In HDI Glob. SE v. Magnesium Prods. of Am., Inc., No. 360385, 2023 Mich. App. LEXIS 2602 (Magnesium Prods.), the Court of Appeals of Michigan (Court of Appeals) considered whether the lower court erred in dismissing the plaintiffs’ claim for loss of income based on the economic loss doctrine. The court found that while the defendant manufacturer owed a duty to the general public to exercise reasonable care in its manufacturing process, that duty did not apply to the economic damages alleged by the plaintiffs.
Category Archives: Contracts
New York Court Enforces Economic Loss Doctrine
The economic loss doctrine is a legal principle that has confused and frustrated subrogation practitioners since its inception. Unfortunately, once practitioners understand the basic theory, they realize how frustrating it can be. If there was any doubt about the doctrine’s effect in New York, the Appellate Division put that to rest in a recent ruling on a subrogation case in which it bolstered the economic loss doctrine defense. Continue reading
No Signature, No Problem: Texas Court Holds Contractual Subrogation Waiver Still Enforceable
In Chubb Lloyds Inc. Co. of Tex. v. Buster & Cogdell Builders, LLC, No. 01-21-00503-CV, 2023 Tex. App. LEXIS 676, the Court of Appeals of Texas, First District (Court of Appeals) considered whether the lower court properly dismissed the plaintiff’s subrogation case by enforcing a subrogation waiver in a construction contract which was not fully executed. The contract was signed by only one of the two subrogors and was not signed by the defendant general contractor. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision, holding that despite the lack of signatures, the evidence established mutual assent to the contractual terms by all parties.
The plaintiff’s subrogors, Jeffrey and Mary Meyer (collectively, the Meyers), retained defendant Buster & Codgell Builders (BCB) to expand their residence. BCB drafted a contract using the American Institute of Architects (AIA) standard form contract for residential construction. The AIA contract included, by reference, a subrogation waiver that applied to BCB and its subcontractors. Prior to beginning the work, BCB emailed Jeffrey Meyer a version of the contract that only had one signature block for both Jeffrey and Mary Meyer. Minutes later, BCB sent a second version of the contract which had a signature line for each of the Meyers. However, Jeffrey Meyer signed the first version of the contract and emailed it back to BCB. In the subject line of his email, Mr. Meyers asked that BCB countersign and return the contract. BCB did not sign and return the contract.
A Tort, By Any Other Name, is Just a Tort: Massachusetts Court Bars Contract Claims That Sound in Negligence
In University of Massachusetts Building Authority v. Adams Plumbing & Heating, Inc., 2023 Mass. App. Unpub. LEXIS 28, 102 Mass. App. Ct. 1107, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts (Appeals Court) considered whether the lower court properly held that the plaintiff’s breach of contract and indemnification claims were time-barred by the statute of repose because they sounded in tort. The Appeals Court held that while the six-year statute of repose only applies to tort claims, they can also bar claims for breach of contract and indemnification if they sound in tort. The Appeals Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling, finding that the plaintiff’s breach of contract and indemnification claims were just negligence claims disguised as non-tort claims.
In 2013 and 2014, the University of Massachusetts (UMass) retained various contractors to renovate the dining hall for one of its campus buildings, which included the installation of new ductwork for the kitchen’s exhaust system. The dining hall opened for service in September 2014. In the Spring of 2018, it was discovered that the ductwork for the kitchen had collapsed. Further investigation revealed other deficiencies with the exhaust system. On December 1, 2020, UMass filed a lawsuit against various contractors, asserting negligence, breach of contract, and indemnification. The breach of contract claims alleged breach of express warranties.
Not So Fast: Washington Court Finds the One-Year Limitations Period in a Residential Construction Contract Is Unenforceable
In Tadych v. Noble Ridge Constr., Inc., No. 100049-9, 2022 Wash. LEXIS 545, the Supreme Court of Washington (Supreme Court) considered whether the lower court erred in enforcing a one-year accelerated limitations period clause in a construction contract. The Supreme Court considered the extent to which the provision hindered the plaintiffs’ statutory rights – as set forth in Wash. Rev. Code § 4.16.310 – which provides homeowners with a six-year repose period for construction defect claims. The court found that the contractual provision’s shortening of the time period from six years to one year was a gross deprivation of the plaintiffs’ statutory rights and was unfairly one-sided in favor of the defendant. As such, the court held that the provision was substantively unconscionable and, thus, unenforceable.
Too Costly to Be Fair: Texas Appellate Court Finds the Arbitration Clause in a Residential Construction Contract Unenforceable
In Cont’l Homes of Tex., L.P. v. Perez, No. 04-21-00396-CV, 2022 Tex. App. LEXIS 7691, the Court of Appeals of Texas (Appellate Court) considered whether the lower court erred in refusing to enforce an arbitration clause in a construction contract between the parties. The Appellate Court considered the costs of the arbitration forum required by the contract in the context of the plaintiffs’ monthly household income. The court also compared the arbitration cost to the estimated cost of litigating the dispute. The court held that the arbitration clause was substantively unconscionable on the grounds that the arbitration costs were not affordable for the plaintiffs and not an “adequate and accessible substitute to litigation.” The Appellate Court affirmed the lower court’s decision denying the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. Continue reading
Public Policy Prevails: Homebuilders and Homebuyers Cannot Agree to Disclaim Implied Warranty of Habitability in Arizona
In Zambrano v. M & RC II LLC, et al., 2022 Ariz. LEXIS 309, the Supreme Court of Arizona held that a homebuilder and homebuyer could not waive or disclaim the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability. While the court would normally enforce a contract between two parties – even if one side made a “bad deal” – they will not do so if the contract’s terms are against public policy. Continue reading
In All Fairness: Illinois Appellate Court Finds That Arbitration Clause in a Residential Construction Contract Was Unconscionable and Unenforceable
In Bain v. Airoom, LLC, No. 1-21-001, 2022 Ill. App. LEXIS 241, the Appellate Court of Illinois (Appellate Court) considered whether the lower court erred in enforcing an arbitration clause in a construction contract between the parties and, as a result, dismissing the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The Appellate Court found that even if the arbitration clause was enforceable, the appropriate action would have been for the court to stay the lawsuit, as opposed to dismissing the case entirely. The Appellate Court then considered the language of the arbitration clause and found that several provisions were substantively unconscionable, which rendered the entire arbitration clause unenforceable. The Appellate Court reversed the lower court’s decision compelling arbitration and reinstated the plaintiff’s complaint. Continue reading
Where-Forum Art Thou? Is the Chosen Forum Akin to No Forum at All?
Many courts enforce forum selection clauses in contracts between parties. In W. Bay Plaza Condo. Ass’n v. Sika Corp., No. 3D21-1834, 2022 Fla. App. LEXIS 1637 (W. Bay Plaza), the Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District (Court of Appeal) answered the question of whether a mandatory forum selection clause in a manufacturer’s warranty was enforceable as to a condominium association, who was a non-signatory. The trial court enforced the forum selection clause – calling for litigation in New Jersey rather than Florida – and the Court of Appeal affirmed the ruling. Continue reading
Waive Your Claim Goodbye: Louisiana Court Holds That AIA Subrogation Waiver Did Not Violate Anti-Indemnification Statute and Applied to Subcontractors
In 2700 Bohn Motor, LLC v. F.H. Myers Constr. Corp., No. 2021-CA-0671, 2022 La. App. LEXIS 651 (Bohn Motor), the Court of Appeals of Louisiana for the Fourth Circuit (Court of Appeals) considered whether a subrogation waiver in an AIA construction contract was enforceable and, if so, whether the waiver also protected subcontractors that were not signatories to the contract. The lower court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment based on the subrogation waiver in the construction contract. The plaintiffs appealed the decision, arguing that the subrogation waiver violated Louisiana’s anti-indemnification statute. The plaintiffs also argued that even if enforceable, the subrogation waiver did not apply to the defendant subcontractors since they were not parties to the contract. The Court of Appeals ultimately held that the subrogation waiver did not violate the anti-indemnification statute because the waiver did not shift liability, which the statute was intended to prevent. In addition, the Court of Appeals found that the contract sufficiently satisfied the required elements for the defendant subcontractors to qualify as third-party beneficiaries of the contract.