Articles Posted in Construction Law

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Plaintiff’s action to recover under an insurance policy for the loss of her house caused when a renter (who had an option to purchase) demolished it. The trial court determined the insurance policy at issue excluded for such a loss. Within two months of renting the property, plaintiff learned the renter demolished the house. The renter agreed to rebuild a house on the remaining foundation. The renter started, but did not finish, rebuilding the house. Plaintiff thereafter made a claim on her insurance policy. The Idaho Supreme Court found after review of this matter, that the words in an insurance policy were to be given the meaning applied by lay people in daily usage. One such clause implicated the intentional destruction of the house as compared to accidental loss or inadequate remodeling. The renter’s actions in demolishing plaintiff’s house down to the foundation would not be considered by lay people as the “remodeling” of the house. He did not make alterations to an existing structure; he demolished that structure. There was no house left to remodel. Plaintiff had authorized the renter to perform some remodeling, such as installing new flooring, countertops, light fixtures, paint and other cosmetic improvements, but there was no evidence in the record that he did any remodeling at all, much less that the direct cause of the loss of the Plaintiff’s house was caused by any remodeling that had been done. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of the insurance company. View "Fisher v. Garrison Property & Casualty Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a lawsuit brought by a contractor, Michael Kelly against his former client, Pamela Wagner, alleging nonpayment of amounts due to him for the performance of construction work. The district court found in favor of Kelly and awarded him a total judgment of $13,762.54 ($4,694.64 of damages and $9,067.90 of prejudgment interest). On appeal, Wagner argued that the district court erred in finding that Kelly was owed for the construction work. She further argued that the district court erred in awarding prejudgment interest to Kelly. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Kelly v. Wagner" on Justia Law

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The issue in this appeal centered on whether a force majeure clause in a written contract between the county and a developer did not apply to the developer’s failure to obtain zoning approval in order to construct the cement plant required in the agreement. After review of the contract and the clause at issue here, the Supreme Court held that the clause was broad enough to apply. Accordingly, the Court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Burns Concrete, Inc v. Teton County" on Justia Law

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In 2013, plaintiff Fagen, Inc. filed this lawsuit seeking to recover damages for work it had done in the construction of a wind park located in Bingham County. It named as defendants Lava Beds Wind Park, LLC; Exergy Development Group of Idaho, LLC; and XRG Development Partners, LLC (collectively “Defendants”); and Tabor Wind Farms, LLC. The district court entered an order dismissing Plaintiff’s claims against Tabor pursuant to a stipulation of those parties. Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint against the remaining defendants, alleging causes of action to foreclose a mechanic’s lien, to recover damages for breach of contract, and to recover damages in quantum meruit. Plaintiff moved for summary judgment seeking a judgment against Lava Beds and Exergy Development for breach of contract. In opposition to that motion, defendants filed two affidavits, which merely contained vague and conclusory allegations. The district court denied defendants’ motion to continue the hearing on summary judgment. During the hearing, Plaintiff stated that it withdrew its claim to foreclose a mechanic’s lien and its claims against XRG, which resolved these Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Defense counsel admitted that Lava Beds and Exergy Development had breached their contract with Plaintiff, but he argued that one of the affidavits showed a need for further discovery at least as to the issue of damages. The court took the motion for summary judgment under advisement, then granted Plaintiff’s motion. It held that the conclusory affidavits submitted by Defendants were insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact precluding summary judgment. On the same date, the court entered an order granting Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Lava Beds and Exergy Development's motion for reconsideration was denied, and they appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision. View "Fagen v. Lava Beds Wind Park" on Justia Law

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This case was an appeal of an amended judgment awarding damages for breach of contract, court costs, and attorney fees in connection with a contract to construct five wind farms. Because the parties had stipulated to that portion of the judgment regarding the damages for breach of contract, those issues were not subject to appellate review. Because the only challenge to the award of attorney fees was raised for the first time on appeal, the Supreme Court did not consider it. The Court therefore affirmed the amended judgment and the award of costs and attorney fees on appeal. View "Fagen v. Rogerson Flats Wind Park" on Justia Law

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This case consolidated several individual cases dealing with claims for nonpayment against the developer of the Summer Wind at Orchard Hills residential and golf course development in Canyon County. Stanley Consulting, Inc. appealed the district court’s decision as to the priority date for Stanley’s engineer’s lien. Integrated Financial Associates, Inc. (“IFA”) cross-appealed the district court’s decision granting Knife River’s summary judgment motion based on the court’s decision that Knife River had a valid priority lien for paving work it did on roadways and golf cart paths without having to designate the lien between the two projects. After its review of the claims, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred when it determined an engineer’s priority under Idaho Code section 45-506 for rendering professional services dates back to when the first on-site professional services were rendered. Furthermore, the Court held the district court erred when it granted summary judgment in favor of Knife River on its lien claim priority. Accordingly, the district court’s judgments were vacated and the case is remanded for further proceedings. View "Stanley Consultants v. Integrated Financial Associates" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Richard Myers owned the property at issue in this case. At the time, the property was subject to a deed of trust in favor of First Horizon Home Loans. Myers enlisted Michael Horn and his company, Frontier Development Group (FDG) to build a residence on the property, which First Horizon financed. However, in April of 2007, Myers filed for bankruptcy, and First Horizon rescinded the construction loan and instructed FDG to halt construction when the project was only fifty percent complete. The structure was left exposed to the elements for fourteen months. Following Myers' bankruptcy, foreclosure proceedings were initiated, and Myers hired Kathleen Horn (Michael Horn's wife), of Windermere Real Estate/Teton Valley to list the property for sale. The Caravellas, who were Ohio residents, looking for property in the Teton Valley, contacted their real estate agent who put them in touch with Kathleen Horn who provided them with information on the stalled Myers project. Kathleen Horn eventually put the Caravellas in touch with Michael Horn. The Caravellas traveled to Idaho, met with Kathleen Horn, and spent two days inspecting the property. The Caravellas testified that Kathleen Horn minimized issues with the house, telling them that it was "in good shape,""structurally sound,"and a "great house."The Caravellas chose not to have a professional inspection performed and closed on May 5, 2008. After closing, the Caravellas and Michael Horn agreed that Horn would complete construction on the house in accordance with Myers' original plans. In reaching this agreement, the Caravellas testified that they believed they were dealing with Horn as an individual. The total contract price for the first phase of work that the Caravellas authorized was $88,500. However, the Caravellas paid FDG $138,097.24 for the first phase before refusing to pay any more. Much of the money that the Caravellas paid to FDG was for unauthorized work or work that was completed in a nonconforming or substandard manner. The Caravellas hired a second builder to complete the first phase and to remedy the substandard work. FDG initiated this action by filing a complaint to foreclose on a lien for construction services and building materials provided to, but not paid for by, the Caravellas. The Caravellas filed an amended counterclaim alleging that FDG and Horn: (1) breached the parties' contract; (2) breached the duty of good faith and fair dealing; (3) violated the Idaho Consumer Protection Act; (4) breached the implied warranty of habitability; (5) committed slander of title; (6) committed fraud and misrepresentation; (7) engaged in a civil conspiracy; and (8) acted negligently. The district court held that FDG's lien was defective and dismissed it. The district court also held that FDG breached its contract with the Caravellas by: (1) failing to complete agreed upon work in conformity with the plans and in a workmanlike manner; (2) charging the Caravellas for unauthorized and defective work; and (3) substantially overbilling the Caravellas for work and materials that were not authorized and never provided. As to the Caravellas' fraud counterclaim, the district court concluded that the Caravellas failed to establish all nine elements of fraud and dismissed the claim. The district court also concluded that Horn was not personally liable. The district court awarded the Caravellas $113,775.45 in attorney fees, $5,484.83 in costs as a matter of right, and $200.00 in discretionary costs. The Caravellas timely appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred by applying the incorrect evidentiary standard to the Caravellas' fraud counterclaim, but that error was harmless. The Court affirmed that portion of the district court's judgment dismissing the Caravellas' fraud claim, and reversed that portion of the judgment dismissing the Caravellas' claims against Michael Horn personally. In all other respects, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision. View "Frontier Development Grp v. Caravella" on Justia Law

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In 2005, John Block purchased property in Lewiston from Jack Streibick to develop. Block submitted an application to resubdivide the property into three residential lots, which Lewiston approved. Prior to Block's purchase of the property, Lewiston issued two separate permits to Streibick allowing him to place and grade fill in the area of those lots. In 2006, Block received permits from Lewiston to construct homes on each of the three lots. During construction of the homes, Block hired engineering firms to test compaction of the finished grade for the footings on the lots. Following the construction of the homes, Lewiston issued Block certificates of occupancy for each of the homes after conducting inspections that found the homes to be constructed in accordance with applicable building codes and standards. In April 2007, Block sold the home and property at 159 Marine View Drive. In November of that year, the owner reported a crack in the home's basement. Around that same time, settling was observed at the other two properties. In early December 2007, Block repurchased 159 from the owners. He also consulted with engineers regarding options for immediate repair to the homes. As early as February 2009, further settling problems were reported at the properties. After Lewiston inspected the properties in May following a gas leak at 153, it posted notice that the residential structures on 153 and 159 were unsafe to occupy. Block ultimately filed a Notice of Claim for Damages with Lewiston that also named City Engineer Lowell Cutshaw as a defendant, but did not effectuate process on Lewiston and Cutshaw until ninety days had elapsed from the date he had filed the Notice of Claim. The City defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Block's claims should be dismissed because he failed to timely file a Notice of Claim with Lewiston. This first motion for summary judgment was denied because a question of material fact existed concerning whether Block reasonably should have discovered his claim against Lewiston prior to 2009. The City defendants filed a second motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of all of Block's claims against them, arguing that they were immune from liability for all of these claims under the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA) and that Block could not establish that he was owed a duty. The district court granted this second summary judgment motion dismissing Block's claims based on the application of the economic loss rule. The court also held that immunity under the ITCA and failure to establish a duty provided alternate grounds for dismissal of Block's claims. Block appealed on the issue of immunity. Finding no reversible error as to that issue, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision. View "Block v. City of Lewiston" on Justia Law

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Appellant Charles DeGroot and DeGroot Farms, LLC appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment on its claims against Standley Trenching, Inc. d/b/a Standley & Co., relating to the construction and installation of a manure handling system at the DeGroot dairy. Beltman Construction, Inc., d/b/a Beltman Weldling and Construction, was the general contractor for the project. Beltman subcontracted with Standley for the installation of the manure handling equipment. J. Houle & Fils, Inc. manufactured the manure handling equipment installed at the DeGroot dairy. Because of maintenance problems with the manure handling equipment, DeGroot initiated litigation against Standley and Houle. DeGroot then initiated litigation against Beltman. Beltman brought a third party complaint against Standley. Standley counterclaimed against DeGroot for amounts due for parts and services. The district court granted Standley summary judgment on its counterclaim, granted Standley summary judgment on DeGroot's claims, and granted Standley summary judgment on Beltman's third party complaint. DeGroot appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "DeGroot v. Standley Trenching, Inc." on Justia Law

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A certified question of law from the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho was presented to the Idaho Supreme Court. Karen White and her development company, Elkhorn, LLC, sought to recover $166,496 paid to Valley County for "capital investments for roads in the vicinity of [their] White Cloud development." Phase I of White Cloud was completed and it was undisputed by the parties that the tax monies paid for Phase I were used by the County to complete capital investments for roads in the vicinity of the White Cloud development. The County conceded that it did not adopt an impact fee ordinance or administrative procedures for the impact fee process as required by the Idaho Development Impact Fees Act (IDIFA). The County also conceded it did not enact an IDIFA-compliant ordinance, because, at the time, the County believed in good faith that none was required. Plaintiff filed suit against the County claiming that the road development fee imposed by the County as a condition for approval of the White Cloud project violated Idaho state law and deprived Plaintiff of due process under both the federal and Idaho constitutions. In her Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff raised two claims for relief. The first claim for relief alleged that “Valley County’s practice of requiring developers to enter into a Road Development Agreement ("RDA," or any similar written agreement) solely for the purpose of forcing developers to pay money for its proportionate share of road improvement costs attributable to traffic generated by their development is a disguised impact fee, is illegal and therefore should be enjoined." The first claim for relief also alleged that, because the County failed to enact an impact fee ordinance under IDIFA, the imposition of the road development fees constituted an unauthorized tax. Plaintiff’s second claim for relief alleged that the County’s imposition of the road development fee constituted a taking under the federal and Idaho constitutions. The County argued Plaintiff voluntarily agreed to pay the RDA monies. Plaintiff denies that the payment was voluntary since it was required to obtain the final plat approval. The issue the federal district court presented to the Idaho Supreme Court centered on when the limitations period commences for statutory remedies made available under Idaho law to obtain a refund of an illegal county tax. The Court answered that the limitations period for statutory remedies made available under Idaho law to obtain a refund of an illegal county tax commences upon payment of the tax. View "White v. Valley County" on Justia Law