Ohio N. Univ. v. Charles Constr. Servs., 2018 Ohio LEXIS 2375 (Oct. 9, 2018)

This post was published in the National Association of Credit Management eNews on December 20, 2018.

This case arose out of the construction of an inn and conference center at Ohio Northern University (“ONU”).  After completion of the project, ONU discovered water damage and structural defects in the work and filed suit for breach of contract against its general contractor, Charles Construction Services, Inc. (“Charles”).  Charles, in turn, sought defense and indemnity from its commercial general liability insurer, Cincinnati Insurance Company (“CIC”).  As required by ONU, Charles’s policy contained a “products-completed operations-hazard” (“PCOH”) clause and terms specifically related to work performed by subcontractors.  Under Charles’ policy, the insurance covered “property damage” only if it was caused by an “occurrence,” defined as “[a]n accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions.”  “Accident,” however, was not defined.  CIC intervened in ONU’s suit, seeking a declaratory judgment that it was not required to defend or indemnify Charles.

The trial court granted CIC summary judgment, holding that CIC had no duty to indemnify or defend Charles.  The trial court based its holding on Westfield Inc. Co. v. Custom Agri Sys., Inc., 979 N.E.2d 269, a 2012 decision in which the Ohio Supreme Court concluded that claims for faulty workmanship are not fortuitous, and therefore, not claims for “property damage” caused by an “occurrence” covered by a CGL policy.
Continue Reading The Buckeye State Bucks Recent Trend: Ohio Supreme Court Holds That Property Damage Caused by a Subcontractor’s Faulty Work Does Not Constitute an “Occurrence” Covered Under CGL Policies

Manley Architecture Grp., LLC, v. Santanello, 2018 Ohio App. LEXIS 2372 (June 7, 2018)

Dr. Steven A. Santanello (“Santanello”) contracted with Manley Architecture Group, LLC (“MAG”) to design and manage the construction of a large home, riding barn, pond, tennis court and outdoor pool.  Santanello acted as his own general contractor.

During construction, problems arose with the barn roof, and Santanello stopped paying MAG’s and his subcontractors’ invoices.   MAG advanced $55,557.68 to Santanello’s subcontractors to induce them to complete the project.  MAG later filed a breach of contract action against Santanello seeking to recover these advances.

Santanello filed a counterclaim for breach of contract, alleging that MAG breached its obligation to properly manage the construction of the barn, ultimately necessitating the replacement of the roof.  After a bench trial, the trial court found that both parties had breached the contract.  The parties cross-appealed.


Continue Reading Ohio Court of Appeals Rules That Architect’s Authority Does Not Extend to Advancing Payments to Subcontractors, and Architect’s Liability Does Not Extend to Guaranteeing Subcontractors’ Work

Girolametti v. Michael Horton Assoc., 2017 Conn. App. Lexis 228 (June 6, 2017)

A General Contractor brought claims for unpaid added work, via mandatory arbitration, against a building owner who asserted defective work claims in response.  The Owner abandoned the arbitration mid-process after a partial presentation of its claims.  The arbitrator ruled in favor of the General Contractor, awarding $508,597 in damages, which was affirmed by the Superior Court and Appellate Court.  The Owner then attempted to bring the same defective work claims in state court against the General Contractor, its subcontractors, and the Owner’s testing company on the project.  The defendants all filed motions for summary judgment asserting the defenses of collateral estoppel and res judicata.
The trial court granted the General Contractor’s motion but denied the subcontractors’ and testing company’s motions on the basis that both collateral estoppel and res judicata required privity between those entities and the General Contractor.

The Court of Appeals discussed each motion in detail.  As to the Owner’s claims against the General Contractor, the Court found that the Owner’s complaint involved the same claims of design and installation defects as had been raised or could have been raised in the arbitration.  The Owner had a full and fair opportunity to present his claims against the General Contractor in arbitration.  Thus, the trial court’s grant of summary judgment was affirmed on the basis of res judicata.


Continue Reading Connecticut Appellate Court Holds That Owner’s Loss in Arbitration to General Contractor on Claims of Defective Work Operates as Res Judicata to Bar Owner’s Claim Against Subcontractors Who Were Not Parties to the 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

Hill County High School District No. A v. Dick Anderson Construction, Inc., 2017 Mont. LEXIS 38 (Mt. Feb 7, 2017)

This action arose out of the design and construction of a new roof for a high school in Hill County, Montana. The roof was built by Dick Anderson Construction, Inc. (“Contractor”) and designed by Springer Group Architects, P.C. (“Architect”). While the parties disputed whether the roof was ever completed to the School District’s satisfaction, the school was in full use by April 1998 and final payment was issued around that same time.

Problems emerged with the roof almost immediately. The Contractor and Architect worked with the School District to address the problems through October 2003 when the Architect informed the School District that repairs were finished and that no further work was necessary. But the roof partially collapsed in 2010 and the School District filed suit the following year.


Continue Reading Montana Supreme Court Rules That Statute of Repose Is an Absolute Bar to Claims and Cannot be Tolled for Any Reason, Including Concealment

Hensel Phelps Constr. Co. v. Thompson Masonry Contractor, Inc., et. al., No. 151780, 2016 Va. LEXIS 166 (Va. Nov. 3, 2016)

The dispute arose from the construction of a student health and fitness center at Virginia Tech. The prime contractor, Hensel Phelps, and its subcontractors substantially completed their work in 1998, and Virginia Tech made final payment in 1999. In April 2012, Virginia Tech discovered defects in the work, elected to repair them, and then sought to recover the costs from Hensel Phelps. Despite the significant passage of time between completion of the work and Virginia Tech’s assertion of its claims, Hensel Phelps could not invoke the statute of limitations because under Virginia Code § 8.01-231, statutes of limitation do not apply to claims asserted by Commonwealth agencies such as Virginia Tech.  Ultimately, Hensel Phelps paid $3,000,000 to Virginia Tech to settle the defective work claims.

Hensel Phelps, in turn, sought to recover from the subcontractors that performed the defective work. When the subcontractors refused to pay, Hensel Phelps commenced an action alleging, among other things, breach of contract against the subcontractors and their sureties. All of the defendants argued that Hensel Phelps’ claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The lower courts agreed. On appeal, the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed.


Continue Reading Virginia Supreme Court Holds That Subcontractors Did Not Waive Statute of Limitations, With The Result That The General Contractor Was Liable To Owner For Defective Work But With No Recourse Against Subcontractors Who Performed The Work

United States Fire Insurance Co. v. J.S.U.B., Inc. and Auto-Owners Insurance Co. v. Pozzi Window Co.
2007 Fla. LEXIS 2394 and 2007 Fla. LEXIS 2391 (Dec. 20, 2007)
On December 20, 2007, the Florida Supreme Court decided United States Fire Insurance Company, et al. v. J.S.U.B., Inc., et al., 2007 Fla. LEXIS 2394, and Auto-Owners Insurance Company v. Pozzi Window Company, et al., 2007 Fla. LEXIS 2391 – two cases dealing with whether a standard form CGL policy with products completed operations hazard coverage issued to a general contractor, cover a general contractor’s liability to a third party for repair and/or replacement costs due to defective work by its subcontractor.

Continue Reading Florida Supreme Court Considers CGL Policy Coverage of Damage Resulting from Defective Work by Subcontractors