Articles Posted in Construction Law

by
In this home construction contract dispute, the Supreme Court (1) affirmed the district court’s decision awarding contractual damages to Contractor and dismissing Homeowners’ counterclaims for damages and attorney’s fees; but (2) reversed the district court’s denial of Contractor’s right to foreclose its construction lien placed on Homeowners’ property and the court’s decision to deny Contractor attorney’s fees pursuant to the lien foreclosure statute. The Court held that the district court erred as a matter of law when it reasoned that Contractor was not entitled to a favorable judgment for the foreclosure of the construction lien on the basis of Homeowners’ dissatisfaction with the work performed. Remanded. View "Vintage Construction, Inc. v. Feighner" on Justia Law

by
Michael Mandell and Bayliss Ward and Bayliss Architects, P.C. (Bayliss) agreed that Bayliss would provide architectural and construction services for Mandell’s home. Mandell refused to pay Bayliss’s final invoice, and Bayliss filed a construction lien on the property. Mandell initiated this action stating counts of breach of contract, declaratory judgment that the lien was invalid, and quiet title to the property. Bayliss counterclaimed for foreclosure of the construction lien, quantum meruit, and breach of contract. The district court partially granted Mandell’s claim for declaratory relief, ruling that because Bayliss failed to obtain a written contract for construction services, the contract was void and the lien for those services was invalid. After a trial, the district court granted relief in quantum meruit and awarded attorney fees to Bayliss. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding that the district court (1) did not err in granting equitable relief in quantum meruit, despite violation of the statutory requirement that residential construction contracts be in writing; and (2) erred in awarding attorney fees for the quantum meruit claim. Remanded. View "Mandell v. Bayliss Ward" on Justia Law

by
Jerry and Karen Slack hired Jeffrey Fisher and his construction company, Fisher Builders, to build a remodeled home. During the project, the deck collapsed, and the Slacks’ construction permit was revoked. The Slacks filed a negligence action against Fisher and his company. Fisher had a commercial general liability insurance policy with Employers Mutual Casualty Company (EMC). EMC filed a declaratory action alleging that there was no coverage and that it had no duty to defend or indemnify any party in the negligence action. Fisher and Fisher Builders ultimately settled with the Slacks and assigned their rights under the EMC insurance policy to the Slacks. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of EMC, ruling that Fisher’s conduct was clearly intentional and did not fit within the meaning of “occurrence” under the policy, regardless of whether Fisher intended the consequences. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court (1) erred by concluding that, in the context of general liability insurance, the term “occurrence,” defined by the policy as “an accident,” categorically precludes coverage for any intentional conduct on the part of the insured with unintended results; and (2) erred when it granted summary judgment in favor of EMC, as issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. Remanded. View "Employers Mut. Cas. Co. v. Slack" on Justia Law

by
Continental Partners bought a lot with two building pads from Yellowstone Development that was part of the Yellowstone Club subdivision. The purchase and sale agreement included an assurance that the houses Continental intended to build on the lot would have ski-in and gravity ski-out access built by the Yellowstone Club. During construction, Continental sold the homes to separate buyers, including the managing member of WLW Realty Partners, LLC. Before construction on the ski-out access on the two homes had begun, the Yellowstone Club filed for bankruptcy protection. The subsequent owners of Yellowstone Club informed the new owners that ski-out access to the homes would not be constructed. WLW Realty filed this action against Continental, alleging, inter alia, negligent misrepresentation and violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). After a bench trial, the district court entered judgment for WLW Realty. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred by (1) imposing liability on Continental for negligent misrepresentation, as WLW Realty failed to satisfy the first and second elements of the tort; and (2) finding that Continental had violated the MCPA, as Continental did not engage in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. View "WLW Realty Partners, LLC v. Continental Partners VIII, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The predecessor in interest to dck Worldwide Holdings, Inc. (together, Worldwide) entered into a contract with Spanish Peaks Lodge, LLC to serve as the general contractor for for a construction project. Spanish Peaks procured financing with the predecessor in interest to CH SP Acquisition LLC (together, CHSP), and CHSP took a mortgage against Spanish Peaks’ development property. When Spanish Peaks breached the parties’ contract Worldwide filed a construction lien claiming the unpaid portion of the contractor’s fee and the amount Worldwide owed to a subcontractor, Allied Steel, Inc. Allied Steel also filed a construction lien for unpaid services and materials. Allied Steel, Spanish Peaks, and Worldwide entered into a settlement agreement, and CHSP and Worldwide reached a partial settlement under which Worldwide released all of its claims against CHSP except for those at issue on appeal. The district court concluded that the unpaid portion of the contractor’s fee and the subcontractor’s fee were both secured by Worldwide in the amount of $5,476,277 and $661,767, respectively, and lienable as a matter of law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court (1) erred by concluding that the unpaid portion of the contractor’s fee was lienable; and (2) erred by concluding that the subcontractor’s fee remained alienable after Allied Steel settled its claim. View "dck Worldwide Holdings Inc. v. CH SP Acquisition LLC" on Justia Law

by
Jim Hein hired John Sott and his companies (collectively, Sott) to construct a log home for him and then, later, an addition to the home. Hein eventually filed a complaint against Sott alleging negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act (CPA). The district court dismissed Hein’s claims related to the construction of the home as time-barred and then dismissed Hein’s remaining claims on the ground that Hein had not provided expert evidence that Sott’s work was either defective or caused Hein damage. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) correctly determined that Hein’s negligence and negligent misrepresentation claims arising from water damage to his home were barred by the statute of repose; (2) did not err in determining that Hein’s CPA claims for damages arising two years before Hein filed his complaint were barred by the statute of limitations but erred in determining that Hein’s CPA claims based on alleged deceptive acts or practices in the performance of repairs occurring less than two years before Hein filed his complaint were barred by the statute of limitations; and (3) erred in determining that Hein was required to produce expert evidence for his CPA claim arising from Sott’s billing for work on the addition. View "Hein v. Sott" on Justia Law

by
Cody McDonald was injured while working on the construction of a building. RTK Construction, Inc. hired Ponderosa Enterprises Inc. to frame the building, and Ponderosa hired McDonald as an independent contractor to assist with the framing. McDonald brought suit against Ponderosa and RTK, alleging, inter alia, negligence and violation of the Montana Occupational Safety and Health Act (MOSHA). The district court granted partial summary judgment on the MOSHA claims, concluding that because McDonald was an independent contractor at the time of his injury, Ponderosa and RTK did not owe him any duties of safety under MOSHA. RTK was subsequently dismissed from the case, and a jury found that Ponderosa was not negligent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that MOSHA does not create a duty for employers to meet certain safety guidelines with respect to independent contractors. View "McDonald v. Ponderosa Enters., Inc." on Justia Law

by
This action involved a dispute arising from the construction of a large house. Interstate Mechanical, Inc. initiated an arbitration action to recover payments it claimed as a result of its work on the house project. Abbey/Land LLC and Glacier Construction Partners LLC (collectively, Plaintiffs) then filed suit against Interstate in Montana District Court in Flathead County. Thereafter, Glacier asserted counterclaims in the Interstate arbitration proceeding and obtained a positive arbitration award against Interstate. Abbey/Land subsequently filed an amended complaint dismissing Glacier as a plaintiff and naming it as a defendant. Glacier tendered the Abbey/Land claims to its insurer, James River Insurance Company. James River refused to provide defense or indemnity. Glacier and Abbey/Land settled the Flathead County action as between themselves. James River moved to intervene in the Flathead County action to challenge the reasonableness of the confessed judgment against Glacier. Meanwhile, Abbey/Land and Glacier entered settlements with all other parties. The district court never ruled on James River’s motion to intervene and entered final judgment against Glacier. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in entering judgment without considering either its motion to intervene or the reasonableness of the confessed judgment. View "Abbey/Land LLC v. Interstate Mechanical, Inc." on Justia Law

by
During a highway paving project a storm caused recently applied primer to emulsify in rainwater. The oil splashed onto passing vehicles, causing damage. The vehicle owners brought claims against the State, which the State paid. A.M. Welles, Inc. (Welles), the general contractor on the job, reimbursed the State for what it paid to the vehicle owners. The State then sued Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. (Liberty), the insurer for the job, seeking indemnification for the costs that Welles did not cover. Welles, in turn, sued the subcontractors for the project, Montana Materials, Inc., RSJ, Inc., and GLJ, Inc. (collectively, “Jensen”), seeking indemnification under the subcontract. The district court granted summary judgment for Jensen on Welles’s indemnification claim and dismissed the State’s action against Liberty for failure to prosecute. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded, holding that the district court (1) erred in denying Welles’s motion for summary judgment, as Welles was entitled to indemnification under the subcontract; and (2) abused its discretion by dismissing the State’s action against Liberty for failure to prosecute. Remanded. View "A.M. Welles, Inc. v. Mont. Materials, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 1988, Defendant pled guilty to sexual intercourse without consent and was sentenced to thirty years imprisonment with ten years suspended. In 1992, Defendant escaped from prison. After he was apprehended, he was convicted with escape and other charges. In 2007, Defendant was discharged to serve the suspended portion of his sentence. In 2011, the district court orally found that Defendant had substantially violated the conditions of his parole. The court then imposed a new sentence of ten years with all time suspended and imposed fourteen new conditions to Defendant’s suspended sentence. Thereafter, the district court revoked Defendant’s suspended sentence, sentenced Defendant to ten years imprisonment with five years suspended, and reimposed the fourteen new conditions on his suspended sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the imposition of fourteen new conditions on Defendant’s suspended sentence for his 1988 crime did not violate ex post facto principles. Remanded. View "State v. Piller" on Justia Law