Pinnacle Controls in Verano
February 21, 2013 — CDJ STAFF
The California Court of Appeals has applied the California Supreme Court’s recent Pinnacle decision to a new case, Verano Condominium Association v. La Cima Development. As in Pinnacle, La Cima sought to compel arbitration of construction defect claims with a homeowners association. The trial court denied La Cima’s attempt to compel arbitration on the grounds that the arbitration agreement was made with the individual homeowners and not the homeowners association. Further, it was determined that the CC&Rs “were unenforceable due to unconscionability.”
La Cima appealed, and the appeals court affirmed in part and reversed in part. After Pinnacle, La Cima sought a review. The Supreme Court of California directed the appeals court to vacate their earlier decision and reconsider, based on Pinnacle.
The Fourth Circuit Court has concluded that this conflicted with the ruling in Pinnacle. There, as in Verano, homeowners signed agreements that disputes with the developer would be settled through binding arbitration. The appeals court had found for the community association, but on review, the California Supreme Court reversed this decision.
The California Court of Appeals had two issue to consider in this review: whether the arbitration provisions applied to the homeowners association, and whether these provisions were unconscionable. The court concluded that “in light of Pinnacle it is clear the arbitration provisions set forth in the Verano CC&Rs constitute a valid agreement to arbitrate.” On the second question, the Verano CC&Rs were described by the court as “materially indistinguishable” from those in the earlier case. As the state Supreme Court found that those were not unconscionable, clearly neither were these.
The case was remanded for further proceedings and La Cima is entitled to recover the costs of the appeal.
Read the court decision
Colorado Court of Appeals Enforces Limitations of Liability In Pre-Homeowner Protection Act Contracts
February 14, 2013 — Heidi Gassman — Higgins, Hopkins, McLain & Roswell, LLC
Keirns Construction Co. (“Keirns”) hired Landmark Engineering, Ltd. (“Landmark”) to provide a geotechnical investigation and foundation designs for two duplexes Keirns built in Larimer County. Keirns and Landmark signed one contract in 2001 for the geotechnical work and two separate contracts in 2005 for the foundation design of the two duplexes. Each contract contained an identical “risk allocation clause,” which had language specifically limiting Landmark’s liability to Keirns. The risk allocation clause also had language specifically prohibiting claims against individuals and only allowing claims against a corporation.
After the two duplexes were built, foundation problems developed, and Keirns filed suit against Landmark for breach of contract and negligence. Keirns also filed suit against two individual employees of Landmark, Wayne Thompson and Larry Miller, for negligence. Messrs. Thompson and Miller performed the geotechnical and design services pursuant to the contracts.
Landmark and Messrs. Thompson and Miller filed a motion seeking to enforce the risk of allocation clauses in the contracts, thereby limiting Landmark’s liability. Messrs. Thompson and Miller also filed a summary judgment motion seeking their dismissal from the case based on the prohibition in the risk allocation clause against asserting claims against individuals. Read the full story...
Reprinted courtesy of Heidi Gassman
Ms. Gassman can be contacted at email@example.com
Appeals Court Reverses Summary Judgment over Defective Archway Construction
February 10, 2012 — CDJ STAFF
A judge has ruled that a plaintiff can go forward with her suit that she was injured by a defective archway during a birthday party. A three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeals issued this ruling on January 23, 2012, in the case of Trujillo v. Cosio.
Ms. Trujillo attended a birthday party at the home of Maria Cosio and Joel Verduzco. A piñata was hung between a tree and a brick archway. Ms. Trujillo went to get candy that had fallen from the piñata, during which the archway fell on her hand. Subsequent examination of the archway showed that it had not been “properly anchored to the supporting pillars to protect the arch from falling.”
Ms. Cosio and Mr. Verduzco argued that they could not have been aware of the defective nature of the archway’s construction, as it had been built at the request of the prior property owner. The structure was constructed without building permits. Mark Burns, a civil engineer testifying for the plaintiff, said that “a reasonable property owner would have thoroughly tested the archway to ensure it was capable of withstanding such horizontal forces before allowing children to enter into the area.” Mr. Burns noted that twenty rope pulls would have been sufficient to demonstrate the structure’s instability.
The trial court rejected Mr. Burn’s statements, finding that the respondents did not have any knowledge of the defect and that a visual inspection should have sufficed. The court noted that this a triable issue, whether visual inspection suffices, or whether the property owners should have done as Mr. Burns suggested and yank a rope twenty times. The court noted that “although a jury may ultimately disagree with Burn’s opinion, it was supported by sufficient foundation and was not speculative.”
The opinion was written by Judge Flier, with Judges Rubin and Grimes concurring.
Read the court’s decison…
Case Remanded for Application of Efficient Proximate Cause Doctrine
November 06, 2013 — Tred Eyerly — Insurance Law Hawaii
The Florida Court of Appeals remanded the case after the insured was awarded an $8 million dollar judgment against its property insurer for hurricane and other damage to a home. Am. Home Assur. Co. v. Sebo, 2013 Fla. App. LEXIS 14799 (Fla. Ct. App. Sept. 18, 2013).
Sebo purchased his home in April 2005, when it was four years old. It was insured under a manuscript policy issued by AHAC for $8 million. The all-risk policy covered rain, but excluded damage caused by faulty, inadequate or defective planning.
After Sebo bought the home, water leaks were noticed. Sebo believed that the house suffered from major design and construction defects. In October 2005, Hurricane Wilma struck and further damaged the home.
Read the full story...
Reprinted courtesy of Tred Eyerly
Tred Eyerly can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
DRCOG’s Findings on the Impact of Construction Defect Litigation Have Been Released (And the Results Should Not Surprise You)
November 13, 2013 — Derek Lindenschmidt — Higgins, Hopkins, McLain & Roswell, LLC.
The downward trend in attached-housing construction in Colorado is well-known and discussed often within the region’s construction, insurance, finance, and legal communities. In recent years, builders and insurers in particular have striven to bring greater awareness to local governments and lawmakers regarding the impact that construction defect lawsuits have on the builders’ ability to introduce desirable, affordable, yet cost-efficient attached-housing options, such as condominiums and townhomes, into the marketplace. The Denver Regional Council of Governments (“DRCOG”) has been aware of the builders’ and insurers’ plight, largely because of the impact that the scarcity of affordable attached-housing has had on their respective communities.
On October 29th, DRCOG released its long-awaited Denver Metro Area Housing Diversity Study, prepared by Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., which investigated the factors contributing to the recent (downward) attached-housing development trends and conditions. The Study evaluated factors including changing financing and insurance requirements for builders and homebuyers, the impacts of foreclosures, changes in prospective homebuyer demographics, economic conditions which limit options for prospective homebuyers, and the costs and risks associated with construction defect regulations and lawsuits.
Despite the retorts and rebukes of the naysayers, the negative impact of construction defect regulations and lawsuits on Colorado’s housing market is significant. Read the full story...
Reprinted courtesy of Derek Lindenschmidt
Derek Lindenschmidt can be contacted at email@example.com
Home Construction Thriving in Lubbock
December 30, 2013 — CDJ STAFF
The 2013 numbers for home construction aren’t ready yet, but the January through November numbers for Lubbock, Texas show a 42% increase over the number of construction permits issued for single-family homes in the first 11 months of 2012. The number look even better compared to 2011’s totals, according to KFYO. Read the full story...
Contractor’s Coverage For Additional Insured Established by Unilateral Contract
November 18, 2011 — Tred R. Eyerly - Insurance Law Hawaii
The contractor was covered as an additional insured under the subcontractor’s policy even though the parties had never actually signed an agreement to add the contractor to the policy. Evanston Ins. Co. v. Westchester Surplus Lines Ins. Co., 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 20081 (9th Cir. Oct. 3, 2011).
The policies held by Bellevue Master, the general contractor, required it to be an additional insured under any subcontractor’s liability policy. Northwest Tower Crane Services was a subcontractor. Bellevue Master LLC, faxed a message that Northwest could continue to be a subcontractor on the project if it complied with Bellevue Master’s insurance requirements. Northwest contacted its insurance broker and requested an insurance certificate be issued to Bellevue Master so that it would be an additional insured under Northwest’s policy.
Read the full story…
Reprinted courtesy of Tred R. Eyerly, Insurance Law Hawaii. Mr. Eyerly can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Underpowered AC Not a Construction Defect
November 07, 2012 — CDJ STAFF
After buying a home in Louisiana, Mike Gines determined that the home’s air conditioning unit was insufficient to maintain an appropriate temperature. He contacted the home builder, D.R. Horton, Inc., which worked with the air conditioning installer, Reliant Heating & Air Conditioning, in order to repair the system. When the problems persisted, Gines filed a class action petition against Horton and Reliant in state court. Horton and Reliant moved the case to the federal courts, whereupon Gines asserted the defendants were in violation of the Louisiana New Home Warranty Act (NHWA). Horton stated that the claim under the NHWA was invalid, because Gines had not alleged actual physical damage to his home.
The district court granted Horton’s motion to dismiss. Gines sought a reversal from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and sought to have two questions of state law addressed by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
The district court ruled that the NHWA was the “sole remedy under Louisiana law for a purchaser of a new home with construction defects. Gines argued that court erred in this, but also conceded that this was the conclusion of the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Further, Gines argued that a provision in the NHWA that allows the inclusion of construction defects that do not cause damage was satisfied by paragraph 6 of the contract. The court noted that Gines did not attach a copy of the contract to either the original or amended complaint, and so the court does not need to address these claims. However, the court cautioned that if a copy had been included, they still would have rejected the claim, as “the cited language does not indicate a waiver of the physical damage requirement.” They also note that “paragraph 13 of the contract shows that Gines was aware to the absence of any such waiver in the contract.”
The court concludes that “the moral of this story is that in order to avoid the harsh result that has obtained here, the buyer of a newly constructed home in Louisiana should seek to obtain in the contract of sale an express waiver of the actual damage requirement of the NHWA.” The appeals court affirmed the decision of the circuit court and denied the application to certify questions to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Read the court decision