Peoples Gas Sys. v. Posen Constr., Inc., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106427 (M.D. Fla. June 26, 2018)

In 2009 Posen Construction, Inc. (“Posen”), a road construction contractor, entered into a general contractor agreement with the Lee County Board of County Commissioners for a lane expansion and drainage system project in east Fort Myers, Florida (the “Project”).  Peoples Gas System (“PGS”), an owner of natural gas distribution facilities throughout Florida, maintained gas pipelines underneath the Project site, which required caution when Posen worked around it.  To that end, PGS marked the pipeline with flags, paint, and installed testing stations.

However, during the course of the Project, Posen learned that at certain locations construction would be impossible unless PGS removed portions of the pipeline.  Therefore, in October 2010, Posen submitted a request to Sunshine One, a notification system whereby excavators obtain the location of underground utilities before excavation.  In November 2010, a Posen employee, Mark Santos (“Santos”) was directed to excavate at a location that PGS maintained was not properly marked for the location of the gas pipeline.  Santos struck and ruptured the pipeline and was severely injured as a result.
Continue Reading Contractor Has No Duty to Indemnify Gas Company for Settlement Paid to Injured Employee Under Florida’s Underground Facility and Safety Act

United States Home Corp. v. Ballesteros Trust, 2018 Nev. LEXIS 28 (Nev. Apr. 12, 2018)

United States Home Corporation (“U.S.H.”) built homes in a Nevada common-interest community, subject to a Covenant, Conditions, and Restrictions agreement (“CC&R”), which provided that any dispute would be resolved by arbitration.

Between August 2013 and February 2015, twelve home purchasers filed pre-litigation notices against U.S.H. for alleged construction defects.  Three of the purchasers had direct purchase and sales agreements with U.S.H. that contained arbitration clauses; the remaining homeowners did not sign such agreements, but took title subject to the CC&R.  U.S.H. demanded arbitration, but the homeowners brought claims in a Nevada district court seeking damages for breach of contract and other claims.  U.S.H. moved to compel arbitration.  The court held that the transaction did not involve interstate commerce, so the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) did not apply, and invalidated the arbitration agreements as unconscionable.


Continue Reading Nevada Supreme Court Rules That Arbitration Clause in Common-Interest Community’s Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions Binds Homeowners  

Harakas Constr., Inc. v. Metro Gov’t of Nashville, 2018 Tenn. App. LEXIS 45 (Tenn. App. January 29, 2018)

 BK Partners LLC (“BK”) sought to build a condominium complex in Davidson County.  This required an upgrade to the existing public sewer system.  Therefore BK and the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (“Metro”) entered into an agreement whereby Metro agreed to contribute $200,000 to the cost of the sewer upgrade with BK responsible for the actual construction.  BK hired Harakas Construction, Inc. (“Harakas”) to upgrade the system (the “Project”).  Metro was not a party to that contract (the “Contract”).

Harakas encountered unforeseen soil conditions, which resulted in two change orders that increased the Contract amount.  Under the Contract, Metro was not required to authorize change orders; nevertheless, Metro was involved in the discussions.  Harakas performed the extra work and achieved substantial completion.  However, after a defect was discovered in the upgraded system, Metro refused to fund the Project.  When BK failed to pay Harakas, Harakas sued both Metro and BK.  Against Metro, Harakas claimed promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment.  The trial court granted Metro summary judgment based on sovereign immunity.


Continue Reading Sovereign Immunity Bars Contractor’s Claims for Unjust Enrichment and Promissory Estoppel Against City Government on Semi-Public Project

SWN Prod. Co., LLC v. Long, 2017 W. Va. LEXIS 892 (W. Va. Oct. 18, 2017)

Respondents Richard and Mary Long (“Respondents” or “Lessors”) brought a state court action against Petitioner SWN Production Company, LLC (“Petitioner” or “Lessee”) seeking to recover alleged payments owed pursuant to an oil and gas lease (the “Lease”) entered into between Petitioner and Respondent.
Petitioner filed a motion to compel arbitration, relying on the Lease’s arbitration provision, which reads:  “In the event of a disagreement between Lessor and Lessee concerning this Lease, performance thereunder, or damages caused by Lessee’s operations, the resolution of all such disputes shall be determined by arbitration in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association.”


Continue Reading West Virginia Supreme Court Applies Doctrine of Severability to Enforce Lease’s Arbitration Provision, Despite Other Provisions Contemplating Litigation in Court

Universal Acad. v. Berkshire Dev., 2017 Mich. App. LEXIS 975 (Ct. App. June 20, 2017)

The dispute arose out of an agreement between Universal Academy (“Universal”) and Berkshire Development (“Berkshire”), under which Berkshire agreed to provide demolition services to Universal and Hamadeh Education Services (“HES”).  The agreement also contained an arbitration provision which provided in part:

In the event of a dispute between Contractor and the Owner that cannot be resolved, the parties agree to binding arbitration with the American Arbitration Association in accordance with the Construction Industry’s Rules of the American Arbitration Association in effect as of the date of this Agreement.

The agreement was terminated by Universal, alleging material breaches by Berkshire.  Following termination, subcontractors for the project filed a complaint against Berkshire, Universal, and HES, requesting foreclosure of construction liens and payment for services.  In response, Berkshire filed a cross-complaint against Universal and HES, requesting foreclosure of its lien and asserting claims of promissory estoppel and fraudulent inducement.  Five months after it filed the cross-complaint, Berkshire filed a motion to enforce the arbitration agreement between it and Universal.


Continue Reading Michigan Appellate Court Rules That, Absent Proof of Prejudice, Defendant’s Filing of a Cross-Complaint Does Not Constitute a Waiver of Arbitration

Alkemade v. Quanta Indem. Co., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6896 (9th Cir. Apr. 20, 2017)

 In 1994, Adrianus and Rachelle Alkemade (the “Alkemades”) bought a house from Meltebeke Built Paradise Homes (“Meltebeke”). The home was built on expanding soils, causing significant structural damage.  Meltebeke repaired the existing damage and hired an engineering firm to install a helical pier foundation, which would have prevented any further damage to the home.  However, the helical pier foundation was also installed negligently, afflicting the home with the same type of structural damage as before.

Alkemades sued Meltebeke for negligent supervision of the helical piers installation. Meltebeke entered a settlement agreement with Alkemades in which Meltebeke assigned to Alkemades the right to sue its insurers, Quanta and GFIC, who refused to defend Meltebeke on grounds that its knowledge of the damage caused by the original, defective construction prevented coverage under a known damages provision in Meltebeke’s policies (the “Policies”).  Alkemades subsequently sued the issuers for breach of contract in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon for their failure to defend and indemnify Meltebeke.  The insurers moved for summary judgment.

The Policies excluded coverage for damage known by the insured, in whole or in part, that occurred before the policy period began. If such damage was known to the insured, then any “any continuation, change or resumption” of that damage was also deemed known, and excluded.


Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Holds That Despite ‘Known Damage’ Exclusion Insurer Had Duty Under Oregon Law to Indemnify and Defend Contractor When Property Damage Resulted From Contractor’s Negligent Repair of a Prior Negligent Act

LaShip, LLC v. Hayward Baker, Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 3694 (5th Cir. Mar. 1, 2017)

Beginning in 2007, LaShip, LLC (“LaShip”) undertook the construction of a large shipbuilding facility in Houma, Louisiana (the “Project”), situated on its own private land as well as land owned by the Terrebonne Port Commission (“TPC) – a subdivision of the Louisiana state government. In July 2008, LaShip accepted a bid from Hayward Baker, Inc. (“HBI”) to complete the soil mixing and drill shaft work on the Project.

The contract between LaShip and HBI (the “Contract”) provided for HBI to install subterranean soil-mix columns to form the foundation of the shipbuilding facility and prevent it from collapsing into the soft and compressible Louisiana soil. Pursuant to the Contract, HBI obtained soil samples to ascertain the columns’ strength.  Laboratory testing revealed that, in general, the soil possessed the requisite compressive strength provided for in the Contract.  Nevertheless, as the work progressed the columns exhibited spiraling, and HBI experienced several cave-ins during its installation of the drill shafts and unwanted settlement of the foundation columns.

On January 21, 2011, LaShip filed suit against HBI in the Louisiana Federal District Court alleging that HBI violated Louisiana law by not warning LaShip about alleged defects in the design of the columns. TPC joined the lawsuit on March 6, 2013, also claiming that HBI acted negligently in failing to warn of a dangerous condition.  The District Court ruled that LaShip failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence its claims against HBI.  LaShip and TPC then appealed.


Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Holds That Spearin-like Provision of Louisiana Civil Code Bars Negligent Failure to Warn Claim

United States ex rel. J.A. Manning Constr. Co. v. Bronze Oak, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6054 (N.D. Okla. Jan. 17, 2017)

 In May 2014 the Cherokee Nation issued a bid notice for bridge and roadway construction in Mayes County, Oklahoma (the “Project”). Funding was authorized pursuant to the Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of the Interior’s Tribal Transportation Program, 23 U.S.C. § 202, by which federal funding is offered to Native American tribal governments to pay the costs of certain transportation projects located on, or providing access to, tribal lands.

Bronze Oak, LLC submitted a bid proposal and was hired as the general contractor for Project, and J.A. Manning Construction Company (“JAMCC”) was hired as a subcontractor to supply labor and materials to the Project. Bronze Oak’s bid proposal provided that any resulting contract would be construed under U.S. and Cherokee Nation laws.  A payment bond was issued for the Project naming Bronze Oak as the principal, Mid-Continental Casualty Company as surety, and the United States as obligee.  The payment bond also stated it was for the protection of persons supplying labor and materials pursuant to the Miller Act.


Continue Reading Federal Court in Oklahoma Rules that Bond Issued on a Sovereign Tribal Construction Project is Not a Miller Act Bond Even Though it Stated it was Issued Pursuant to the Act and Named The United States As Obligee