Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Construction Law
Taylor Morrison of Texas, Inc. v. Ha
In this dispute over an arbitration clause within a contract, the Supreme Court held that the minor children who joined Plaintiffs, their parents, in bringing this action seeking damages for construction defects in their home may be compelled to arbitrate along with their parents on the basis of direct-benefits estoppel.Plaintiffs, Tony and Michelle Ha, signed a purchase agreement with Taylor Woodrow Communities-League City, Ltd. to build a home in Texas. The agreement included an arbitration provision. The Has sued both Taylor Woodrow Communities-League City, Ltd. and Taylor Morrison of Texas, Inc., for negligent construction and other claims, alleging the home developed significant mold problems due to construction defects. Plaintiffs' second amended petition named both Tony and Michelle and their three children. Taylor Morrison moved to compel arbitration, but the trial court denied the motion as it pertained to Michelle and the children. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that when a family unit resides in a home and files suit for factually intertwined construction-defect claims concerning the home, a nonsignatory spouse and minor children have accepted direct benefits under the signatory spouse’s purchase agreement such that they may be compelled to arbitrate through direct-benefits estoppel. View "Taylor Morrison of Texas, Inc. v. Ha" on Justia Law
Taylor Morrison of Texas, Inc. v. Skufca
In this dispute over an arbitration clause within a contract, the Supreme Court held that the minor children who joined Plaintiffs, their parents, in bringing this action seeking damages for construction defects in their home may be compelled to arbitrate along with their parents on the basis of direct-benefits estoppel.Plaintiffs, Jack and Erin Skufca, signed a purchase agreement with Taylor Woodrow Communities-League City, Ltd. to build a home in Texas. The agreement included an arbitration provision. Plaintiffs sued both Taylor Woodrow Communities-League City, Ltd. and Taylor Morrison of Texas, Inc., for construction defects and fraud, alleging that less than a year after they moved in, the home developed mold issues that caused their minor children to be ill. The petition listed Jack and Erin as plaintiffs individually, as well as Erin as next friend of the couple's children. Taylor Morrison moved to compel arbitration, but the trial court denied the motion as it pertained to the children. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the minor children sued based on the contract and were subject to its terms, including the arbitration clause. View "Taylor Morrison of Texas, Inc. v. Skufca" on Justia Law
Vascos Excavation Group LLC v. Gold
Plaintiff and appellant, a contractor, prevailed in an arbitration against its client, the Defendant and Respondent. After finding that Plaintiff was not duly licensed because its responsible managing employee (RME) did not meet the criteria required by law, the trial court granted Defendant's petition to vacate the arbitration award on the ground that the arbitrator exceeded her powers.Plaintiff made two main arguments on appeal. It first contends the trial court misapplied the burden of proof regarding whether Plaintiff was a duly licensed contractor. The Second Appellate District rejected this argument, finding that the trial court correctly determined that Plaintiff had the burden of proof on this issue.Plaintiff also argued the trial court erroneously denied it an evidentiary hearing. In the trial court, however, Plaintiff did not seek an evidentiary hearing. It instead argued that such a hearing was not authorized by law. Therefore, the Second Appellate District held that Plaintiff forfeited the issue on appeal. View "Vascos Excavation Group LLC v. Gold" on Justia Law
Shafer v. Scarborough, et al.
Justin Shafer appealed a district court judgment confirming an arbitration award against Diamond Development & Custom Homes, L.L.C. Shafer argued the district court erred by failing to increase the amount of damages he was awarded. He also argued the North Dakota Supreme Court should narrowly expand the standard for reviewing an arbitration award. The Court declined Shafer’s request to expand the standard of review, and concluded the district court did not err in confirming the arbitration award. View "Shafer v. Scarborough, et al." on Justia Law
University of Notre Dame (USA) in England v. TJAC Waterloo, LLC
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court confirming certain damages awarded to The University of Notre Dame (USA) in England (Notre Dame) by a foreign arbitral tribunal in a contractual dispute relating to construction defects, holding that Notre Dame's petition for judicial confirmation of the awards was not time-barred.Notre Dame brought this action against TJAC Waterloo, LLC and ZVI Construction Co., who were, respectively, the seller and renovator of a dormitory that Notre Dame had agreed to purchase. The dispute was submitted to arbitration. After the arbitrator entered the awards, Notre Dame moved the district court to confirm the awards and entered summary judgment in its favor. The district court granted Notre Dame's request for judicial confirmation. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Notre Dame's motion for judicial confirmation was not time-barred. View "University of Notre Dame (USA) in England v. TJAC Waterloo, LLC" on Justia Law
Hillhouse v. Chris Cook Construction, LLC, et al.
Timothy and Rebecca Hillhouse entered into a contract with Chris Cook Construction for the construction of their home. The contract contained an arbitration provision mandating that arbitration be conducted before a forum that was unavailable at the time the contract was executed. The trial court entered an order compelling arbitration and appointing an arbitrator. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in so doing: because the forum was a contract requirement, the arbitration provision was unenforceable, and appointing an arbitrator required courts to reform the contractual agreement between the parties. Judgment was reversed and the trial court’s order compelling arbitration and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Hillhouse v. Chris Cook Construction, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Wayne Farms LLC v. Primus Builders, Inc.
Wayne Farms LLC appealed a circuit court order compelling it to arbitrate its claims asserted against Primus Builders, Inc., and staying the action. Wayne Farms was a poultry producer located in Dothan, Alabama. Wayne Farms sought to expand its poultry-processing facility, and, to that end, entered into a "Design/Build Agreement" with Primus in 2017, that specifically addressed work to be completed by Primus in connection with the expansion of Wayne Farms' freezer warehouse. Primus subcontracted with Republic Refrigeration, Inc.; Republic hired Steam-Co, LLC for "passivation services." Upon draining a condenser for the freezer warehouse, it was discovered that the interior of the condenser was coated with corrosive "white rust." Primus then replaced the damaged condenser at a cost of approximately $500,000 under a change order, pursuant the Design/Build Agreement with Wayne Farms. Wayne Farms paid Primus for both the original damaged condenser and the replacement condenser. Both Primus and Steam-Co have claimed that the other is responsible for the damage to the condenser. Wayne Farms sued Primus and Steam-Co asserting claims of breach of contract and negligence and seeking damages for the damaged condenser and the cost of replacing it. Primus moved the trial court to compel arbitration as to the claims asserted against it by Wayne Farms. Primus also moved the trial court to dismiss, or in the alternative, stay Steam-Co's cross-claims against it. Wayne Farms opposed Primus's motion to compel arbitration, arguing that no contract existed between the parties requiring it to arbitrate claims arising from the passivation process. The Alabama Supreme Court found that the contract between Wayne Farms and Primus specified arbitration would apply to only those disputes arising from obligations or performance under the Design/Build Agreement, Wayne Farms could not be compelled to arbitrate with Primus a dispute arising from the performance of passivation work that was not an obligation agreed to in the Design/Build Agreement. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Wayne Farms LLC v. Primus Builders, Inc." on Justia Law
Russell Construction of Alabama, Inc. v. Peat
Russell Construction of Alabama, Inc. ("Russell"), appealed a circuit court order that vacated an arbitration award in favor of Russell and against Christopher Peat. In 2015, Russell and Peat entered into a contract pursuant to which Russell agreed to construct a residence for Peat on "a cost plus a fee basis." The documents executed in connection with the contract provided, in the event of a controversy or dispute, first for mediation and then for arbitration in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association. Upon completion of the residence, a dispute arose between Russell and Peat regarding Russell's performance and the balance due Russell under the contract. In January 2018, Russell filed a formal demand for arbitration, seeking $295,408 allegedly due from Peat for the construction of the residence. Peat counterclaimed, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract and disputing his consent to costs incurred by Russell; Peat sought specific performance and an award of $255,000 on his counterclaims. Thereafter, in May 2018, the parties reached, as a result of mediation, a settlement agreement. In essence, the settlement agreement required Russell to make certain repairs to the residence; required Peat to pay Russell $245,408 on or before June 15, 2018, at which time Russell agreed to release its recorded lien; and required Peat to deposit into escrow an additional $50,000 to ensure completion, by the end of August 2018, of a "punch-list" to the satisfaction of a third-party "Construction Consultant." The Alabama Supreme Court determined the circuit court did not err to the extent that it set aside the judgment entered pursuant to the arbitrator's Final Award. The Court affirmed the trial court's July 25, 2019 order to the extent that it vacated any judgment on the arbitrator's Final Award related to Russell's and Peat's breach of the provisions of the settlement agreement that remained in effect after the Modified Partial Final Award and the distribution of the outstanding $50,000 at issue. The Court reversed that same order to the extent it purported to vacate any judgment on the Modified Partial Final Award of $258,959.89 and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Russell Construction of Alabama, Inc. v. Peat" on Justia Law
San Antonio River Authority v. Austin Bridge & Road, L.P.
In this construction contract dispute, the Supreme Court held that the San Antonio River Authority possessed the authority to agree to arbitrate claims under Texas Local Government Code Chapter 271 and exercised that authority in the contract and that the judiciary, rather than an arbitrator, retains the duty to decide whether a local government has waived its governmental immunity.The River Authority hired Austin Bridge and Road L.P. for a construction project. The parties agreed to submit any disputes about the contract to arbitration. Austin Bridge invoked the contract's arbitration provisions when disagreements about the scope of work and payment arose. After the arbitrator denied the River Authority's plea of governmental immunity, the River Authority sued Austin Bridge, arguing that it lacked the authority to agree to the contract's arbitration provisions. The trial court concluded that the arbitration provisions in the contract were enforceable. The court of appeals agreed that the River Authority had the authority to agree to arbitrate but concluded that a court, rather than an arbitrator, must decide whether the River Authority was immune from the claims against it. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that chapter 271 waived the River Authority's immunity from suit for Austin Bridge's breach of contract claim. View "San Antonio River Authority v. Austin Bridge & Road, L.P." on Justia Law
Williams v. TAMKO Building Products, Inc.
Defendant-appellee TAMKO Building Products, Inc. was a roof shingle manufacturer incorporated in Missouri. Plaintiffs-appellants were homeowners whose contractors installed Defendant's shingles on homeowner's roof. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging they were entitled to compensation for damage to their home caused by Defendant's faulty shingles and the expense of installing a new roof. Defendants moved to stay proceedings and compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement on the shingle's packaging. The trial court granted the Defendant's Motion to Stay Proceedings and Compel Arbitration concluding the Plaintiffs were charged with the knowledge of the contract even if they did not read it, that TAMKO did not waive its right to compel arbitration, and that the contract was not unconscionable. Plaintiffs appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed, finding that the arbitration clause at issue in this case was printed on the shingles' wrapping, which was seen only by the contractors installing them. The wrapping was discarded once the shingles were unpackaged and placed on rooftops. The Supreme Court concluded the Homeowners were not bound by the arbitration agreement: "n implied agent whose sole authority is to select and install shingles does not have the authority to waive the principal's constitutional rights. Further, the intentional printing of an agreement to waive a constitutional right on material that is destined for garbage and not the consumer's eyes is unconscionable. The Homeowners never had an opportunity to make a knowing waiver of access to the courts." View "Williams v. TAMKO Building Products, Inc." on Justia Law