Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction 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

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This case arose from a contract between Roanoke Healthcare Authority (doing business as Randolph Medical Center) and Batson-Cook Company, a general contractor, to renovate the medical center, located in Roanoke. Batson-Cook received written notice from Roanoke Healthcare that work on the renovation project had been suspended. Batson-Cook notified one of its subcontractors, Hardy, of the suspension and stated that "[t]he contract has been suspended by [Roanoke Healthcare] through no fault of Batson-Cook ... or its subcontractors. [Roanoke Healthcare] is currently out of funding and has subsequently closed the facility while seeking a buyer." Liberty Mutual, the project's insurer, alleged in its answer that Roanoke Healthcare failed to pay Batson-Cook $241,940.51 for work performed pursuant to the contract. Batson-Cook sent Hardy a change order the change order deducted from the subcontract the $147,000 in equipment and materials another subcontractor Hardy hired, Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI), had furnished for the renovation project and for which it has not received payment. JCI notified Liberty Mutual, Roanoke Healthcare, Batson-Cook, and Hardy by certified letters of its claim on a payment bond. The letters identified Batson-Cook as the general contractor and Hardy as the debtor. Liberty Mutual denied the claim. JCI sued Liberty Mutual, alleging JCI was entitled to payment on the payment bond Liberty Mutual had issued to Batson-Cook. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded JCI was a proper claimant on the payment bond. Therefore, the circuit court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of Liberty Mutual and denying JCI's summary judgment motion. View "Johnson Controls, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company " on Justia Law

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Guardian Builders, LLC, and E. Wayne Tackett appealed a Circuit Court order denying their motion to vacate or modify an arbitration award entered in favor of Randy Uselton and his wife Melissa. In 2010, the Useltons sued Guardian alleging several claims arising from Guardian's construction of a house for the Useltons. Guardian subsequently filed a motion to compel arbitration, and the circuit court granted that motion. In late 2011, the arbitrator entered a final award in favor of the Useltons. Guardian subsequently filed a motion to vacate or modify the arbitration award to the circuit court, to which it attached a copy of the arbitration award. The Useltons filed a 'motion to confirm' the arbitration award. The circuit court entered an order purporting to deny Guardian's motion to vacate or modify the arbitration award, purporting to grant the Useltons' motion to confirm the arbitration award, and purporting to order Guardian to pay $1,421.75 in Better Business Bureau fees and facility costs related to the arbitration. Guardian objected only to a subset of the damages that were awarded the Useltons that were not directly related to the poorly constructed house, specifically, attorney fees and arbitration fees (including both the arbitrator fee and the forum fee charged by the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama ("the BBB"), which administered the arbitration). Furthermore, Guardian argued the arbitrator lacked the authority to award the Useltons attorney fees and arbitration fees. The Supreme Court agreed that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by awarding those remedies. The trial court's judgment was reversed and the case remanded for the trial court to enter a modified judgment subtracting attorney fees and arbitration fees from the award made to the Useltons. View "Guardian Builders, LLC v. Uselton " on Justia Law

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Gambro Renal Products, Inc. hired The Facility Group, Inc. ("TFG"), as the general contractor for the construction of a facility designed to produce kidney dialysis filters in Opelika. TFG contracted with the Hardy Corporation for specialized piping work on the project. Absolute Welding Services, Inc. ("AWS"), is a subsidiary of Rayco Industrial, Inc., a subsubcontractor hired by Hardy. Although the negotiations on the subcontract at issue in these appeals were between AWS and Hardy, the subcontract was executed by Rayco and Hardy. A dispute arose over whether the exclusion of "passivation" and the installation of piping in Rayco's offer was incorporated into its subcontract. Rayco filed a complaint against Hardy, Gambro and 15 fictitiously named parties, seeking an accounting, a declaratory judgment, a reformation of the contract, and perfection of a lien. Rayco asserted claims for damages for breach of contract, unjust enrichment/quantum meruit, and "work and labor done." Both parties unhappy with the eventual trial court order resolving the dispute, appealed the order. After careful consideration of the contracts and the trial court record, the Supreme Court reversed in part, and affirmed in part. The case was remanded with instructions for further proceedings. View "Hardy Corporation v. Rayco Industrial, Inc. " on Justia Law

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Robert and Tracy Barrett appealed the grant of two summary judgments in favor of Carlos Roman d/b/a Carlos Roman Roofing ("Roman") and Bobby Beach d/b/a Just Brick Masonry ("Beach") on all of the Barretts' claims against Roman and Beach. The issues before the Supreme Court in this appeal required resolution of the same issues that were in claims pending in the circuit court against a third party. A November 2012 judgment disposed of all of the Barretts' claims against Beach and Roman, but it did not dispose of the Barretts' claims against the third party. Thus, the Court's consideration of the circuit court's summary judgments in favor of Beach and Roman as final would mean that the intertwined claims against the subcontractors named as defendants in this action would have been litigated in piecemeal fashion. "The piecemeal adjudication of the claims against the subcontractors pose[d] an unreasonable risk of inconsistent results. Therefore, we must conclude that the circuit court exceeded its discretion in certifying the summary judgments in favor of Beach and Roman as final." Accordingly, the Court dismissed the Barretts' appeal. View "Barrett v. Roman" on Justia Law

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John Lanier appealed the denial of his motion to alter, amend, or vacate a judgment, and for relief from the judgment. Lanier's motion was filed after plaintiff McMath Construction, Inc. filed a "Notice of Filing of Foreign Judgment" pursuant to the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act ("the UEFJA"). After careful consideration, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that under Louisiana law (the foreign jurisdiction), McMath did not properly serve Lanier. Therefore, a preliminary default judgment and the Louisiana judgment were void. Because the Louisiana judgment was void, the trial court erred when it denied Lanier's motion for relief from judgment. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Lanier v. McMath Construction, Inc. " on Justia Law

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Owners Insurance Company appealed a circuit court judgment declaring Owners was obligated to pay an arbitration award entered against Jim Carr Homebuilder, LLC ("JCH"), under the terms of a commercial general-liability insurance policy Owners had issued. Owners initiated a declaratory-judgment action against JCH seeking a declaration that it was not obligated to indemnify JCH for any judgment entered against JCH arising from a dispute that a house JCH constructed was poorly built. After the homeowners prevailed in their action against JCH, the trial court in the declaratory-judgment action entered a summary judgment holding that Owners was required to pay pursuant to the terms of the Owners policy. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that because JCH's faulty workmanship was not an "occurrence," the trial court's judgment was in error, and it was hereby reversed. View "Owners Insurance Company v. Jim Carr Homebuilder, LLC et al. " on Justia Law

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The Utilities Board of the City of Opp appealed a circuit court's order that denied its motion to dismiss a third-party complaint filed by Shuler Brothers, Inc. The Alabama Electric Company (AEC) had filed suit against Shuler Brothers seeking recovery for services performed and for breach of contract when Shuler Brothers refused to pay an invoice for repairs AEC made to some equipment. Shuler Brothers argued that the repairs did not solve its equipment issue. Shuler Brothers alleged the Utilities Board was negligent in maintaining power lines going to its facility that was part of its equipment troubles. In its motion to dismiss, the Utilities Board argued that a two-year statute of limitations applied to Shuler Brothers' claim, and that the alleged negligence was not discovered until AEC served Shuler Brothers with its complaint. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment to deny the Utilities Board's motion to dismiss; reversed the circuit court's decision denying Shuler Brothers' breach-of-contract claim; and reversed the circuit court's denial of the Board's motion to dismiss Shuler Brothers' negligence claim. View "Utilities Board of the City of Opp v. Shuler Brothers, Inc. " on Justia Law