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    Worcester, MA 01606

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    700 Congress St Suite 200
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    South Dakota Supreme Court Holds That Faulty Workmanship Constitutes an “Occurrence”

    Of Pavement and Pandemic: Liability and Regulatory Hurdles for Taking It Outside

    Massachusetts Couple Seek to Recuse Judge in Construction Defect Case

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    CAMBRIDGE MASSACHUSETTS BUILDING CONSULTANT
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    The Cambridge, Massachusetts Building Consultant Group is comprised from a number of credentialed construction professionals possessing extensive trial support experience relevant to construction defect and claims matters. Leveraging from more than 25 years experience, BHA provides construction related trial support and expert services to the nation's most recognized construction litigation practitioners, Fortune 500 builders, commercial general liability carriers, owners, construction practice groups, and a variety of state and local government agencies.

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    Cambridge, Massachusetts

    Subcontractors Found Liable to Reimburse Insurer Defense Costs in Equitable Subrogation Action

    August 03, 2020 —
    In Pulte Home Corp. v. CBR Electric, Inc. (No. E068353, filed 6/10/20), a California appeals court reversed the denial of an equitable subrogation claim for reimbursement of defense costs from contractually obligated subcontractors to a defending insurer, finding that all of the elements for equitable subrogation were met, and the equities tipped in favor of the insurer. After defending the general contractor, Pulte, in two construction defect actions as an additional insured on a subcontractor’s policy, St. Paul sought reimbursement of defense costs solely on an equitable subrogation theory against six subcontractors that had worked on the underlying construction projects, and whose subcontracts required them to defend Pulte in suits related to their work. After a bench trial, the trial court denied St. Paul’s claim, concluding that St. Paul had not demonstrated that it was fair to shift all of the defense costs to the subcontractors because their failure to defend Pulte had not caused the homeowners to bring the construction defect actions. The appeals court reversed, holding that the trial court misconstrued the law governing equitable subrogation. Because the relevant facts were not in dispute, the appeals court reviewed the case de novo and found that the trial court committed error in its denial of reimbursement for the defense fees. The appeals court found two errors: First, the trial court incorrectly concluded that equitable subrogation requires shifting of the entire loss. Second, the trial court applied a faulty causation analysis – that because the non-defending subcontractors had not caused the homeowners to sue Pulte, thereby necessitating a defense, St. Paul could not meet the elements of equitable subrogation. Reprinted courtesy of Christopher Kendrick, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP and Valerie A. Moore, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP Mr. Kendrick may be contacted at ckendrick@hbblaw.com Ms. Moore may be contacted at vmoore@hbblaw.com Read the court decision
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    Woodbridge II and the Nuanced Meaning of “Adverse Use” in Hostile Property Rights Cases in Colorado

    November 23, 2020 —
    Earlier this year, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued an opinion addressing at length “whether the requirement that the use be ‘adverse’ in the adverse possession context is coextensive with adverse use in the prescriptive easement context.” See Woodbridge Condo. Ass’n, Inc. v. Lo Viento Blanco, LLC, 2020 COA 34 (Woodbridge II), ¶ 2, cert. granted, No. 20SC292, 2020 WL 5405376 (Colo. Sept. 8, 2020). As detailed below, the Woodbridge II court concluded that the meanings of “adverse” in these two contexts are not coextensive—while “hostility” in the adverse possession context requires a claim of exclusive ownership of the property, a party claiming a prescriptive easement is only required to “show a nonpermissive or otherwise unauthorized use of property that interfered with the owner’s property interests.” Thus, the Woodbridge II court reasoned a claimants’ acknowledgement or recognition of an owner’s title alone is insufficient to defeat “adverse use” in the prescriptive easement context. This significant ruling is at odds with a prior division’s broad statement, while considering a prescriptive easement claim, that “[i]n general, when an adverse occupier acknowledges or recognizes the title of the owner during the occupant’s claimed prescriptive period, the occupant interrupts the prescriptive use.” See Trask v. Nozisko, 134 P.3d 544, 553 (Colo. App. 2006). Perhaps for that reason, Woodbridge II is currently pending certiorari review before the Colorado Supreme Court in a case that should provide some much-needed clarity on what constitutes “adverse use” in the context of a prescriptive easement. As we await the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision, I thought it worthwhile to provide a brief analysis of the Woodbridge II court’s deep dive into the nuances of “adverse use” in this field of Colorado law. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Luke Mecklenburg, Snell & Wilmer
    Mr. Mecklenburg may be contacted at lmecklenburg@swlaw.com

    Foreclosing Junior Lienholders and Recording A Lis Pendens

    July 13, 2020 —
    When you foreclose on a construction lien, there are a couple of pointers to remember. First, you want to make sure you include junior lienholders or interests you are looking to foreclose (or you want to be in a position to amend the foreclosure lawsuit to identify later). The reason being is you want to foreclose their interests to the property. “[J]unior interest holders are a narrow class of mortgagees whose interest in the underlying property is recorded after the foreclosing contractor’s claim of lien is filed. This class is routinely joined to the construction lien enforcement action under section 713.26 to allow the construction lienor to foreclose out the junior lienholder’s interest in the property encumbered by the construction lien.” See Decks N Sunch Marine, infra. Second, you want to record a lis pendens with the lien foreclosure lawsuit. Failure to do so could be problematic because Florida Statute s. 713.22(1) provides in part, “A lien that has been continued beyond the 1-year period by the commencement of an action is not enforceable against creditors or subsequent purchasers for a valuable consideration and without notice, unless a notice of lis pendens is recorded.” Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of David Adelstein, Kirwin Norris, P.A.
    Mr. Adelstein may be contacted at dma@kirwinnorris.com

    Proposed Legislation for Losses from COVID-19 and Limitations on the Retroactive Impairment of Contracts

    July 27, 2020 —
    The COVID-19 pandemic has caused most businesses to temporarily close and, as a result, sustain significant losses. Various states are contemplating the passage of legislation to require carriers to cover claims arising from COVID-19, but case law regarding the constitutionality of such legislation is conflicting. Depending on the facts surrounding retroactive legislation, states may be able to pass an enforceable law leading to coverage. Pennsylvania’s Proposed Legislation for Business Interruption Losses Pennsylvania is one of many states that has proposed legislation to override language in business interruption policies and require coverage from insurance carriers. Pennsylvania House Bill 2372 proposes that any insurance policy that covers loss or property damage, including loss of use and business interruption, must cover the policyholder’s losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.1 It applies to insureds with fewer than 100 employees.2 To enhance its chances to pass constitutional challenges, the House Bill also provides for potential relief and reimbursement through the state’s commissioner.3 Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1127 is broader than House Bill 2372 and most bills proposed in other states and would require indemnification for nearly all insureds.4 The Senate Bill makes important legislative findings and notes that insurance is a regulated industry.5 It essentially provides that an insurance policy insuring against a loss relating to property damage, including business interruption, shall be construed to cover loss or property damage due to COVID-19 or due to a civil authority order resulting from COVID-19.1 The proposed bill redefines “property damage” to include: (1) the presence of a person positively identified as having been infected with COVID-19; (2) the presence of at least one person positively identified as having been infected with COVID-19 in the same municipality where the property is located; or (3) the presence of COVID-19 having otherwise been detected in Pennsylvania. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Shaia Araghi, Newmeyer Dillion
    Ms. Araghi may be contacted at shaia.araghi@ndlf.com

    Of Pavement and Pandemic: Liability and Regulatory Hurdles for Taking It Outside

    September 21, 2020 —
    As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the U.S. economy, restaurateurs and bar owners are feeling the brunt of business closures and adaptations necessary to combat the disease. Where cozy and intimate dining was once de rigueur for the restaurant industry, these businesses must now shift to outdoor dining with adequate space and airflow between parties. In response to these concerns, many cities across the country who once fought against the loss of any parking have turned to a post-automobile tactic: outdoor dining in thoroughfares and parking lots. While at first glance it might seem a simple enough prospect—throw some chairs and a table out front, and voilà—property owners and restaurateurs must remain cognizant of various liability and regulatory hurdles for operating outside. With Great Space Comes Great … Potential Liability. One of the largest concerns for landowners in operating in a new space for business is liability. Who is on the hook if someone gets hurt dining in an impromptu dining space in a parking lot? Prior to beginning new outdoor dining operations, landowners and restaurateurs should contact their insurance providers to ensure that the new space is included in their insurance coverage. This is a particular concern for larger commercial landowners who may have various businesses vying to use their parking lot for business. Many leases have carefully crafted clauses limiting where a business may operate and where their liability ceases. Landowners and business owners should review their leases for any such clauses and negotiate with one another to ensure that liability in these new spaces is clearly defined. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Jeff Clare, Pillsbury
    Mr. Clare may be contacted at jeff.clare@pillsburylaw.com

    The COVID-19 Impact: Navigating the Legal Landscape’s New Normal

    July 27, 2020 —
    While most of the country has been at a standstill since March, you might be wondering, what about my lawsuit or my administrative charge? For the past couple of months, most litigation cases have largely been put on pause in the courts and at administrative agencies. However, as we adjust to what is clearly a new normal in both our lives and the legal landscape as we know it, cases will begin to pick up speed again, albeit with new strategies and challenges to keep in mind. As courts begin to reopen, judges are emphasizing in many jurisdictions that criminal cases will take priority in an effort to attend to constitutionally required timelines. Nevertheless, it will remain just as important as before the pause button was hit to keep cases moving forward. This ramp up period presents a unique opportunity for clients and attorneys to invest meaningful time into investigating and developing defenses to claims while the court system and related case pace remains slowed. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Amanda Mathieu, Lewis Brisbois
    Ms. Mathieu may be contacted at Amanda.Mathieu@lewisbrisbois.com

    Potential Construction Liabilities Contractors Need to Know

    September 21, 2020 —
    The outbreak of COVID-19 started in early December 2019, gradually expanding to the other countries of the world. The spread of the pandemic did not just affect the world in terms of health, but also made industries suffer across all verticals—leading to a few unique challenges for construction contractors. From financial imbalance to trouble retaining cash flow, the circumstances have turned to be completely unfavorable for the contractors that rely on banks for essential surety credits to sustain. To prevent loss of liquidity, the contractors are leaning toward construction accounting software and other technology to keep their accounting data in place and avoid risks with project deliveries. But still, there are many other factors that must be considered to maintain cash flow for potential credit availability such as debt agreements and lines of credit, which involve financing of equipment and vehicles. Nevertheless, it is completely the responsibility of the contractors to stick with the guidelines related to the line of credit and debt agreements which in most cases are covenant ratios. Reprinted courtesy of Manipal Dhariwal, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved. Read the court decision
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    Class Action Certification by Association for “Matters of Common Interest”

    August 24, 2020 —
    Associations have authority to pursue as a class, on behalf of all of their respective members, lawsuits “concerning members of common interest to the members.” Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.221. This includes, but is not limited to, the common property or the areas in which the association is responsible. But, what about matters or elements for which the association is not responsible or does not own? For example, issues or damages relative to a specific unit or owner that are prevalent throughout? The Third District Court of Appeal addressed this question in Allied Tube and Conduit Corp. v. Latitude on the River Condominium Association, Inc., 45 Fla. L. Weekly D1518a (Fla. 3d DCA 2020) when in affirmed a class certification by a condominium association relating to the removal and replacement of the condominium building’s defective fire sprinkler system. In affirming the class certification by the condominium association, the Third District maintained:
    Rule 1.221 expressly authorizes condominium associations to “institute, maintain, settle, or appeal actions or hearings in its name on behalf of all association members concerning matters of common interest to the members.” “[A]s to controversies affecting the matters of common interest . . ., the condominium association, without more, should be construed to represent the class composed of its members as a matter of law.” “[T]he common interest provision of the rule has been interpreted to permit a class action by the association for a construction defect located physically within a unit, rather than in the common elements, if the defect is prevalent throughout the building.” We, therefore, cannot say the trial court abused its discretion in finding that damages resulting from the replacement of the fire-sprinkler system throughout the building were a matter of common interest for purposes of certification at this stage of the litigation. Allied Tube and Conduit Corp, supra (internal citations omitted).
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    Reprinted courtesy of David Adelstein, Kirwin Norris, P.A.
    Mr. Adelstein may be contacted at dma@kirwinnorris.com