Articles Posted in Construction Law

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In 2015, RPM Cranes and its owner Muhammad Wasim Ali sued the defendants CraneWorks, Inc. and its owners, David Upton ("David") and Steve Upton ("Steve"), and Russell Brooks, Rick Yates, and Casey Markos, alleging that Brooks, Yates, and Markos had violated their employment agreements by going to work for CraneWorks and that CraneWorks' hiring of Brooks, Yates, and Markos likewise violated those employment agreements. David and Steve were named as defendants by virtue of their ownership of CraneWorks. RPM and Ali sought monetary damages and injunctive relief. The trial court entered a permanent injunction in favor of RPM and Ali and against the defendants. The Alabama Supreme Court found the injunction at issue in defendants' appeal was not specific in its scope: the order stated that the defendants were "permanently restrained and enjoined from contacting, in any way, whatsoever, any of those clients which are now clients of RPM Cranes." The order failed, however, to specify which clients were included in the injunction. RPM and Ali introduced no evidence as to who RPM's clients were or whether it had developed any clients of its own that Yates and Brooks did not bring onboard as a result of their previous jobs with other entities. In other words, the injunction was broad and vague rather than "specific in [its] terms." The Court reversed the trial court's order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Brooks v. RPM Cranes, LLC" on Justia Law

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Rainbow Cinemas, LLC ("Rainbow"), Ambarish Keshani, and Harshit Thakker (collectively, "the defendants") appealed a circuit court order denying their motion to compel arbitration of a contract dispute with Consolidated Construction Company of Alabama ("CCC"). In the contract at issue here, CCC agreed to provide specified services in constructing a movie theater for Rainbow. The parties signed the American Institute of Architects "Document A101-2007 -- Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor where the basis of payment is a Stipulated Sum" ("the agreement"). The agreement incorporated by reference American Institute of Architects "Document A201-2007 -- General Conditions of the Contract for Construction" ("the general conditions"). In 2016, after having already initiated the arbitration process, CCC sued the defendants. Among other things, CCC alleged that the defendants had fraudulently induced it into entering into the contract. Specifically, CCC alleged that the defendants knew that the contract required an initial decision maker and that the defendants also "knew they had not contracted for [initial-decision-maker] services from the [initial decision maker]." CCC alleged that the defendants "failed to inform CCC ... that Rainbow had not contracted with [architect Hay] Buchanan to act as [the initial decision maker]." The Alabama Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding that the contract incorporated the AAA's Construction Industry Arbitration Rules, which state that "[t]he arbitrator shall have the power to rule on his or her own jurisdiction, including any objections with respect to the existence, scope, or validity of the arbitration agreement." Although the question whether an arbitration provision may be used to compel arbitration between a signatory and a nonsignatory is a threshold question of arbitrability usually decided by the court, here that question was delegated to the arbitrator. The arbitrator, not the court, had to decide that threshold issue. View "Rainbow Cinemas, LLC v. Consolidated Construction Company of Alabama" on Justia Law

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Aliant Bank, a division of USAmeribank ("Aliant"), sued various individuals and business entities involved in a failed effort to develop the Twelve Oaks subdivision in Odenville, alleging that, as a result of those defendants' conspiracy and wrongful actions, Aliant's security interest in the property upon which the Twelve Oaks subdivision was to be built had been rendered worthless. The Circuit Court ultimately entered a number of orders either dismissing Aliant's claims or entering a summary judgment in favor of the various defendants. Aliant filed three appeals. In appeal no. 1150822, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed summary judgment against Aliant: (1) on the negligence and breach-of-fiduciary duty claims asserted against the Board members in count four of Aliant's complaint; (2) on the fraudulent-misrepresentation and fraudulent-suppression claims asserted against Bobby Smith and Twelve Oaks Properties in count seven of Aliant's complaint; and (3) on the conspiracy claims asserted against Smith, Twelve Oaks Properties, Four Star Investments, Mize, and Billy Smith in count seven of Aliant's complaint. The Court affirmed summary judgment against Aliant and in favor of the various Twelve Oaks defendants in all other respects. In appeal no. 1150823, the Court reversed the summary judgments entered against Aliant on the fraudulent misrepresentation and conspiracy claims asserted against Pfil Hunt, and his management company Wrathell, Hunt & Associates, LLC, in count seven of Aliant's complaint; however, the Court affirmed those summary judgments with regard to all other claims asserted by Aliant against Hunt and WHA. Finally, in appeal no. 1150824, the Court affirmed summary judgment against Aliant and in favor of the Engineers of the South, LLC defendants on all counts. View "Aliant Bank v. Four Star Investments, Inc." on Justia Law

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Kiva Lodge Condominium Owners' Association, Inc. ("Kiva Lodge") was an Alabama nonprofit corporation formed for the purpose of administering and maintaining the Kiva Dunes Clubhouse and Condominium ("Kiva Dunes") located in Gulf Shores. In 2009, Kiva Lodge contracted with Hudak & Dawson Construction Co., Inc. ("Hudak") to be the general contractor for the remediation of deficiencies in Kiva Dunes buildings that were allowing water to enter the buildings. Hudak subcontracted the stucco and/or sealant portion of the work to Don Colvin d/b/a Colvin Plastering ("Colvin"). The Hanover Insurance Company ("Hanover"), as surety for Hudak, issued to Kiva Lodge a performance bond ensuring and/or securing the full performance of Hudak's contractual obligations. In September 2012, Kiva Lodge informed Hudak and Colvin of leaks and bubbling in the stucco exterior of the buildings at Kiva Dunes caused by water intrusion. Kiva Lodge alleged that Hudak and Colvin failed to determine and/or disclose the course of the problems and the proper scope of repairs necessary. It also alleged that Hanover breached the terms of its performance bond by failing to promptly remedy the default, complete the work within the scope of the contract in accordance with the terms and conditions, or arrange for payment of an alternative contractor to complete the work. Hanover filed a motion to dismiss Kiva Lodge's claims against Hanover on the ground that, under its performance bond, its claims were time-barred, falling outside of a two-year statute of limitations. In 2015, the circuit court heard arguments concerning Kiva Lodge's motion to compel arbitration, eventually granting the stay and ordering the parties to arbitration. The court also denied Hanover's motion to dismiss. Hudak, Colvin, and Hanover timely appealed the circuit court's order. After review, the Supreme Court found no reversible error in the trial court's order and affirmed. View "Hanover Insurance Co. v. Kiva Lodge Condominium Owners' Association, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hoover General Contractors – Homewood, Inc. ("HGCH"), appealed a circuit court order denying its motion to compel arbitration of its dispute with Gary Key regarding work performed by HGCH on Key's house in Jasper after that house was damaged by a fire. Six months after Key sued HGCH asserting claims stemming from HGCH's work rebuilding Key's house after a fire, HGCH moved the trial court to compel Key to arbitrate those claims pursuant to an arbitration clause in the contract Key had entered into with HGCH. The trial court denied HGCH's motion to compel; however, that denial was error because Key failed to establish through substantial evidence that HGCH had waived its right to arbitration by substantially invoking the litigation process. Accordingly, the order entered by the trial court denying HGCH's motion to compel arbitration was reversed by the Supreme Court and the case remanded for the trial court to enter a new order compelling Key to arbitrate his claims ursuant to the terms of his contract with HGCH. View "Hoover General Contractors - Homewood, Inc. v. Key" on Justia Law

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Dannelly Enterprises, LLC ("Dannelly"), appealed a circuit court order granting a motion to compel arbitration filed by Palm Beach Grading, Inc. ("PBG"). In the fall of 2006, PBG entered into negotiations with Corvias Military Living, LLC, f/k/a Picerne Military Housing LLC; Picerne Construction/FRK, LLC; Rucker-Picerne Partners, LLC; and Rucker Communities, LLC (collectively, "the contractors"), to perform work on a project known as the Ft. Rucker RCI Family Housing, Munson Heights, Phase 1A, at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Apparently, in preparing to bid on the project, PBG contacted various subcontractors, including Dannelly, to get bids for various aspects of the project that PBG would be responsible for if it entered into an agreement with the contractors to complete the project. Although the work order issued by PBG stated that "[a] Sub-contract will be created by PBG for billing purposes," neither party submitted into evidence such a contract between PBG and Dannelly. PBG argued that Donnelly accepted benefits under existing contracts because Dannelly was hired by PBG to perform work on the project and was paid for the work it completed. The Supreme Court found, however, that PBG did not present any argument as to why it believed Dannelly was not simply operating under and benefiting from the agreement between PBG and Dannelly, which was memorialized by PBG's work order. The Court concluded that PBG failed to demonstrate that the arbitration provision in the master subcontract agreement applied to the third-party claims it asserted against Dannelly. Furthermore, there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Dannelly and PBG entered into PBG's standard subcontract agreement. The case was reversed and remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Dannelly Enterprises, LLC v. Palm Beach Grading, Inc." on Justia Law

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Roland and Sandra Crouch appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of North Alabama Sand & Gravel, LLC, now operating as Alliance Sand & Gravel, LLC, and Austin Powder Company ("Austin Powder") on the Crouches' claim asserting property damage resulting from Alliance Sand & Gravel's blasting operations. The Crouches sued Alliance Sand & Gravel and Austin Powder (collectively, "Alliance"), seeking compensation for damage to their property, which, they say, was caused by Alliance's blasting operations. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of Alliance on the Crouches' trespass claim. The Court reversed the summary judgment in favor of Alliance on the Crouches' claims alleging an abnormally dangerous activity, wantonness, and nuisance, and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Crouch v. North Alabama Sand & Gravel, LLC" on Justia Law

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Tender Care Veterinary Hospital, Inc. ("TCVH"), appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of First Tuskegee Bank on breach-of-fiduciary-duty and fraud claims stemming from a construction loan TCVH received from First Tuskegee in September 2004. The gravamen of those claims was that TCVH was injured by First Tuskegee's alleged insistence that TCVH use PJ Construction as the general contractor on the project although PJ Construction was not licensed as a general contractor in Alabama, that PJ Construction's work product was below what one would expect from a properly licensed general contractor, and that using PJ Construction resulted in delays, cost overruns, and, TCVH argued, the ultimate failure of its business. However, because TCVH's claims accrued in approximately July 2005 and TCVH did not formally assert them until after it initiated this action in April 2009, those claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations that governed them. Accordingly, the summary judgment entered by the trial court in favor of First Tuskegee was affirmed. View "Tender Care Veterinary Hospital, Inc. v. First Tuskegee Bank " on Justia Law

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America's Home Place, Inc. ("AHP") appealed a Circuit Court order denying AHP's motion to compel arbitration of the claims brought by the plaintiff below, Gregory Rampey. In August 2012, Rampey and AHP entered into a contract, the terms of which provided that AHP would construct a house for Rampey in Chambers County. AHP constructed the house; however, after he took possession of the house, Rampey began to notice "settlement and sinking of the foundation," which, according to Rampey, resulted in significant structural and other damage to the house. AHP attempted to stabilize the foundation and to repair the damage to the house that had occurred as a result of the unstable foundation; those efforts were unsuccessful. Upon review of the parties' arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in denying AHP's motion to compel arbitration. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court's order and remanded the case with instructions to vacate the order denying the motion to compel arbitration and to enter an order granting AHP's motion to compel arbitration. View "America's Home Place, Inc. v. Rampey" on Justia Law

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The Jackson County Board of Education petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court to enter an order dismissing the complaint of D.C. Pruett Contracting Company, Inc. on the ground of sovereign immunity. Pruett Contracting submitted a proposal for renovations to the Pisgah High School gymnasium. The Jackson County superintendent of education executed a purchase order authorizing Pruett Contracting to make certain renovations to the gymnasium, totaling $231,309. Pruett Contracting then began renovating the gymnasium. The Superintendent later received a letter from the State of Alabama Building Commission stating that "all work on the renovation of the Pisgah High School gymnasium [was] to stop immediately" because the project had not been submitted to or approved by the Building Commission. The Board instructed Pruett Contracting to cease all work on the gymnasium. Pruett Contracting submitted an invoice to the Board for the work that had been performed prior to the letter. Months later, because it had not received payment for its work, Pruett Contracting sued the Board, alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment and seeking recovery of damages on theories of quantum meruit, work and labor done, open account, and account stated. The Board moved the court to dismiss the complaint, arguing that it was entitled to sovereign immunity as to the claims alleged by Pruett Contracting and that the court therefore lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the action. Pruett Contracting responded, arguing that this case involved a protected property interest, that immunity was thus precluded, and that the court had subject-matter jurisdiction over the action. The Supreme Court concluded the Board established that it was entitled to sovereign immunity and that the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over this action; therefore, the action had to be dismissed. Because the Board demonstrated a clear legal right to an order directing the Circuit Court to dismiss Pruett Contracting's complaint, the Supreme Court granted the Board's petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the Circuit Court to dismiss Pruett Contracting's complaint. View "D.C. Pruett Contracting Company, Inc. v. Jackson County Board of Education" on Justia Law