Articles Posted in Construction Law

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In holding that the successor judge in this case had authority to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract and consequential damages and committed no reversible error by doing so, the Supreme Court repudiated any language in its precedent that suggests that a successor judge on a case is bound by nonfinal decisions and rulings made by his predecessor. Plaintiff, who was hired by the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to work on different construction projects, filed various claims against UDOT and other contractors on the projects. UDOT moved for summary judgment on claims for breach of contract on the “Arcadia” project and claims seeking consequential damages. Judge Kennedy, the original judge assigned to the case, denied both motions. Judge Kennedy was then replaced in this case by Judge Harris. Judge Harris ultimately dismissed Plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract and consequential damages. Plaintiff filed this interlocutory appeal, arguing that Judge Harris violated the so-called coordinate judge rule, which Plaintiff alleged limits the discretion of a successor judge to revisit decisions of a predecessor. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) a successor judge has the same power to review nonfatal decisions that a predecessor would have had; and (2) Judge Harris did not commit reversible error by dismissing the claims at issue. View "Build v. Utah Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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An action is commenced under Utah law not by the filing of a motion for leave to amend but by the filing of a complaint. Many years after filing suit against other defendants a homeowners association sued the general contractor on a construction project. By the time the homeowners association finally filed an amended complaint naming the general contractor the statute of repose had run on six buildings in the project. The general contractor filed motion for summary judgment, asserting that the claims against it were time barred. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the amended complaint related back to the date the motion for leave to amend was filed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the homeowners association’s claims were time barred because no viable complaint was filed within the repose period and the complaint did not relate back to a timely pleading. View "Gables v. Castlewood" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision to award prejudgment interest to LeGrand and concluded that Celtic Bank was the prevailing party on the prejudgment interest issues. LeGrand Johnson Construction Company filed an action seeking to enforce its mechanic’s lien on property owned by B2AC, LLC for the unpaid value of construction services, and Celtic Bank, B2AC’s lender, sought to foreclose on the same property after B2AC failed to pay on its loan. The action resulted in a lien for $237,294 and an award of attorney fees and costs. Thereafter, the district court determined that LeGrand’s lien, rather than Celtic Bank’s lien, had priority and awarded LeGrand attorney fees and costs. The court then ruled that LeGrand was entitled to recover eighteen percent in prejudgment and postjudgment interest from Celtic Bank based on LeGrand’s contract with B2AC. The Supreme Court (1) reinforced its holding in Jordan Construction, Inc. v. Federal National Mortgage Ass’n, 408 P.3d 296 (Utah 2017), that prejudgment interest is not available under the 2008 version of the Utah Mechanic’s Lien Act; and (2) vacated the attorney fee award because it was based, in part, on the notion that LeGrand had succeeded in establishing its right to prejudgment interest. View "LeGrand Johnson Construction Co. v. Celtic Bank Corp." on Justia Law

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In this action alleging, inter alia, breaches of fiduciary duty and the implied warranty of habitability, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and a directed verdict against The Gables at Sterling Village Homeowner’s Association (the Association) but vacated the district court’s award of attorney fees. The Association filed this action against the property developer who built the Gables at Sterling Village, the builders, and their principles after property owners began to notice problems in the planned unit development. The property owner asserted a counterclaim for indemnification. The district court granted (1) summary judgment against the Association, concluding that the Association lacked contractual privity with the property developer; (2) the property developer’s motion for directed verdict on the Association’s claim for breach of fiduciary duty; and (3) the property developer’s post-trial motion for indemnification of attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment and directed verdict; but (2) the property developer should have tried his indemnification claim rather than raise it by post-trial motion. View "Gables at Sterling Village Homeowners Ass’n v. Castlewood-Sterling Village I, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Homebuyer's construction defect claims against the Contractor that built his home on the ground that Homebuyer was not in privity with Contractor and had no right to sue as an assignee. Property Owner entered into an agreement with Contractor to build a house on the property and then assigned its rights to the home and the construction agreement to Company. Company then sold the home to Homebuyer but did not assign its interest in the construction agreement to Homebuyer. After discovering several purported construction defects, Homebuyer sued Contractor for breach of the construction agreement and breach of warranty. Homeowner was subsequently assigned Company’s interest in claims Company may assert against Contractor. The district court granted summary judgment to Contractor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Homebuyer had no right to sue under Utah Code 78B-4-513 because he did not acquire a right to sue for breach of contract or warranty as an assignee - either at the time he purchased the home or at the time of the assignment. View "Tomlinson v. Douglas Knight Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s denial of the motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by several property developers (Developers) alleging that the City of West Jordan violated statutory provisions that regulate how a municipality may spend impact fees collected from developers. The court held (1) Developers had standing to challenge the constitutionality of the impact fees they were assessed; (2) Developers failed to state a takings claim for which relief can be granted because Developers’ allegations that West Jordan either failed to spend impact fees within six years or spent the fees on impermissible expenditures were inadequate to support a constitutional takings claim; and (3) Developers did not have standing to bring a claim in equity. View "Alpine Homes, Inc. v. City of West Jordan" on Justia Law

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This case concerning a general contractor’s attempt to recover on a mechanic’s lien involved two phases. In the first phase, Jordan Construction, Inc. prevailed on its counterclaims against Scott Bell. In the second phase, Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) was brought into the action as a third-party defendant. FNMA subsequently succeeded in a series of motions before the district court. FNMA then stipulated to the payment of $126,956.92, the amount of the original mechanic’s lien. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that FNMA is not bound by the earlier judgment rendered against Bell under either the recording of the lis pendens or the doctrine of res judicata; (2) did not err in ruling that Jordan Construction’s amended notice of lien was untimely; (3) did not err in ruling that, under the 2008 Utah Code, Jordan Construction was not entitled to recover prejudgment interest on its mechanic’s lien claim; and (4) properly awarded FNMA attorney fees under the mechanic’s lien statute. View "Jordan Construction, Inc. v. Federal National Mortgage Ass’n" on Justia Law

Posted in: Construction Law

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At issue in this case was the effect of a subordination agreement between fewer than all of the creditors who hold an interest in the same collateral. Appellant VCS, Inc. provided labor and materials to improve real property located in a planned unit development. The developer, Acord Meadows, secured funding for the project from America West Bank and Utah Funding Commercial. The loans were secured with trust deeds to the development properties, and the lenders entered into subordination agreements among themselves that altered the priority arrangement of their trust deeds. Because VCS was never paid for its work, it filed a mechanic’s lien covering several lots of the development, four of which were sold through a foreclosure sale after Acord defaulted on its loans from Utah Funding. VCS claimed it was entitled to payment of its mechanic’s lien because its lien had priority over Utah Funding’s liens. The district court ruled that VCS’s mechanic’s lien was extinguished by the foreclosure of Utah Funding’s liens. The Supreme Court affirmed after adopting the partial subordination approach to the issue in this case, holding that under the partial subordination approach, VCS’s mechanic’s lien was extinguished once Utah Funding’s lien was foreclosed upon. View "VCS Inc. v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lane Myers Construction agreed to build two separate homes for Dick and Kym Kyker. The Kykers obtained a construction loan through National City Bank. The bank periodically paid Lane Myers on draw request forms that indicated that Lane Myers had no lien on the property. Because the Kykers failed to repay Lane Myers as promised, Lane Myers recorded a mechanic’s lien against the property. Lane Myers then filed suit seeking to enforce its lien. The district court granted summary judgment for the Kykers and National City, concluding that the draw requests substantially complied with the Utah Mechanics’ Lien Act in effectively waiving Lane Myers’ right to file a mechanic’s lien. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the forms were not in substantial compliance with the Act because they failed to incorporate the four essential elements of the statutory “form” necessary to waive and release lien rights. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) the Act requires only a waiver and release signed by the lien claimant, and the “form” set forth in the Act is merely a safe harbor; and (2) genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment in this case. View "Lane Myers Constr., LLC v. Nat’l City Bank" on Justia Law

Posted in: Construction Law

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The Utah Occupational Safety and Health Division (UOSH) cited and fined Hughes General Contractors, which oversaw a construction project involving over 100 subcontractors, for a subcontractor’s violation on the project. In determining that Hughes was responsible for safety conditions for the subcontractor’s employees, the UOSH invoked the multi-employer worksite doctrine, which makes a general contractor responsible for the occupational safety of all workers on a worksite, including those who are not the contractor’s employees. Both an administrative law judge and the Labor Commission’s Appeals Board upheld the citation and the multi-employer worksite doctrine, which federal OSHA regulations have adopted and federal courts have upheld. The Supreme Court reversed the citation and penalty, holding (1) the multi-employer worksite doctrine is incompatible with the governing Utah statute, Utah Code 34A-6-201(1; (2) the responsibility for ensuring occupational safety under the governing statute is limited to an employer’s responsibility to its employees; and (3) because Hughes was not an employer of the workers in question in this case, Hughes was improperly cited and sanctioned. View "Hughes Gen. Contractors, Inc. v. Utah Labor Comm’n" on Justia Law