Articles Posted in Construction Law

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The Riverwalk at Arrowhead Country Club and Magnolia North Horizontal Property Regime developments were constructed between 1997 and 2000. After construction was complete and the units were sold, the purchasers became aware of significant construction problems, including building code violations, structural deficiencies, and significant water-intrusion problems. In 2003, the purchasers filed suit to recover damages for necessary repairs to their homes. Lawsuits were filed by the respective property owners' associations (POAs), which sought actual and punitive damages for the extensive construction defects under theories of negligent construction, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of warranty. As to the Riverwalk development, individual homeowners also filed a class action to recover damages for the loss of use of their property during the repair period. The defendants in the underlying suits were the related corporate entities that developed and constructed the condominium complexes: Heritage Communities, Inc. (the parent development company), Heritage Magnolia North, Inc. and Heritage Riverwalk, Inc. (the project-specific subsidiary companies for each separate development), and Buildstar Corporation (the general contracting subsidiary that oversaw construction of all Heritage development projects), referred to collectively as "Heritage." The issues presented to the Supreme Court by these cases came from cross-appeals of declaratory judgment actions to determine coverage under Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance policies issued by Harleysville Group Insurance. The cases arose from separate actions, but were addressed in a single opinion because they involved virtually identical issues regarding insurance coverage for damages. The Special Referee found coverage under the policies was triggered and calculated Harleysville's pro rata portion of the progressive damages based on its time on the risk. After review of the arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the Special Referee in the Magnolia North matter, and affirmed as modified in the Riverwalk matter. View "Harleysville Group Ins. v. Heritage Communities, Inc." on Justia Law

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In August 2005, D.R. Horton, Inc. completed construction of the Smiths' home, and the Smiths closed on the property and received the deed. Thereafter, the Smiths experienced a myriad of problems with the home that resulted in severe water damage to the property. D.R. Horton attempted to repair the alleged construction defects on "numerous occasions" during the next five years, but was ultimately unsuccessful. In 2010, the Smiths filed a construction defect case against D.R. Horton and seven subcontractors. In response, D.R. Horton filed a motion to compel arbitration. The Smiths opposed the motion, arguing, inter alia, that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and therefore unenforceable. The circuit court denied D.R. Horton's motion to compel arbitration, finding that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable. D.R. Horton appealed, but finding no error in the circuit court's decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. D.R. Horton, Inc" on Justia Law

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The respondents, two developers and an architectural firm, Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. (S&W), entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Columbia as part of a larger project team to develop a publicly-funded hotel for the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The City eventually abandoned its plan under the MOU, and the respondents brought suit on several causes of action including breach of contract and equitable relief. The City moved for summary judgment arguing the MOU was not a contract and therefore the contract claims failed. The circuit court agreed and, rejecting the equitable claims as well, granted summary judgment in favor of the City. The respondents appealed and the court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court reversed. Because the MOU was comprised of agreements to execute further agreements, there was no meeting of the minds on numerous material terms which had not yet been defined. Accordingly, the court of appeals was reversed with respect to that portion of the court's judgment; the Supreme Court held the MOU was unenforceable as a matter of law. The Supreme Court agreed with the circuit court and reinstated its judgment in favor of the City. View "Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. v. City of Columbia" on Justia Law

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In April 2003, the City of Columbia entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. (S&W) and several other parties, to develop a publicly-funded hotel adjacent to the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. As architect, S&W was to complete sufficient preliminary design work to determine a guaranteed maximum price for the project, which would be used by the City to obtain municipal bond funding to cover the cost of the hotel. Pursuant to the MOU, the construction company was to pay S&W directly. On June 26, 2003, the City received a letter stating S&W would complete its preliminary design on July 10, 2003, and would then stop working until the bond financing for the hotel was finalized. Realizing this could delay the start of construction, S&W offered to continue working the remaining ninety days until the anticipated bond closing date of October 13, 2003, but required assurance it would be compensated for the work it performed during this time frame. It provided an estimate requiring $650,000 and $75,000 per week after that. On July 30, the City approved "$650,000 for interim architectural design services for a period of 90 days prior to bond closing." The bond closing did not occur as scheduled, but S&W nevertheless continued to work. S&W submitted an invoice to the City for $697,084.79 for work that took place from July 10 to December 15, 2003. By letter dated December 17, 2003, S&W informed the construction company that the City had voted that day "to advance [$705,000.000] to the design team for design services and expenses. Because under the MOU the construction company was to pay S&W, not the City, the construction company agreed to reimburse the City for the funds paid to S&W after the bond closing. The City paid S&W's invoice. S&W continued to work on the project, but in March 2004, the City abandoned its plans under the MOU and ended its relationship with S&W. S&W received no further compensation and sued the City for breach of contract under the MOU and the July 2003 agreement. The City argued there was no separate agreement and the payment of interim fees was merely an advance on fees under the MOU and furthermore, the MOU provided that S&W was to be paid by the construction company, not the City. The trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of S&W, finding a contract existed between it and the City. On certiorari, the City conceded a contract exists, but argued the contract terms have been satisfied. The Supreme Court found the City's arguments were unpreserved and affirmed as modified. View "Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. v. City of Columbia" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of plaintiff Ferguson Fire's efforts to obtain payment for materials it supplied to defendant Preferred Fire Protection, LLC for defendant Immedion's data center. In 2007, Immedion, a telecommunications company, hired Rescom, L.L.C. to be the general contractor for improvements planned for its data center on property Immedion leased in Greenville. Rescom, in turn, hired Preferred Fire, a fire sprinkler company, as a subcontractor. In addition, Immedion directly hired Preferred Fire under a separate contract to install a special "pre-action" fire suppression system1 in its data center. To complete this work, Preferred Fire purchased materials from Ferguson Fire. Ferguson Fire began delivering materials to Preferred Fire in August, 2007, and the deliveries continued through October. In September, while its deliveries were in progress, Ferguson Fire sent a "Notice of Furnishing Labor and Materials" to Immedion advising it in relevant part that it had been employed by Preferred Fire to deliver labor, services, or materials with an estimated value of $15,000.00 to Immedion's premises. The Notice of Furnishing advised that it was being given as "a routine procedure to comply with certain state requirements that may exist," and that it was not a lien, nor any reflection on Preferred Fire's credit standing. Immedion paid Preferred approximately half of the contract price for installation of the system before receiving Ferguson Fire's Notice of Furnishing. After receiving the Notice, Immedion issued two additional checks to Preferred Fire for the unpaid balance of the contract price. Immedion paid everything it owed to Rescom, and it also paid its contractor Preferred Fire in full under the separate contract for the fire suppression system. However, Preferred Fire never paid Ferguson Fire for the materials it furnished. Ferguson brought a mechanic's lien foreclosure action against Immedion and Preferred Fire. Ferguson Fire contended (and the Supreme Court agreed) that the Court of Appeals erred in adding requirements to S.C Code Ann. 29-5-40 (2007) (governing a notice of furnishing) that were not in the statute itself and in concluding Ferguson Fire did not establish an effective lien upon which a foreclosure action could be premised. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ferguson Fire v. Preferred Fire" on Justia Law

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Hard Hat Workforce Solutions, LLC (Hard Hat) appealed a circuit court order granting summary judgment in favor of Great American Insurance Company (GAI). Hard Hat argued it was entitled to make a claim against a payment bond GAI issued on a construction project. The threshold issue in this case was whether Hard Hat's bond claim must comply with section 29-5-440's "notice of furnishing" provision. The Supreme Court found it did not: three e-mails Hard Hat sent to a subcontractor, Walker White, created an issue of fact as to whether Hard Hat satisfied section 29-5-440's notice provisions. View "Hard Hat Workforce v. Mechanical HVAC" on Justia Law

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The contract between the general contractor and subcontractor provided for arbitration pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act. When a complaint was filed, the general contractor Appellant Sean Barnes and property owner Appellant Wando E. sought to enforce the construction contract's arbitration clause. The trial court refused to compel arbitration on the basis that the contract did not sufficiently impact interstate commerce. Upon review, the Supreme Court found the trial court erred in finding the parties' transaction had an insufficient nexus to interstate commerce and reversed. View "Cape Romain v. Wando E., LLC" on Justia Law

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This dispute arose from the construction of a commercial building. Before the property was purchased, Respondent Bryan Causey hired GS2 Engineering and Environmental Consulting, Inc. (GS2) to perform an engineering analysis of the soils on the property to determine whether the land was suitable for construction. Causey formed Causey Consulting, LLC (of which he was the sole member), and Causey Consulting purchased the property to construct the commercial building. Appellant Crouch Construction Company was retained as the general contractor. The parties' dispute began over the amount of unsuitable soils excavated from the building site: during construction, it became apparent that more unsuitable soil needed to be removed than was initially anticipated, and the removal of additional soil increased the cost of the project. The construction project was substantially completed then occupied by Respondent Celebrations of Columbia, LLC, of which Causey is also a member. When Appellant did not receive final payment for the work, it filed a mechanic's lien and a suit to foreclose the lien. The circuit court ordered arbitration pursuant to an arbitration clause in the construction contract. The arbitrator determined Appellant was owed money under the contract, plus interest, attorney's fees and costs. Respondents moved to vacate the award, seeking to have it set aside based on several unfavorable evidentiary rulings and general allegations that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded the law. The circuit court denied Respondents' motion. However, before an order was entered, Respondents learned that an engineer employed by GS2 was the brother of one of the arbitrator's law partners. Respondents filed a supplemental motion to vacate the arbitration award, reiterating their previous arguments and raising several new claims, citing the arbitrator's failure to disclose his law partner's relationship with an employee of GS2. The circuit court found that vacatur was warranted, and , the circuit court held the award should be set aside. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the arbitrator was not evidently partial towards GS2 or either party. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the case to the circuit court for confirmation of the arbitration award. View "Crouch Construction v. Causey" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court centered on the grant of summary judgment in favor of Respondent Action Concrete Contractors, Inc. in a mechanic's lien foreclosure action. Owners Elvira Chappelear, Craig Chappelear, Premier Southern Homes, LLC, Henry G. Beal, Jr. and First Citizens Bank and Trust Co., Inc. argued on appeal there were material issues of fact and that the grant of summary judgment was inappropriate. The Supreme Court disagreed after its review of the trial court record and affirmed. View "Action Concrete v. Chappelear" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the court of appeals decision affirming the circuit court's order that upheld an arbitration award. The underlying dispute arose from a construction contract whereby general contractor respondent C-Sculptures, LLC agreed to build a home for Petitioners Gregory and Kerry Brown. The contract price was in excess of $800,000. However, Respondent only possessed what is referred to as a Group II license, limiting Respondent to construction projects that did not exceed $100,000. A dispute arose between the parties, and Respondent filed an action in circuit court seeking to enforce a mechanic's lien against Petitioners. Upon Petitioners' motion and pursuant to an arbitration clause in the parties' contract, the circuit court matter was stayed pending arbitration. Petitioners sought to have the matter dismissed after they learned Respondent held only a Group II license. The arbitrator was apprised of the applicable law, but nevertheless denied Petitioners' motion to dismiss "after due consideration of all the evidence and authorities presented by the parties in this Arbitration." Respondent prevailed at arbitration, receiving an award of damages and an award of attorney's fees as the prevailing party pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. section 29-5-10(b) (Supp. 2012). Petitioners challenged the arbitration award, contending the arbitrator's denial of their motion to dismiss amounted to a manifest disregard of the law. Following adverse decisions in the circuit court and the court of appeals, the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari. Petitioners argue the court of appeals erred in refusing to find the arbitrator manifestly disregarded the law in declining to dismiss the action. Upon review, the Court agreed, and reversed the appellate court and directed that judgment be entered for Petitioners. View "C-Sculptures v. Brown" on Justia Law