Articles Posted in Construction Law

by
Out-of-state architects engaged in the illegal practice of architecture by holding themselves out as being licensed in Oregon. The Oregon Board of Architect Examiners (board) petitioned for certiorari review of the Court of Appeals decision to reverse in part the board’s determination that respondents (the Washington firm Twist Architecture & Design, Inc., and its principals, Callison and Hansen), engaged in the unlawful practice of architecture and unlawfully represented themselves as architects. The board argued respondents, who were not licensed to practice architecture in Oregon, engaged in the “practice of architecture” when they prepared master plans depicting the size, shape, and placement of buildings on specific properties in conformance with applicable laws and regulations for a client that was contemplating the construction of commercial projects. The board further argued that respondents’ use of the term “architecture” in the logo on those master plans and the phrase “Licensed in the State of Oregon (pending)” on their website violated the law prohibiting unlicensed individuals from representing themselves as architects or indicating that they were practicing architecture. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the board, reversed the Court of Appeals, and affirmed the board's order. View "Twist Architecture v. Board of Architect Examiners" on Justia Law

by
This case required the Oregon Supreme Court's interpretation of ORS 12.135(1)(a). ORS 12.135(1)(a) provided that an action arising from the “construction, alteration or repair of any improvement to real property” must be commenced within “[t]he applicable period of limitation otherwise established by law.” The question in this construction defect case was precisely what is the period of limitation “otherwise established by law.” Plaintiffs argued their action was subject to a six-year statute of limitations set out in ORS 12.080(3). Defendant argued that the action was not for injury to an “interest” in real property, but for damage to the property itself, which is governed by a shorter, two-year statute of limitations described in ORS 12.110(1) that applied to tort actions generally. The trial court agreed with plaintiffs that the six year-limitation period applied, but granted summary judgment for defendant on the ground that plaintiffs brought their action more than six years after the construction was completed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that, although the six-year statute applied, a “discovery rule” applied, there remained an issue of fact as to whether plaintiffs initiated their action within six years from the time that they knew or should have known of the injury that formed the basis for their claim. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that plaintiffs’ action was subject to the six-year statute: that statute applied to actions for interference with or injury to an “interest” in real property, such as trespass or waste, not to actions for damage to property itself, which are subject to the two-year statute of limitations. There remained, however, a question of fact as to when plaintiffs discovered the damage to their property, which would have triggered the two-year statute of limitations. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the Court of Appeals with regard to summary judgment, and remanded for for further proceedings. View "Goodwin v. Kingsmen Plastering, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Defendant was a general contractor that builds “spec” houses (houses built without pre-existing construction contracts in anticipation of eventual sale to the public). On May 30, 2000, defendant and plaintiff entered into a purchase and sale agreement for a house. Although most of the construction had been completed, the agreement specified that defendant would make changes to the interior of the house. Specifically, defendant agreed to upgrade some of the flooring, install an air conditioning unit, and install a gas dryer in the laundry room. After defendant made those changes and the parties conducted a walk-through inspection, the sale closed on July 12, 2000. The primary question in this construction defect case was which of two statutes of repose applied when a buyer enters into a purchase and sale agreement to buy an existing home. Although each statute provided for a 10-year period of repose, the two periods of repose ran from different dates. One runs from “the date of the act or omission complained of;” the other ran from the date that construction is “substantial[ly] complet[e].” In this case, the trial court found that plaintiff filed her action more than 10 years after “the date of the act or omission complained of” but less than 10 years after the construction was “substantial[ly] complet[e].” The trial court ruled that the first statute, ORS 12.115(1), applied and accordingly entered judgment in defendant’s favor. The Court of Appeals affirmed. After review of the parties' arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court found no reversible error in the Court of Appeals' decision and affirmed. View "Shell v. Schollander Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

by
A certified question of Oregon law was certified to the Oregon Supreme Court from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The question arose out of a construction contract dispute in which a homeowner's association sued a builder in state court for construction defects. The homeowner's association and the builder settled, and the settlement included an unconditional release and covenant not to execute against the builder. When the homeowner's association attempted to garnish the builder's liability insurance policy, however, the insurer claimed that it had no liability because the settlement unconditionally released its insured from any liability. The state trial court agreed, and the builder appealed. Meanwhile, in response to the state trial court's conclusion that the settlement agreement eliminated the insurer's liability, the homeowner's association and the builder amended their settlement agreement to eliminate the unconditional release and covenant not to execute. Pursuant to the new agreement, the builder initiated this action in federal court against its insurer. In the federal court action, the insurer argued that the state court already had determined that, given the terms of the original settlement, the builder could not recover under its insurance policy and that the parties lacked authority to create any new insurance coverage obligation by amending their settlement agreement. The federal district court agreed. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit certified a question on whether the homeowner's association and the builder could amend their settlement agreement in such a way as to revive the liability of the builder's insurer. After review, the Oregon Court concluded that, although the parties possessed authority to amend the terms of their settlement agreement, they could not do so in a way that retroactively revived the liability that was eliminated in their original agreement (at least not on the basis of the legal theories that they proposed). View "A&T Siding, Inc. v. Capitol Specialty Ins. Corp." on Justia Law

by
Defendant Capitol Specialty Insurance Co. moved to dismiss this appeal on mootness grounds. According to Capitol, the issues to be decided in the appeal pertained to the terms of an agreement settling an underlying construction defect case, but those terms were superseded by amendments to the agreement adopted during the pendency of the appeal. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that, because the amendments to the settlement agreement did not have the effect of superseding the terms of the original agreement, a judicial decision about that original agreement will have a practical effect on the rights of the parties. Consequently, the appeal was not moot, and the motion to dismiss was denied. View "Brownstone Homes Condo. Assn. v. Brownstone Forest Hts." on Justia Law

by
The Montara Owners Association (homeowners) sued developer and general contractor, La Noue Development, LLC for damages caused by design and construction defects in the building of the Montara townhomes. The defects included problems with the framing, siding, decking, and windows, resulting in water intrusion and water damage. La Noue, in turn, filed a third-party complaint against multiple subcontractors, including Vasily Sharabarin, dba Advanced Construction (Sharabarin), who provided siding work on four buildings. Before trial, La Noue settled with the homeowners for $5 million (eliminating the first-party litigation from the case) and also reached settlements with most of the third-party subcontractors. La Noue did not settle with Sharabarin. Because of various pretrial rulings, the only claims submitted to the jury were La Noue’s breach of contract claims against Sharabarin and two other subcontractors. Before trial, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Sharabarin on La Noue’s claim for contractual indemnity, on the ground that the indemnification provision on which La Noue had relied was void under ORS 30.140. The trial court also held that the court would decide whether La Noue could recover the attorney fees that it had incurred in defending against the homeowners’ claims as consequential damages for Sharabarin’s breach of contract and that the court would resolve that issue after trial. In its post-trial ruling on the attorney fee issue, the court ultimately held that La Noue could not recover attorney fees as consequential damages in the case, even after trial, and denied La Noue’s claim for those attorney fees. The issues this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on: the proper application of ORS 30.140; whether it was error for the trial court to give an instruction on the economic waste doctrine in the absence of any evidence on the alternative measure of damages, diminution in value; and whether a third-party plaintiff can recover attorney fees as consequential damages for a third-party defendant’s breach of contract when the attorney fees were incurred in the first-party litigation in the same action. The Supreme Court concluded that it was error to have given the economic waste instruction. The Court affirmed on the Court of Appeals' decisions as to the other issues presented, and remanded for the trial court to consider the general contractor’s substantive right to attorney fees. View "Montara Owners Assn. v. La Noue Development, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Defendant general contractor Super One, Inc., and various subcontractors, including defendant subcontractor T. T. & L. Sheet Metal, Inc., contracted with VIP's Industries, Inc. and VIP's Motor Inns, Inc. (VIP's) to build a hotel. Defendants began work in 1996. In early 1997, VIP's posted a "completion notice" pursuant to ORS 87.045. On or about that same date, VIP's also obtained a certificate for temporary occupancy and began accepting paying guests. However, a Certificate of Substantial Completion was not issued by the architect or accepted by VIP's as had been contemplated by the contract between the parties. After the date on which VIP's posted the completion notice, defendants continued to perform construction work. The county issued a certificate of final occupancy later that year. In 2006, plaintiff purchased the hotel and soon thereafter allegedly discovered damage. Plaintiff filed an action against defendants for negligence, nuisance, and trespass in 2007, a date more than 10 years after the posting of the completion notice but less than 10 years after the issuance of the certificate of final occupancy. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff's claims were barred by ORS 12.135. The issue this case presented to the Supreme Court was the meaning of the term "substantial completion" as used in ORS 12.135. The Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "PIH Beaverton, LLC v. Super One, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Sunset Presbyterian Church contracted with defendant Brockamp & Jaeger to act as its general contractor and build a new church facility. Defendant then subcontracted with Anderson Roofing Company and other subcontractors to perform various specialized construction tasks. Plaintiff did not enter into a contractual relationship with any of the subcontractors. In early 2009, plaintiff allegedly discovered extensive water damage in the church, and filed an action asserting tort claims against defendants. Defendant general contractor filed an affirmative defense alleging that, by the terms of the parties' contract, plaintiff's claims accrued on the "date of substantial completion" and were time-barred. A defendant-subcontractor, which was not a party to that contract, filed an affirmative defense alleging that plaintiff's claims were barred by the statute of ultimate repose. Both defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted their motions and dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals reversed. Defendants then petitioned for review. The Supreme Court concluded that defendants were not entitled to summary judgment, affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, reversed the decision of the trial court, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Sunset Presbyterian Church v. Brockamp & Jaeger" on Justia Law

by
In this construction defect case, defendant moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion. Plaintiff then filed a "motion for reconsideration" of the summary judgment ruling. The court meanwhile entered judgment, and plaintiff filed a notice of appeal. When the trial court later denied the motion for reconsideration, plaintiff did not file a new notice of appeal. The question in this case was whether plaintiff needed to do so. Defendant argued that, because a motion for reconsideration constitutes a motion for new trial, its filing rendered plaintiff's earlier notice of appeal premature and, as a consequence, a nullity. Plaintiff argued that the motion for reconsideration did not constitute a motion for a new trial and thus had no effect on the filing of the notice of appeal. The Court of Appeals concluded that, under "Carter v. U.S. National Bank," (747 P2d 980 (1987)), a motion for reconsideration constitutes a motion for a new trial. Nevertheless, the court held that the filing of the motion did not have the effect of rendering the appeal a nullity. Consequently, the court concluded that plaintiff was not required to file a new notice of appeal. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that "Carter" and earlier decisions declaring that a motion for reconsideration of a summary judgment constitutes a motion for a new trial were incorrectly decided. In this case, plaintiff's filing of the motion for reconsideration of the summary judgment did not render the filing of the notice of appeal premature. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals on different grounds. View "Assoc. Unit Owners of Timbercrest Condo v. Warren" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff John Stuart decided to build a new house on a small farm. He contacted his insurance agent of nineteen years, Defendant Ronald Pittman for "course-of-construction" insurance to cover any problems in the course of building his house. Mr. Pittman discussed the scope of coverage that the policy would provide. Relying on Mr. Pittman's oral assurance of what the policy would cover, Plaintiff agreed to it. Construction started in 2003. Plaintiff received a premium statement, but not a written copy of the policy. An ice storm struck Plaintiff's building project. Plaintiff contacted Mr. Pittman to initiate an insurance claim. Mr. Pittman told Plaintiff that damage should be covered by the policy. In 2004, Plaintiff received a declaration page from Country Mutual Insurance Company, and found that damage to his house was not covered. Plaintiff brought an action against both Mr. Pittman and the Insurance Company alleging breach of the oral "policy" that he and Mr. Pittman agreed to at the onset of the building project. At the conclusion of the trial's evidentiary phase, Defendant moved for a directed verdict, arguing that Plaintiff failed to prove that the oral insurance binder covered his project. The trial court denied the motion, and the jury would later rule in favor of Plaintiff. The verdict was overturned on appeal. The court held that there was no evidence from which a jury could have found in favor of Plaintiff. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Plaintiff argued that the appellate court misinterpreted the Oregon law that required him to prove that the oral binder superseded the "usual exclusions" of the written policy. The Supreme Court found that the written policy was, as a matter of law, deemed to include all terms of the oral binder. Accordingly, the Court reversed the appellate court's decision and affirmed the judgment of the trial court. View "Stuart v. Pittman" on Justia Law