In Woodrum v. Ga. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 815 S.E.2d 650 (Ga. Ct. App. 2018), the Court of Appeals of Georgia considered whether the lower court properly disqualified a contractor as an expert witness and excluded the contractor from offering lay opinion testimony regarding the value of a property. The Court of Appeals held that, while the lower court properly disqualified the contractor as an expert witness, it improperly excluded the general contractor’s lay opinion testimony regarding the value of the property. This case establishes that, in Georgia, a lay witness can provide opinion testimony on the value of a property if the proponent of the testimony demonstrates that the witness had an opportunity to form a reasoned opinion. Continue reading
In Muncie v. Wiesemann, 2018 K.Y. LEXIS 257, the Supreme Court of Kentucky considered whether stigma damages in a property casualty case are recoverable in addition to the costs incurred to remediate the actual damage. The court held that stigma damages are recoverable in addition to repair costs, but the total of the stigma damages and repair costs cannot exceed the diminution in the fair market value of the property. The court’s decision establishes that if the repair costs are insufficient to make the plaintiff whole, a recovery for stigma damages up to the amount of the diminution in the market value of the home is appropriate. Continue reading
In Durkin v. MTown Construction, LLC, 2018 Tenn. App. LEXIS 128, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee considered whether the lower court properly took judicial notice of an alternative measure of damages to the measure of damages advanced by the plaintiff. The Court of Appeals held that the defendant has the burden of offering evidence of alternative measures of damages if it seeks to argue that the plaintiff’s measure of the damages is unreasonable. The Court of Appeals found that the lower court erred in taking judicial notice of alternative measures of damage when the defendant failed to meet its burden of proof. The court’s holding establishes that, if the defendant does not offer evidence of alternative measures of damage, then the measure of damages introduced by the plaintiff will apply. Continue reading
In Amica Mutual Insurance Company v. Muldowney, 328 Conn. 428 (2018), the Connecticut Supreme Court considered whether a landlord’s insurance carrier could subrogate against the landlord’s tenants for property damage when the lease did not specifically authorize subrogation. The court held that, while subrogation was not expressly allowed, the language in the lease requiring the tenants to have liability insurance and holding them liable for damage was sufficient to overcome Connecticut’s common law presumption that a landlord’s carrier cannot subrogate against a tenant. This case emphasizes the importance of analyzing every aspect of a lease when determining the true intent of the parties with respect to subrogation. Continue reading
In Blok Builders, LLC v. Katryniok, 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 1312, the Court of Appeals of Florida for the Fourth District considered whether Florida Statute § 725.06 applied to a contract for the excavation of various neighborhood easements containing telecommunication lines. The court held that the statute did not apply because the contract for the excavation work was unrelated to a “building, structure, appurtenance, or appliance,” as explicitly required by the statute. The court’s analysis highlights the importance of thoroughly analyzing statutes and considering (and anticipating) their most narrow interpretations. Continue reading
In Wilson v. Educators Mut. Ins. Ass’n, 2017 UT 69, the Supreme Court of Utah considered whether an insurer had the right to bring a subrogation action in its own name despite the fact that its insured had not yet been made whole. The court held that, although the common law made whole doctrine generally bars an insurer from proceeding in its own name until after the insured has been made whole, the terms of an insured’s insurance policy can change the made whole doctrine. The Wilson case highlights the importance of reviewing the applicable insurance policy, in conjunction with the law of the applicable jurisdiction, to determine an insurer’s subrogation rights. Continue reading
In Brooks v. CalAtlantic Homes of Texas, Inc., 2017 Tex. App. Lexis 9466, the Court of Appeals of Texas considered whether a defendant moving for summary judgment on the grounds that the statute of repose expired also bears the burden of establishing the absence of applicable exceptions to the statute of repose. In Texas, a plaintiff alleging a construction defect in an improvement to real property must file a lawsuit within ten years of the date of substantial completion of the improvement. Continue reading
In State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Norcold, Inc., 849 F.3d 328 (6th Cir. 2017), the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit considered whether Kentucky’s economic loss rule applies to consumer transactions. The economic loss rule prevents the buyer of a product from suing in tort to recover for economic losses when the product damages only itself. The Sixth Circuit predicted that Kentucky would not extend the economic loss rule to consumer transactions. The Norcold case reminds us that, while the economic loss rule can be a significant impediment to products liability subrogation claims, it is important to consider whether there are exceptions available to overcome this defense.
In Sierra Pacific Industries v. Bradbury, 2016 Colo. App. Lexis 1274, 2016 COA 132 (September 8, 2016), Sierra Pacific Industries, Inc. (Sierra Pacific), a subcontractor hired to supply windows and doors on a condominium construction project, filed an indemnification action against Jason Bradbury, d/b/a Bradbury Construction, Inc. (Bradbury), a sub-subcontractor Sierra Pacific hired to install windows and doors. After the trial court granted summary judgment in Bradbury’s favor, the Court of Appeals of Colorado addressed whether Colorado’s six-year statute of repose for construction defect claims, C.R.S. § 13-8-104, barred Sierra Pacific’s claims against Bradbury. In particular, the court addressed the question of whether the tolling period for indemnification claims set forth in § 13-8-104(b)(1) tolls the repose period. The court also addressed how the phrase “substantial completion” should be interpreted in multi-contractor construction cases. Finally, the court considered whether Sierra Pacific could rely on the “repair doctrine” to extend the “substantial completion” date, the date on which the statute of repose begins to run. Sierra Pacific reminds us that, when a defendant invokes a construction defect statute of repose to defeat a plaintiff’s claims, it is important to analyze how the jurisdiction at issue defines the phrase “substantial completion” and how it applies tolling arguments to the statute of repose.
In Brown v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 142 A.3d 1 (Pa. Super. May 24, 2016), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed attorney-client privilege and work product claims associated with the ordered production of materials from a third-party administrator’s claim file. The court also discussed whether the video recording of a mock deposition of a defendant’s employee was discoverable as a recorded statement. With respect to the first issue, the court rejected the defendants’ wholesale claim of privilege related to any and all original investigation statements in the third-party administrator’s file. With respect to the ordered production of the mock deposition video, the court found that the video was discoverable pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 4003.4. The Brown case serves as a reminder that a third-party claims administrator’s file materials may be discoverable and recorded statements by party witnesses, even if conducted by counsel in the form of an interview, may be discoverable if they are recorded by a third-party such as a court reporter or videographer.