Federal Court Enjoins Owner From Withholding Payment of Disputed Invoices Based on Contract Provision Requiring Parties to “Diligently Proceed With Performance” Notwithstanding Any Dispute

Coalview Centralia, LLC v. Transalta Centralia Mining LLC, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 185914 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 30, 2018)

This case involves a dispute over Coalview Centralia, LLC’s (“Coalview”) performance of environmental cleanup work at a coal mine and associated power plant near Centralia, Washington.  TransAlta Central Mining (“TCM”) hired Coalview to remediate and restore three waste coal slurry impoundment ponds.  In general terms, Coalview agreed to dredge the ponds, extract the coal fines for use in the power plant, and deliver the remaining slurry for final disposal.  Coalview was to submit monthly invoices – and to be paid – based on the weight of slurry removed or the weight of usable coal recovered, whichever is greater.

The Master Services Agreement (“MSA”) between TCM and Coalview provided, in pertinent part, that: (1) TCM had 30 days to “dispute” an invoice and explain the reasons for its dispute; (2) the parties had a one-year period to correct invoice “inaccuracies”; and (3) “[n]otwithstanding any disputes … contractor and owner shall diligently proceed with performance of this Agreement.” Continue reading

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The Buckeye State Bucks Recent Trend: Ohio Supreme Court Holds That Property Damage Caused by a Subcontractor’s Faulty Work Does Not Constitute an “Occurrence” Covered Under CGL Policies

Ohio N. Univ. v. Charles Constr. Servs., 2018 Ohio LEXIS 2375 (Oct. 9, 2018)

This case arose out of the construction of an inn and conference center at Ohio Northern University (“ONU”).  After completion of the project, ONU discovered water damage and structural defects in the work and filed suit for breach of contract against its general contractor, Charles Construction Services, Inc. (“Charles”).  Charles, in turn, sought defense and indemnity from its commercial general liability insurer, Cincinnati Insurance Company (“CIC”).  As required by ONU, Charles’s policy contained a “products-completed operations-hazard” (“PCOH”) clause and terms specifically related to work performed by subcontractors.  Under Charles’ policy, the insurance covered “property damage” only if it was caused by an “occurrence,” defined as “[a]n accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions.”  “Accident,” however, was not defined.  CIC intervened in ONU’s suit, seeking a declaratory judgment that it was not required to defend or indemnify Charles.

The trial court granted CIC summary judgment, holding that CIC had no duty to indemnify or defend Charles.  The trial court based its holding on Westfield Inc. Co. v. Custom Agri Sys., Inc., 979 N.E.2d 269, a 2012 decision in which the Ohio Supreme Court concluded that claims for faulty workmanship are not fortuitous, and therefore, not claims for “property damage” caused by an “occurrence” covered by a CGL policy. Continue reading

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A Fire Destroying More Than Half of the Project Is Not a Cardinal Change Where the Parties Entered into a Separate Agreement to Cover the Fire Remediation Work

IES Commercial, Inc. v. Manhattan Torcon, A Joint Venture, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 164973 (D. Md. Sept. 26, 2018)

In 2009, the Army Corps of Engineers hired Manhattan Torcon Joint Venture (“MT”) as general contractor to build a biological research facility at Fort Detrick, Maryland.  MT subcontracted with IES Commercial, Inc. (“IES”) to perform the electrical system work.

In August 2013, after IES had completed over 90% of its work, a fire destroyed or damaged more than half of the facility, including significant portions of IES’s work. MT ordered IES to perform significant fire remediation work in addition to the remainder of its base contract work. In November 2013, IES and MT entered into a subcontract amendment referred to as the “Fire Rider,” which included an agreed rate schedule for the fire remediation work, along with a procedure by which IES would perform work at MT’s direction, submit daily work tickets and monthly invoices, and be paid within ten days after MT received payment from its insurer. Continue reading

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Concurrent Delay: Surety—Standing in the Shoes of Subcontractor—Is Barred From Asserting Defense of Concurrent Delay Because Subcontractor Failed to Seek a Time Extension as Required by the Subcontracts

Fid. & Deposit Co. of Md. v. Travelers Cas. & Sur. Co. of Am., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162265 (D. Nev., September 21, 2018)

Clark County School District (“CCSD”) hired Big Town Mechanical (“Big Town”) as general contractor to perform HVAC upgrades at five schools.  Big Town in turn hired F.A.S.T. Systems (“FAST”) to complete low-voltage work at the schools.  Big Town obtained performance bonds from Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America (“Travelers”) and FAST obtained performance bonds from Fidelity & Deposit Company of Maryland (“F&D”).

Following FAST’s default on its subcontracts, F&D opted to complete FAST’s work and hired a substitute subcontractor, Perini.  In May 2012, Perini notified Big Town that it had “substantially completed” all of FAST’s work.  After Big Town refused payment, F&D filed suit against Big Town and Travelers in early 2013.  In May of 2013, CCSD rejected Big Town’s final payment application, stating that the project was incomplete and claiming there were significant defects in the work.  CCSD then sued Travelers seeking specific performance and liquidated damages for delay.  Travelers eventually settled CCSD’s suit but through its counterclaim sought reimbursement from F&D for its settlement plus costs expended to complete the project. Continue reading

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Submission of Pre-Suit Claim Notice Required by Construction Defect Statute Timely ‘Commences the Action’ Within the Meaning of the Florida Statute of Repose

Gindel v. Centex Homes, 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 13019 (Fla. 4th DCA Sept. 12, 2018)

 A group of townhome owners (the “Homeowners”) sued the contractor and a subcontractor (collectively, “Contractor”) who built their townhomes, alleging that Contractor performed defective work.  Contractor had completed construction and conveyed the townhomes to the Homeowners on March 31, 2004.  The Homeowners did not discover the alleged defect until years later.  On February 6, 2014, nearly ten years after Contractor completed the work, the Homeowners notified Contractor of the claimed construction defect.  The Homeowners provided that notice in accordance with Florida’s construction defect statute (Fla. Stat. §§ 558.003; 558.004) that requires pre-suit notice of construction defect claims.  The Homeowners completed the statutory pre-suit procedure and filed their lawsuit on May 2, 2014, more than ten years after taking possession of the townhomes.

Contractor argued that Florida’s ten-year statute of repose barred the lawsuit.  While acknowledging that they filed their lawsuit beyond the ten-year period, the Homeowners stressed that the claims were timely because the action truly had commenced within the ten year period when they submitted the pre-suit notice of claim.  The trial court agreed with Contractor and entered summary judgment in its favor.  The Homeowners appealed. Continue reading

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