Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction 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

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This case involved a dispute regarding developed property. Developer filed a complaint alleging that the project's general contractor (Contractor) and an engineering firm (Firm) had negligently provided recommendations with respect to site preparation. The circuit court granted partial summary judgment in favor Firm on Contractor's cross-claims against Firm that sought recovery of remediation costs incurred by Contractor, concluding (1) some of Contractor's cross-claims were time-barred by the applicable statute of limitations, and (2) W. Va. Code 55-2-21 did not apply to toll any limitations periods because Contractor's claims were independent causes of action as opposed to cross-claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court prematurely found that section 55-2-21 did not apply because it failed to analyze whether the claims arose from the same transaction or occurrence and, thus, constituted cross-claims or independent causes of action; and (2) genuine issues of material fact existed so as to preclude summary judgment if Contractor's claim was an independent cause of action. Remanded. View "J. A. Street & Assocs. v. Thundering Herd Dev." on Justia Law

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In 2003, the Division of Highways (DOH) let out a public highway construction contract to Nicewonder Contracting. The Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation (ACT) filed a declaratory judgment action against the DOH and Nicewonder, alleging that the construction contract violated state and federal law because the DOH did not seek public bids for the project and there was no prevailing wage clause in the contract. Upon remand from the district court, the circuit court granted Nicewonder's motion for summary judgment, finding ACT lacked standing. The Supreme court reversed, holding that the appropriate standard to determine if an organization has representative standing to sue on behalf of its members is when the organization proves that (1) at least one of its members would have standing to sue in their own right; (2) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization's purpose; and (3) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit. The Court found that ACT met all three prongs and thus had representative standing to seek the declarations contained in its petition. View "Affiliated Constr. Trades v. W. Va. Dep't of Transp." on Justia Law