Articles Posted in Construction Law

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Plaintiff signed a contract with Defendant for the construction of a house. The contract contained an arbitration clause. Plaintiff later brought suit against Defendant, claiming that there were defects in the house. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, finding that the arbitration clause was unconscionable. Defendant appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by ruling on questions of arbitrability despite the existence of a delegation provision in the arbitration agreement that vested the arbitrator with authority to determine issues of arbitrability relating to the dispute. The Supreme Court determined that the circuit court was within its rights not to enforce the delegation language because the language did not reflect the parties’ clear and unmistakable intention to delegate issues about the validity, revocability, or enforceability of the arbitration agreement to an arbitrator. The United States Supreme Court granted Defendant’s requested writ of certiorari, vacated the Supreme Court’s opinion, and remanded for further consideration in light of their decision in DIRECTV, Inc. v. Imburgia. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order, holding that because Plaintiffs never specifically challenged the delegation language before the circuit court or Supreme Court, Plaintiffs waived any right to challenge the delegation language. Remanded for arbitration. View "Schumacher Homes of Circleville v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff entered into a verbal contract with Jerry Morrison for the construction of a log home on her property. Plaintiff entered into a second verbal contract with James Phillips to build the basement walls and a chimney with two fireplaces. Concerned about the number of apparent defects in the construction and excessive costs of the labor and materials, Plaintiff fired Morrison. Plaintiff later filed suit against Morrison and Phillips (together, Defendants), alleging fraud and misrepresentation, breach of contract, and negligence, among other claims. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff only with respect to her negligence claim against Morrison. The jury further found that Plaintiff had failed to mitigate her damages and/or was comparatively negligent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in (1) limiting the time the parties had to present the case to the jury; (2) placing limitations on expert testimony; (3) granting judgment as a matter of law in favor of Phillips; (4) denying Plaintiff’s motion for judgment as a matter of law with respect to her negligence and breach of warranty claims against Morrison; (5) instructing the jury on comparative negligence; (6) instructing the jury on outrageous conduct; and (7) denying Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. View "Sneberger v. Morrison" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of multiple felonies, including first degree murder. Defendant appealed, arguing primarily that the trial court erred in allowing him to represent himself, thus depriving him of his constitutional right to assistance of counsel. Specifically, Defendant contended that the trial court failed to make him aware of the disadvantages of self-representation or to make sufficient inquiries to assess whether Defendant's decision to proceed pro se was knowingly and intelligently made. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing Petitioner to represent himself. View "State v. Davis" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a verbal agreement entered into by Contractor and Landowner to construct a subdivision on a parcel of land. Disagreements arose between the parties, and the subdivision was never completed. Landowner filed this action against Contractor asserting Contractor had failed to make payments on an endloader that had been purchased for the project. Contractor counterclaimed for unjust enrichment based on excavation services he performed on the property. The jury found in favor of Landowner with regard to the endloader and in favor of Contractor with regard to his counterclaim. The trial court found Contractor was entitled to a prejudgment interest on his award of damages on his unjust enrichment claim. Contractor filed a motion to amend the judgment order, contending that the court erred in determining the date on which prejudgment interest began to accrue and had utilized an incorrect prejudgment interest date. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed the denial of Contractor's motion to amend the judgment order, holding that the trial court erred by awarding Contractor prejudgment interest instead of allowing the jury to determine whether an award of prejudgment interest was warranted. Remanded. View "Ringer v. John" on Justia Law

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An employee of Pullman Power was killed and two of his coworkers were injured as a result of a fire that occurred inside a flue gas desulphurization stack then under construction at the Mitchell Power Plant. The stack was being constructed by Respondents for Petitioners. Plaintiffs, the deceased worker's estate and the two injured workers, brought an action against numerous entities, including Petitioners and Respondents. Petitioners cross-claimed against Respondents, alleging that it was Respondents' negligence in the performance of the contract work being done on the stack that caused the fire. As a sanction for Petitioners' violation of the discovery deadline set by the circuit court in its scheduling order, the circuit court dismissed Petitioners' cross-claims. The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal where (1) Petitioners directly and willfully defied the circuit court's scheduling order, and (2) Petitioners did not indicate any opposition to the circuit court's failure to conduct an evidentiary hearing. View "Ohio Power Co. v. Pullman Power, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff (HOA) was a condominium owners' association that brought suit on its own behalf and on behalf of its members against various individuals and corporations seeking damages arising from the alleged defective development, negligent construction, and misleading marketing of a condominium complex. The complex consisted of dozens of units owned by members of the HOA. The circuit court granted Respondents' motion to join all unit owners, denied the HOA's motion for a protective order, and certified six questions to the Supreme Court. The Court answered only one of the questions, finding it unnecessary to address the remaining questions, holding (1) a unit owners' association is an adequate representative when a lawsuit is instituted by a unit owners' association on behalf of two or more unit owners pursuant to the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act and the damages sought include unit specific damages affecting only individual units; and (2) this case should proceed in accordance with W. Va. Trial Court R. 26. View "Univ. Commons Riverside Home Owners Ass'n v. Univ. Commons Morgantown, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case involved the appeal of Petitioner of her sentence of life without mercy imposed in the circuit court by order, as recommended by the jury which found Petitioner guilty of first degree murder. Petitioner assigned four errors committed by the trial court, including the admission of the decedent's statements, failure to give a Harden instruction, failure to give a good character instruction, and the failure to suppress one of Petitioner's statements to the police. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court and remanded the case for a new trial, holding (1) the court did not err in admitting the statements of the decedent; (2) the court's decision to admit the statement was not an abuse of discretion; but (3) under the limited circumstances of this case, the court erred in failing to give a proper good character instruction. View "State v. Surbaugh" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, The Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation (ACT), filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that a public highway construction contract awarded to Respondent, Nicewonder Contracting, Inc., by Respondent, West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways (DOH), violated state competitive bidding and prevailing wage laws. The circuit court dismissed ACT's action, finding it lacked standing to challenge the highway construction contract. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that ACT had representative standing to seek the declarations. On remand, the circuit court determined that the Court's opinion in ACT I did not completely decide the issue of ACT's standing and ordered that ACT join the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as a defendant in the action. The Supreme Court subsequently granted ACT's requested writ of prohibition because the circuit court did not give effect to the mandate of the Court in ACT I, holding (1) ACT, as a matter of law, had standing to prosecute its lawsuit; and (2) FHWA was not an indispensable party to the lawsuit. View "State ex rel. Affiliated Constr. Trades v. Circuit Court (Stucky)" on Justia Law

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At issue in this construction lawsuit was whether the circuit court erred in refusing to compel a plaintiff corporation to arbitrate its claims against three defendant corporations. The circuit court had previously entered two orders in which it found the arbitration clauses in Defendants' contracts with Plaintiff were unconscionable. Further, the circuit court found it would be inequitable to fracture Plaintiff's lawsuit into multiple "piecemeal" arbitrations and lawsuits against Defendants. Defendants petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition to halt enforcement of the circuit court's orders and to compel Plaintiff to arbitrate its claims. The Court granted the requested writ of prohibition as moulded, holding (1) the arbitration agreements were not unconscionable, and therefore, the circuit court erred in refusing to enforce the agreements; (2) the FAA requires that if a lawsuit presents multiple claims, some subject to an arbitration agreement and some not, the former claims must be sent to arbitration even if this leads to piecemeal litigation; and (3) the circuit court's refusal to enforce the arbitration clauses ran afoul of the FAA. View "State ex rel. Johnson Controls, Inc. v. Circuit Court (Tucker) " on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a constructor, was sued by several people living in new homes built by Petitioner (Residents). Residents claimed they were injured by radon gas leaking into their homes because of improper construction by Petitioner. Petitioner argued that the agreement to purchase the new homes required Residents to arbitrate their claims, whether they signed the agreement or not. The circuit court found the arbitration provision ambiguous and unconscionable and refused to compel Residents into arbitration. Petitioner subsequently sought a writ of prohibition to compel Residents to arbitrate their claims. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the circuit court was within its authority to refuse to enforce the arbitration clause against Residents because the arbitration provision was ambiguous, unconscionable, and unenforceable. View "State ex rel. Richmond Am. Homes v. Jefferson County Circuit Court (Sanders)" on Justia Law