Arizona Court Cites California Courts to Determine Construction Defect Coverage is Time Barred
December 30, 2013 — CDJ STAFF
Construction defect claims in an Arizona community are time barred and so the judge had determined that National Fire & Marine Insurance is not liable for coverage. National Fire claimed that while there was no Arizona case law concerning statutes of limitations for equitable contributions by insurance carriers, the court agreed that “its position is directly supported by cases from other jurisdictions.”
In the underlying construction defect case, Steadfast Insurance had settled with homeowners over allegations of construction defects. National Fire was a co-insurer and declined coverage. National Fire’s citing of two California cases was not unique for the Arizona courts. Other Arizona cases cited the same two California cases.
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City Sues over Leaking Sewer System
October 25, 2013 — CDJ STAFF
The city of Storm Lake, Iowa completed a $3.6 million sewer project only year ago, but the system is leaking untreated water into residents properties. The Pilot-Tribune reports that “not all the sewage lines broke,” but the city still needed to check the entire system for damage. The Southwest Shoreline Sanitary District has filed a lawsuit against Lessard Contracting, the firm that built the system.
Bob Bergendoff, one of the sanitary district trustees said that “the main thing right now is whether the lines are properly installed.” Steve Anderson, another trustee, said that discussions with Lessard are getting “next to nowhere.”
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Product Liability Alert: Evidence of Apportionment of Fault Admissible in Strict Products Liability Action
March 26, 2014 — R. Bryan Martin and Kristian B. Moriarty - Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP
In Romine v. Johnson Controls, Inc. (No. B239761, filed March 17, 2014), the California Court of Appeal for the Second District held that a trial court must permit a defendant, in a products liability action, to present evidence of apportionment of fault among settling and non-settling entities. The case involved an automobile collision in which the plaintiff was struck from behind, causing the driver’s seat to recline and propel plaintiff into the back seat where she struck her head. Plaintiff was left quadriplegic as a result.
Plaintiff brought suit against the driver who caused the accident, the Nissan entities who manufactured the car plaintiff was driving, Johnson Controls, Inc. (“Johnson”), Ikeda Engineering Corporation (“Ikeda”), Vintec Co. (“Vintec”), and Autoliv ASP, Inc., who designed and manufactured the driver’s seat of the vehicle plaintiff was driving, and against Faurecia Automotive Seating, Inc. who manufactured the recliner mechanism of plaintiff’s vehicle’s front seat. Ikeda participated in the design of the driver’s seat and Vintec manufactured the driver’s seat. Johnson manufactured the seat belt for the driver’s seat of plaintiff’s vehicle in accordance with Nissan’s design. Prior to trial, plaintiff settled with the defendant driver, the Nissan defendants, the Autoliv defendants, and Faurecia Automotive Seating, Inc. Plaintiff elected to proceed to trial solely on a cause of action for strict products liability against Ikeda and Vintec. Pursuant to a stipulation, Johnson agreed it would be legally responsible for damages awarded to plaintiff at trial based upon the actions of Vintec or Ikeda.
At trial, the court precluded Vintec and Ikeda from offering evidence that: (1) plaintiff would not have been injured if her vehicle’s seat belt was designed in a different manner by Nissan; (2) Nissan chose the manufacturer of the recliner mechanism and required defendants to use that manufacturer and that part in the seat; and (3) The other defendants had already reached settlements with plaintiff.
Reprinted courtesy of R. Bryan Martin, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP
and Kristian B. Moriarty, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP
Mr. Martin may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; Ms. Moriarty may be contacted at email@example.com Read the full story...
Pennsylvania Considers Changes to Construction Code Review
November 06, 2013 — CDJ STAFF
Pennsylvania may soon change how it adopts changes to its implementation of the Uniform Construction Code, but it’s not clear which method will be adopted, as the Pennsylvania House and Senate have competing bills. In the Senate bill (SB1023), the only change would be that any changes to the Uniform Building Code made by the International Code Council would automatically become part of the Pennsylvania building code, unless rejected by a two-thirds vote of the Pennsylvania UCC Review and Advisory Council. Under current Pennsylvania law, changes are adopted only with a two-thirds approval of the RAC.
The House bill (HB1209), separates the commercial code from the residential code. Under the House proposal, the RAC would reject changes to the commercial building code on a two-thirds vote, otherwise they would be adopted, but in the residential building code, changes would be rejected unless the RAC approved them by a two-thirds vote.
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Construction Law Client Alert: California Is One Step Closer to Prohibiting Type I Indemnity Agreements In Private Commercial Projects
June 15, 2011 — Haight Brown & Bonesteel, LLP
On June 1, 2011 by majority vote, the California Senate passed Senate Bill 474, which would amend Civil Code section 2782, and add Civil Code section 2782.05. The passage of this new law is a critical development for real estate developers, general contractors and subcontractors because it will affect how these projects are insured and how disputes are resolved.
Civil Code section 2782 was amended in 2007 to prohibit Type I indemnity agreements for residential projects only. Since 2007, various trade associations and labor unions have lobbied to expand those very same restrictions to other projects. These new provisions apply to contracts, entered into after January 1, 2013, that are not for residential projects, and that are not executed by a public entity. The revisions provide that any provision in a contract purporting to indemnify, hold harmless, and defend another for their negligence or other fault is against public policy and void. These provisions cannot be waived.
A provision in a contract requiring additional insured coverage is also void and unenforceable to the extent it would be prohibited under the new law. Moreover, the new law does not apply to wrap-up insurance policies or programs, or a cause of action for breach of contract or warranty that exists independently of the indemnity obligation.
The practical impact of this new law is that greater participation in wrap-up insurance programs will likely result. While many wrap-up programs suffer from problems such as insufficient limits, and disputes about funding the self-insured retention, the incentive for the developer or general contractor to utilize wrap-up insurance will be greater than ever before because they will no longer be able to spread the risk of the litigation to the trades and the trade carriers.
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Reprinted courtesy of Steve Cvitanovic of Haight Brown & Bonesteel, LLP.
South Carolina Legislature Redefining Occurrences to Include Construction Defects in CGL Policies
April 01, 2011 — Beverley BevenFlorez CDJ STAFF
The question of what circumstances must be in place for construction defects to be covered in a general commercial liability (CGL) policies is being raised by the courts and the legislature in South Carolina. The Insurance Journal reports that the American Insurance Association as well as the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America are speaking out on the issue.
The problem seems to be centered on what defines an “occurrence.” CGL policies were not meant to cover faulty workmanship, according to the filing by the South Carolina Supreme Court. In January of this year, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the ruling in Crossmann Communities v Harleysville Mutual declaring that “Respondents cannot show the damage here was the result of an occurrence. Rather, the damage was a direct result and the natural and expected consequence of faulty workmanship; faulty workmanship did not cause an occurrence resulting in damage.” They focused their attention on the word “accident,” stating that there is a fortuity element that is not diminished.
The South Carolina legislature reacted by producing a bill that would add new language directly negating the ruling by the Supreme Court. The South Carolina bill S-431 would change the definition of an occurrence in regards to construction defects as follows: “For a liability insurance policy issued to a construction professional, an ‘occurrence’ means, at a minimum: (1) an accident; or (2) continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful condition or substance. No additional requirement of a fortuitous event is needed to constitute an ‘occurrence.’”
S-431 is currently residing in the House Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.
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Contractor Sues License Board
June 30, 2011 — CDJ STAFF
Judge Kendall J. Newman of the US District Court handed down a decision on June 24 on the case of Kent v California Department of Consumer Affairs. Mr. Kent, appearing as his own counsel, had brought the suit against the California Department of Consumer Affairs and the Contractors State Licensing Board after he was arrested in a sting operation and, as the plaintiff put it, “was absurdly arrested and uncooperatively detained for a time longer than necessary or allowed by law under the false pretense of contracting with out a license.” Mr. Kent’s alleged that Rick Lopez, one of the defendants, formed him to read allow from the California Business and Professions Code. He said he was later handcuffed and placed in an uncomfortable chair, “enduring physical pain and emotional agony.”
Although Kent was given a Notice to Appear, he alleged that a further defendant, Stuart Rind, “closed the plaintiff’s case marked citation A7773 without giving written notice to anyone.” As a result, the Placer County District Attorney’s Office had no record of his Notice to Appear.
Kent alleged that subsequently his firm was essentially shut down for two years and that he was prevented from “legally contracting or selling services for any other contractor or qualifying for any other licensed capacity governed by the CSLB.” After this, the CSLB suspended the license for his firm, DSI Construction. He was assessed a $1,500 fine, after which he claims he sent a letter to the CSLB demanding money damages. The judge noted that the letter was not included in the plaintiff’s Ninth Amended Complaint.
Judge Kendall recommended that the plaintiff’s Complaints be dismissed, although he did allow that sixth, and perhaps the eighth and ninth, could be amended with a tenth amended complaint.
Read the court’s decision…
Housing-Related Spending Made Up Significant Portion of GDP in Fourth Quarter 2013
March 31, 2014 — Beverley BevenFlorez-CDJ STAFF
On the Insights Blog of CoreLogic, Molly Boesel reported that “housing-related spending made up 17.4 percent of GDP in [the] fourth quarter [of] 2013,” according to the latest release by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The numbers published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis demonstrated “upward revisions in overall GDP and housing-related expenditures from the second estimate released in February 2014.”
Boesel explained how they determined the housing-related spending number: “To calculate the portion of domestic spending that is related to housing, we look at three expenditures from the release: residential investment (the construction of new single- and multi-family houses), spending on housing services (rent, owner’s equivalent rent and utilities) and spending on furnishings and durable goods. Together, these expenditures made up 17.4 percent of total real GDP in the fourth quarter of 2013, the same as this time a year ago and down from the high of 20.6 percent in the third quarter of 2005.” Read the full story...