, Inc.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's award of $283,609.15 in attorneys' fees to Manning in this action arising out of a contract dispute between Kinder, a general contractor, and Manning, a subcontractor.The court concluded that the district court properly applied Arkansas state law to decide the matter because the issue of attorneys' fees is a procedural matter governed by Arkansas law. The court also concluded that the subcontract's silence as to Manning's ability to recover attorneys' fees as the prevailing party does not operate as a waiver of its right to recover such fees under Ark. Code Ann.16-22-308. The court further concluded that because the requested attorneys' fees were incurred by Manning, Manning's recovery of such attorneys' fees is not prohibited under Ark. Code Ann. 23-79-208. View "Randy Kinder Excavating, Inc. v. JA Manning Construction Company, Inc." on Justia Law
Hanover Insurance Co. v. Dunbar Mechanical Contractors, LLC
Dunbar, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), was awarded an Army Corps of Engineers ditch and tributary project in Arkansas. Dunbar then hired a subcontractor, Harding Enterprises, to work on the project. After Harding Enterprises defaulted, Dunbar made a demand on the bond guaranteed by Hanover, which Hanover denied. Hanover then filed suit seeking a declaration that it had no obligations under the bond and seeking to have the bond rescinded based on illegality of the subcontract.The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Hanover, holding that the district court erroneously concluded that the subcontract was undisputedly in violation of 13 C.F.R. 125.6(b)(2) because the percentage that Dunbar spent on contract performance relative to the prime contract price could not be conclusively ascertained until conclusion of performance of the prime contract. The court also held that the potential that Hanover may have liability under the False Claims Act if it were to perform under the bond does not justify discharging Hanover from its obligations and rescinding the contract. View "Hanover Insurance Co. v. Dunbar Mechanical Contractors, LLC" on Justia Law
Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. v. International Fidelity Insurance Co.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment against a subcontractor's surety (Fidelity), and in favor of the general contractor's surety (Liberty) for the full amount of Fidelity's performance bond. The appeal stemmed from a dispute over costs that resulted from contractor defaults in completing a federal government construction project.The court held that when Fidelity issued a performance bond for a subcontractor on a federal project, and its principal defaulted, the word "successor" in the performance bond included as obligee a surety operating under the Takeover Agreement with the federal government. The court agreed with the district court that the many subcontract changes in the Ratification Agreement cited by Fidelity did not as a matter of law, singly or in combination, so materially alter Electric's obligations under the Subcontract that Fidelity's performance bond was discharged. Finally, the court rejected Fidelity's argument that Liberty failed to meet conditions precedent. View "Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. v. International Fidelity Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Construction Law
Randy Kinder Excavating, Inc. v. JA Manning Construction Co.
Kinder filed suit against Manning, alleging that Manning breached a contract to build a pumping station. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Manning, holding that Kinder committed the first material breach of contract by threatening to assess delay-related damages without any justification, interfering with the relationship between Manning and EarthTec, and failing to provide adequate assurances that Manning would be paid for its work. The court also held that the district court correctly found that Kinder wrongfully terminated the contract and that evidence at trial supported the damage award. View "Randy Kinder Excavating, Inc. v. JA Manning Construction Co." on Justia Law
Associated Electric & Gas Ins. v. BendTec, Inc.
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
Demien Construction Co. v. O’Fallon Fire Protection Dist.
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
Duit Constr. Co. Inc. v. Bennett
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
Cedar Rapids Lodge & Suites, LLC v. Lightowler Johnson Assocs., Inc.
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