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.
Tag 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.
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
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
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.
Tick Tock: Don’t Let the Statute of Repose or Limitations Time Periods Run on Your Construction Claims
In Wascher v. ABC Ins. Co., No. 2020AP1961, 2022 Wisc. App. LEXIS 110 (Feb. 9, 2022), the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin considered whether the plaintiffs were barred — by Wisconsin’s 10-year statute of repose for improvements to real property claims and the six-year statute of limitations for breach of contract claims — from bringing a lawsuit against the original builders of their home. The plaintiffs alleged negligence and breach of contract against the masonry subcontractors, asserting that they improperly installed the exterior stone cladding. The court found that the plaintiffs’ claims against the original builders were time-barred. Continue reading
What’s the Gist? Massachusetts Court Looks Past the Labels to the Gist of the Plaintiff’s Allegations to Find Claims Barred by the Statute of Repose
In Lennar Northeast Props. v. Barton Partners Architects Planners, Inc, C.A. No. 16-cv-12330-ADB, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11800, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts considered whether a property owner’s construction defect claims against a contractor were barred by the six-year statute of repose for improvements to real property. Massachusetts’ statute of repose, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2B, bars tort actions against those involved in the design, planning, construction or general administration of an improvement to real property more than six years after the earlier of the dates of (1) the opening of the improvement to use; or (2) substantial completion of the improvement and the taking of possession or occupancy by the owner. Finding that, despite the fact that the plaintiff’s actions were labeled as contract, breach of warranty and consumer protection act claims, the complaint alleged actions sounding in tort. Thus, the court applied the statute of repose to these claims. Continue reading
California Limits Indemnification Obligations of Design Professionals
The California legislature recently enacted legislation – SB 496 – limiting a design professional’s indemnification obligations in private contracts related to design services. The term “design professional” refers to licensed architects, landscape architects and professional land surveyors, and registered professional engineers. As revised, Cal. Civ. Code § 2782.8 states that, for all contracts entered into on or after January 1, 2018 for design professional services, all provisions that purport to have the design professional indemnify the indemnitee for claims against the indemnitee – or require the design professional to provide a defense to the indemnitee – are unenforceable except to the extent that the claims against the indemnitee arise out of, or relate to, the negligence, recklessness or willful misconduct of the design professional. In addition, as revised, § 2782.8 limits a design professional’s liability for the cost of defense to the design professional’s percentage of fault.
The revised statute provides two exceptions. Pursuant to these exceptions, the limitations related to the duty and cost to defend do not apply to: 1) design service contracts where a project-specific general liability policy insures all project participants, including the design professional, and 2) a design professional who is a party to a written design-build, joint venture agreement.
Although this change in the law does not go into effect until January 1, 2018, the change serves as a reminder to subrogation professionals that, when faced with indemnification provisions in design or construction-related contracts, they should check local laws to determine the extent to which subrogating insurers can enforce such provisions.