Articles Posted in Construction Law

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The Supreme Court ruled that the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court did not err in determining that Bennett Construction, a sole proprietorship owned and operated by Mark Bennett, was neither Robert Kohout’s direct employer nor his statutory employer under the facts of this case. Kohout was injured as a result of falling from the roof of a barn on the property of Brian Shook and sought workers’ compensation benefits from Bennett Construction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Nick Bennett, Mark’s son, lacked apparent authority to enter into a contract with Shook on behalf of Bennett Construction; and (2) Nick did not enter into a joint venture with Mark or Bennett Construction concerning the Shook job. View "Kohout v. Bennett Construction" on Justia Law

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Homeowners obtained loans from Bank for the construction of a new home and entered into an agreement with Contractor to complete the new home construction. When Homeowners defaulted on payments owed to Contractor and on both loans, the house was sold at foreclosure, and Homeowners filed for bankruptcy. Contractor filed a fourth amended complaint against Homeowners, who were later dismissed as parties, and Bank. Following a trial the court granted summary judgment for Bank on Contractor’s claims of fraud and civil conspiracy. The Supreme Court reversed. After remand, Contractor filed a fifth amended complaint, which differed from the fourth amended complaint in several respects. The district court determined that the election of remedies doctrine and judicial estoppel required a dismissal of Contractor’s claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Contractor’s claims were consistently premised on the existence of a contract, and therefore, no election was required; and (2) Contractor’s claims were based on different facts and obligations, and therefore, both could be pursued. View "deNourie & Yost Homes, LLC v. Frost" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the City of Omaha enacted an ordinance requiring contractors doing work within the City to obtain a license. Appellant challenged the ordinance on various grounds. As relevant on appeal, Appellant alleged that the passage of the ordinance did not comply with the procedural requirements of the Omaha City Charter, that the ordinance placed an unfair restriction on and monopolized the City’s contracting industry, and that the ordinance violated his constitutional rights. The district court granted summary judgment for the City on all but one of Appellant’s claims. After a bench trial, the district court ruled in favor of the City, concluding that the City was empowered to enact the ordinance and that the ordinance did not prevent Appellant from working on his own property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the City had the authority to enact the ordinance. View "Malone v. City of Omaha" on Justia Law

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The Weitz Company, LLC, a general contractor, submitted a bid on a planned nursing facility. Weitz’s bid incorporated the amount of a bid submitted to Weitz by H&S Plumbing and Heating for the plumbing work and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning parts of the job. The project owner awarded the project to Weitz, but H&S reneged on its bid. Weitz used other subcontractors to complete the project at greater expense. Weitz later sued H&S, claiming breach of contract and promissory estoppel. The court determined that the parties had not formed a contract but enforced H&S’s bid under promissory estoppel, awarding Weitz damages of $292,492. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and the amount of damages, holding that the district court did not err by entering a judgment for Weitz on its promissory estoppel claim and correctly measured Weitz’s damages. View "Weitz Co., LLC v. Hands, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, homeowners, brought this action against Defendants, the company that constructed Plaintiffs’ home and the developer of the lot on which the home was built, alleging negligent construction of the home. Defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting that the action was barred by the four-year statute of limitations set forth in Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-223. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed as to the developer but reversed as to the construction company, finding the action against it was not barred by section 25-223. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with directions to affirm the judgment of the district court, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that the statute of limitations began to run on Plaintiffs’ claims at the expiration of the express one-year limited warranty issued by the construction company instead of the date the home was substantially completed. View "Adams v. Manchester Park" on Justia Law

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Debtors contracted with Builder to finish construction on a house. After Debtors defaulted on progress payments, Builder sued Debtors and Bank, claiming that Defendants falsely represented or concealed material information about whether Debtors could pay for the work. The district court sustained Defendants’ motions for summary judgment on Builder’s fraud and conspiracy claims. Debtors then confessed judgment on Builder’s breach of contract claim. After a bench trial, the district court ruled for Defendants on Builder’s equitable and promissory estoppel claims. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the court erred in granting summary judgment to Debtors on Builder’s fraud claim and to Debtors and Bank on Builder’s civil conspiracy claim; and (2) during trial, the court did not err in finding that Builder had failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Bank promised to fund Builder’s work that was definite enough to induce Builder’s foreseeable reliance on the statement, but these factual findings did not preclude Builder’s proof of the same facts for its fraud claims. Remanded. View "deNourie & Youst Homes, LLC v. Frost" on Justia Law

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Jose Dominguez was working for D & BR Building Systems, Inc. (D&BR) on the roof of a building being constructed for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. when he was killed in an accident. D&BR had subcontracted with with Graham Construction, Inc. (Graham), the general contractor on the project, to install the steelwork necessary for the building. Guadalupe Gaytan, the special administrator of Dominguez’s estate, brought this negligence action against Wal-Mart and Graham. The district court granted summary judgment for Wal-Mart and Graham. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) summary judgment was properly granted to Wal-Mart, as no genuine issues of material fact existed as to any of Gaytan’s claims against Wal-Mart; and (2) there were genuine issues of material fact with respect to Gaytan’s direct negligence claim against Graham arising from Graham’s alleged retention of control over the use of safety equipment on the roof. Remanded. View "Gaytan v. Wal-Mart" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of first degree murder, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and tampering with a witness. In this direct appeal, Defendant contended (1) the district court erred in overruling his motion to suppress evidence; (2) the district court erred in giving jury instructions that incorrectly stated the law; and (3) the prosecutor's closing remarks were so inflammatory that reversal under the plain error standard was warranted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in overruling Defendant's motion to suppress; (2) Defendant was not prejudiced and his substantial rights were not affected by the jury instructions; and (3) the prosecutor's comments did not prejudice Defendant. View "State v. Alarcon-Chavez" on Justia Law

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After Claimant's attempt to obtain a refund of sales tax on building materials used in the construction of an ethanol production plant was administratively denied in part, Claimant sought judicial review. This appeal turned on a statutory limitation of the exemption for manufacturing machinery and equipment and the limited statutory authority for appointment of a purchasing agent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statute limited the exemption to purchases by the manufacturer; and (2) a contractual provision purporting to entitle the manufacturer to all tax credits for taxes paid by a construction contractor was not effective as a purchasing agent appointment. View "Bridgeport Ethanol v. Neb. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Matthew Fox was convicted of first degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony. Fox appealed, asserting that the district court erred when it found him competent to stand trial and when it allowed him to absent himself from major portions of the trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it determined that Fox was competent to stand trial, and (2) the district court did not err when it found that Fox knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to be present at trial and allowed Fox to absent himself from trial. View "State v. Fox" on Justia Law