In a recent Oregon Court of Appeals decision, the court likely eased the burden for contractors seeking a defense under insurance policies in which they have been named as an additional insured. In my latest article for the Daily Journal of Commerce, I examine the decision, which expands upon a 2016 Oregon Supreme Court
In a very recent decision, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Blanchette v. Superior Court affirmed the plain language of the Home Builder’s Right to Repair Act, holding that even a facially insufficient notice of defect triggers the obligation of a builder to respond within 14 days. The statute, Civil Code section 895 et.…
Those that “dig in the dirt” are very familiar with the Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT), which was launched in 2003 by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA). Over the years California has enacted several statutes requiring anyone moving dirt to notify a regional notification center of the area of planned disturbance that may impact a subsurface…
The apartment business is booming right now. Unfortunately, construction defects persist as well, particularly in garden-style and wood-framed construction. Most developers are savvy enough to maintain a good insurance program, but many do not understand (until too late) that the policies they bought may not cover the risk of construction defects.
As an owner-developer, neither your property insurance policy (including your builder’s risk policy) nor your general liability policy is likely to protect you from the cost of repairing defects to property you own. Most likely, your property policy has an exclusion for any damages caused by defects in construction or design. And your liability policy has exclusions for property damage to any property you currently “own, rent, or occupy.” (See exclusion J(1) below.)
Even more surprising to some is another exclusion that prevents coverage for property damage to property that you “sell, give away or abandon” (known as the “alienated property exclusion”). (See exclusion J(2) below) This means that for projects you develop, occupy (i.e., rent) and sell, you likely have no coverage during your occupancy of that project or after you sell (whether to unit owners through a condo conversion or to another apartment owner).
j. Damage to Property
“Property damage” to:
(1) Property you own, rent, or occupy, including any costs or expenses incurred by you, or any other person, organization or entity, for repair, replacement, enhancement, restoration or maintenance of such property for any reason, including prevention of injury to a person or damage to another’s property;
(2) Premises you sell, give away or abandon, if the “property damage” arises out of any part of those premises;
Upon learning of this unfortunate situation, many developers ask: What good is the policy if it doesn’t cover me when I own the project and it doesn’t cover me after I sell it? Good question. The insurer’s response is that the policy only covers damage to other people’s property (like the project next door), not damage to your own property or the property you once occupied and sold. Strangely, if you sell the project before you occupy it, coverage is more likely.
Solutions? There are steps you can take to minimize your risk:
You may have recently heard that on December 11, 2013, the California Supreme Court denied the builder’s Petition for Review of the published decision in Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. v. Brookfield Crystal Cove LLC, 163 Cal. Rptr. 3d 600, Cal. App. 4th 98 (2013). For builders and contractors, this is very frustrating news and undermines…
The Oregon Court of Appeals recently applied the so-called “economic loss rule” to a construction dispute (Marton v. Ater Construction Co., 256 Or App 554, __ P3d __ (2013)). Among other issues, the court decided whether the prime contractor’s negligence claim against its subcontractor was barred under the economic loss rule.
Can parties waive both the commencement and length of the statutory limitation periods for construction defect actions? Yes, answered the Fourth Appellate District, by allowing the parties to contractually preclude the application of the “delayed discovery” rule that normally triggers the commencement of the limitation time period and affirming case law permitting the shortening of the 10-year latent limitation period to four years. The court did hold, however, that such waiver and shortening is permitted where there are sophisticated parties, in a commercial context, and perhaps that the contract must even be highly negotiated (or at least such negotiation is available).
On June 3, 2013, in Brisbane Lodging, L.P. v. Webcor Builders, Inc. (Cal. Ct. App., June 3, 2013, No. A132555) 2013 WL 2404154, the appellate court reviewed the trial judge’s granting of summary judgment in favor of the general contractor (“Webcor”) on the grounds that a provision in the 1997 version of the AIA 201 (General Conditions to the prime agreement between Owner and Contractor) unambiguously barred all claims, contract and tort, brought more than four years after substantial completion of the project, rather than four years after the Owner discovered the alleged breach or defect and within the 10-year statute of repose. The key language for both the trial court and the appellate court was found in provision 13.7:
“13.7 Commencement of Statutory Limitation Period
“13.7.1 As between the Owner and Contractor:
“.1 Before Substantial Completion. As to acts or failures to act occurring prior to the relevant date of Substantial Completion, any applicable statute of limitations shall commence to run and any alleged cause of action shall be deemed to have accrued in any and all events not later than such date of Substantial Completion ….” (AIA A201, Article 22.214.171.124 (Article 126.96.36.199), bolding and capitalization omitted.)
A reminder from the Idaho Supreme Court for parties to a construction contract: the plain language of the parties’ contract governs the obligations between them in the absence of ambiguity. In City of Meridian v. Petra, Inc., No. 39006, 2013 WL 1286014 (Idaho Apr. 1, 2013), the Idaho Supreme Court reviewed a construction dispute between the City of Meridian and its construction manager, Petra. Not atypically, unfortunately, a project ballooned from $12.2 million in 2006 to over $21 million by October 2008 for a variety of reasons. As the project progressed, Petra, pursuant to its contract with the City, notified the City of the proposed increased costs of construction and the City approved them, or often the City directed the changes itself. During this same time, Petra notified the City of Petra’s right to an equitable adjustment to Petra’s fee based on the changing nature of the project. At that time, Petra agreed to wait until the final project value was determined before submitting the fee request. Thereafter, Petra managed the project for the City through occupancy. Approximately six months prior to occupancy, Petra issued a change order requesting an equitable adjustment in the amount of 4.7% of the excess of the original base contract, which was the same percentage used for the original fee and a significant change order previously. The City denied the request.
When mediation didn’t resolve the dispute, the City filed suit against Petra for declaratory relief and alleged breach of contract, among other claims. Although the case itself addresses a number of related and interesting topics regarding evidence at trial, evidentiary issues relating to the claimed breach by Petra, and attorney fees, the foundational issue addressed by the court is the clarity of the contract and the allowance of the equitable adjustment. On that score, the trial court found against the City on all but the lesser claims, and awarded Petra $595,896.17 in costs and $1,275,416.50 in attorney fees, in addition to its requested (as adjusted) fee of almost $325,000.
The Nevada Supreme Court has answered a question that developers and contractors have been asking for years: can the statutory limitation period for a construction defect action be shortened? The court answered in the affirmative but held that there must be no statute to the contrary and that the reduced limitation period must be reasonable …
The Economic Loss Rule plays an important part in construction disputes, but it has not been clearly defined or understood, or so the Washington Supreme Court has recently stated. The Economic Loss Rule has been generally described as applying to “economic damages” in cases where the plaintiff has a contract that addresses or could reasonably address the…