Articles Posted in Construction Law

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At issue in this case was whether plaintiff, Ronnisch Construction Group (RCG), could seek attorney fees under section 118(2), MCL 570.1118(2), of the Construction Lien Act (CLA) from defendant Lofts on the Nine, LLC (LOTN), given that plaintiff received a favorable arbitration award on its related breach of contract claim but did not obtain a judgment on its construction lien claim. After review, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the trial court could award attorney fees to RCG because RCG was a lien claimant who prevailed in an action to enforce a construction lien through foreclosure. Therefore, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and remanded this case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Ronnisch Construction Group, Inc. v. Lofts on the Nine, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2009 and 2010, the south wing of the Detroit Public Library was renovated. Defendant KEO & Associates, Inc. (KEO) was the principal contractor for this project. Defendant Westfield Insurance Company supplied KEO with a payment bond worth $1.3 million, as required by the public works bond act (PWBA). KEO was identified as the principal contractor and Westfield as the surety on the bond. KEO subcontracted with defendant Electrical Technology Systems, Inc. (ETS) to provide labor and materials for electrical work. The agreement between KEO and ETS included a pay-if-paid clause, obliging KEO to pay ETS only after KEO had been paid for the relevant portion of work performed. ETS in turn subcontracted with Wyandotte Electric Supply Company for materials and supplies, making Wyandotte a sub-subcontractor from KEO’s perspective. ETS and Wyandotte first formed a relationship in 2003, when they entered into an “open account” agreement that governed ETS’s purchases from Wyandotte. Over the course of the project, ETS paid Wyandotte only sporadically and the unpaid balance grew. Initially, Wyandotte supplied materials on credit and credited ETS’s payments to the oldest outstanding balance, but eventually Wyandotte began to ship materials only for cash on delivery. Wyandotte sent certified letters to KEO and Westfield asking for a copy of the payment bond related to the library renovation project. The letter, on Wyandotte’s letterhead, referred to the “Detroit Public Library South Wing with [ETS.]” According to Wyandotte, KEO provided a copy of the payment bond the next day. Wyandotte also sent KEO a 30-day “Notice of Furnishing” in accordance with MCL 129.207, explaining that it was one of ETS’s suppliers. Wyandotte also sent copies of the letter to Westfield, the library, and ETS. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's revie centered on whether actual notice was required for a sub-subcontractor to recover on a payment bond when that sub-subcontractor complied with the notice requirements set forth in MCL 129.207. Furthermore, this case raised the question of whether a PWBA claimant could recover a time-price differential and attorney fees that were provided for by the claimant’s contract with a subcontractor, but were unknown to the principal contractor holding the payment bond as well as the principal’s surety. The Supreme Court concluded that the PWBA contained no actual notice requirement for claimants that comply with the statute, that the trial court properly awarded a time-price differential and attorney fees on past-due invoices to Wyandotte, and that the trial court erred in awarding postjudgment interest under MCL 600.6013(7). Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals with regard to the first two issues and reversed with regard to the third. View "Wyandotte Electric Supply Co. v. Electrical Technology Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants, an unlicensed residential builder; his businesses; and Denaglen Corp., a check-cashing service, appealed the Court of Appeals' decision to affirm the grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs, homeowners who contracted to have their home restored following a flood. On appeal, this case raised four issues: (1) whether MCL 339.2412(1), which prohibited an unlicensed builder from "bring[ing] or maintain[ing] an action . . . for the collection of compensation," prevents an unlicensed builder from defending on the merits against claims asserted against him by a homeowner; (2) whether MCL 339.2412(1) provided a homeowner with an independent cause of action for damages arising from the statute's violation; (3) whether a contract for the services of an unlicensed builder was void ab initio or whether it may have some form of continuing legal existence; and (4) whether the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to set aside the default of defendant Denaglen Corp., the check-cashing service. In lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court found that the appellate court erred in granting summary judgment to the plaintiffs. While the Court of Appeals correctly held that MCL 339.2412(1) did not prevent an unlicensed builder from defending against a lawsuit on its merits and did not afford a homeowner an independent cause of action to seek damages for its violation. However, contracts between an innocent homeowner and an unlicensed residential builder were voidable by the homeowner and thereby effective in conveying rights and authorities to both parties and third parties. The Court of Appeals therefore erred when it declared the contract at issue void ab initio, "although that court's error was wholly understandable given the confusing state of applicable law." Finally, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to grant defendant Denaglen relief from its default. However, because the proper amount of damages remained in dispute, Denaglen was free to attempt to challenge the extent of its liability. View "Epps v. 4 Quarters Restoration, LLC" on Justia Law

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Miller-Davis Company was an "at risk" contractor for the Sherman Lake YMCA's natatorium project. Miller-Davis hired defendant Ahrens Construction, Inc., as a subcontractor to install similar roof systems on three rooms, including the natatorium. After nearly a decade of litigation and alternative dispute resolution proceedings, the indemnification contract underlying the troubled natatorium roof in this case was brought before the Supreme Court. The Court previously held that the six-year period of limitations of MCL 600.5807(8) applied to the parties’ indemnification contract. Upon further review, the Court held that the indemnity clauses in the parties’ subcontract applied here, because the plain language of the indemnification clauses extended to Ahrens’s failure to undertake corrective work as obligated by the subcontract. Furthermore, because the Sherman Lake YMCA made a "claim" upon Miller-Davis which triggered Ahrens’s liability under the indemnity clauses, Ahrens’ failure to indemnify caused the damages Miller-Davis sustained in undertaking the corrective work itself. Finally, the Court held that Miller-Davis’ claim was not barred by the six-year statute of limitations found in MCL 600.5807(8). Rather, Miller-Davis’ breach of contract claim for Ahrens’s failure to indemnify is distinct from its breach of contract claim based on Ahrens’s failure to install the roof according to specifications, and Miller-Davis’s indemnity action necessarily accrued at a later point. The Court reversed that portion of the Court of Appeals’ opinion discussing Miller-Davis’s indemnity claim, and remanded this case to the Circuit Court for entry of judgment in Miller-Davis’s favor and to determine whether Miller-Davis is entitled to attorney’s fees under the relevant indemnification clauses. View "Miller-Davis Co. v. Ahrens Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case was whether a limitations period applied to an action for breach of a construction contract. The Court of Appeals held that the limitations period applied in this case, and that the statute's six-year limit expired before Plaintiff Miller-Davis Company filed its complaint. The appellate court reversed the judgment of the trial court that had awarded Plaintiff damages. Plaintiff argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that a different statute of limitations for breach of contract controlled, and the period prescribed by that statute was the applicable statute for this action. Upon review of the two statutes of limitations, the Supreme Court agreed with Plaintiff. The limitation in both statutes is six years, however, the period runs from "the date the claim first accrued." The Court reversed the appellate court's judgment because there was a question about the date Plaintiff's action accrued. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Miller-Davis Co. v. Ahrens Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the trial court abused its discretion when it concluded that Defendants Richco Construction, Inc. (Richco) and Ronald Richards, Jr. were personally notified of the default judgment against them and denied their motion to set aside that judgment. The suit arose from a contractual relationship between Plaintiff Lawrence M. Clarke, Inc. (Clarke) and Defendant. Clarke worked on a residential subdivision in 2003, and hired Richco as a subcontractor to work on the sewer system. Richco's work did not satisfy the local governing municipality, and after efforts to repair were unfruitful, Clarke contracted with another party to finish the work. Clark filed a breach of contract and fraud complaint against Richco. The process server attempted to serve Richco at its business address on file with the state, but Richco had vacated the premises and left no forwarding address. Clarke continued in its efforts to locate Richco and refiled its complaint. The trial court permitted alternative service through mailing notice to last-known addresses and a classified advertisement in the local paper. With no response, Clarke moved for a default judgment that the court granted. Upon review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court found that the trial court abused its discretion by finding that Richco was personally notified, and that Richco was entitled to relief from the default judgment. The Court reversed and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Lawrence M. Clarke, Inc. v. Richco Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Richard Loweke was an employee of an electrical subcontractor. Defendant Ann Arbor Ceiling & Partition Company was also a subcontractor. Both parties were hired for work on a construction project at the Detroit Metro Airport. Plaintiff was injured at the site when several cement boards fell on him. Defendant's employees placed the boards against the wall. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that it owed Plaintiff no duty that was "separate and distinct" from the contractual duties it owed to the general contractor. The trial court granted Defendant's motion, and the appellate court affirmed the trial court. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Plaintiff argued that Defendant had a common-law duty to avoid physical harm to others from its own actions. Upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court reversed the lower courts' decisions. The Court found that the trial and appeals courts misinterpreted Michigan law with respect to "duty." The Court held that the assumption of contractual obligations does not limit the common law tort duties owed to others in the performance of the contract. The Court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Loweke v. Ann Arbor Ceiling & Partition, Co., LLC" on Justia Law