Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction Law
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This case arises from the parties' dispute concerning a construction project to expand the Manhattan Village Shopping Center in Manhattan Beach, California. The parties' predecessors executed the Construction, Operation and Reciprocal Easement Agreement (the COREA) in 1980. The parties resolved disputes in a Settlement Agreement in 2008 where, under the terms of the settlement agreement, RREEF agreed not to oppose Hacienda's plan to convert office space into restaurants and Hacienda agreed not to oppose RREEF's expansion project subject to certain limitations in the Agreement. At issue is RREEF's project.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the nuisance claim and reversed the district court as to the remaining claims. In regard to the claim for breach of contract, the panel concluded that RREEF has discretion to pursue the project and alter the site plan, and Hacienda's objections to the city are limited to RREEF's material changes. That RREEF has discretion to revise the site plan does not mean that Hacienda gave up its rights under the COREA, especially considering that the Settlement Agreement, by its own terms, does not amend the COREA. In regard to the claim for interference with easement rights, the panel concluded that the Settlement Agreement does not extinguish plaintiffs' easement rights under the COREA, and the district court erred in holding otherwise. In regard to the claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, the panel concluded that plaintiffs have presented sufficient evidence to raise a triable issue as to whether RREEF's construction of the North Deck was contrary to "the contract's purposes and the parties' legitimate expectations." In regard to the claim for interference with business and contractual relations, the panel concluded that plaintiffs have raised triable issues concerning whether defendants' construction interfered with Hacienda's tenant contracts, and whether defendants acted with the knowledge that "interference is certain or substantially certain to occur as a result of [their] action."The panel also reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief. In regard to RREEF's counterclaims, the panel concluded that policy considerations weighed against applying the litigation privilege. Finally, the panel concluded that the attorneys' fee question was moot and vacated the district court's order denying the parties' motions for attorneys' fees. View "3500 Sepulveda, LLC v. RREEF America REIT II Corp. BBB" on Justia Law

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Candelaria, CCIC, and Otay (collectively, defendants) appealed the district court's judgment in favor of Ramona, the supplier of rental equipment, in Ramona's action under the Miller Act, 40 U.S.C. 3131-3134. The court held that Ramona's notice of demand was timely as to rental equipment furnished more than ninety days before the notice. The court joined its sister circuits and held that if all the goods in a series of deliveries by a supplier on an open book account are used on the same government project, the ninety-day notice is timely as to all the deliveries if it is given within ninety days from the last delivery. Concluding that there was no risk of double liability to Candelaria, the court affirmed the district court's award in damages, holding that all amounts due for all the rental equipment furnished to Otay for construction of the project were properly in the ninety-day notice. The court affirmed the district court's ruling not to award damages for invoices submitted on or after June 10, 2008, where Ramona had commercially reasonable justifications for choosing not to mitigate its damages prior to that date. Defendant's claim that Ramona waived its right to collect service charges was waived. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Ramona Equip. Rental v. Carolina Casualty Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Technica, a subcontractor on a federal construction project in California, filed suit under the Miller Act, 40 U.S.C. 3131-3134, against Candelaria, the prime contractor, and its surety CCIC. On appeal, Technica challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants. The Supreme Court and the Eighth and Tenth Circuits have held that rights and remedies under the Miller Act may not be conditioned by state laws. The court applied their reasoning and held that the limitation in California Business and Professions Code 7031(a) on the right of a non-licensed contractor to maintain an action for collection of unpaid services did not apply to an action under the Miller Act. Because the California licensing requirement is not a defense to a claim under the Miller Act, the court need not address whether Technica falls within the labor provider exception to the statute. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded. View "Technica LLC v. Carolina Cas. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Rocky Mountain and American Fuels filed two separate actions against CARB, contending that the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Cal. Code Regs. tit. 17, 95480-90, violated the dormant Commerce Clause and was preempted by Section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7545(o), known as the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The court held that the Fuel Standard's regulation of ethanol did not facially discriminate against out-of-state commerce, and its initial crude-oil provisions (2011 Provisions) did not discriminate against out-of-state crude oil in purpose or practical effect. The court also held that the Fuel Standard did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause's prohibition on extraterritorial regulation. The court vacated the preliminary injunction and remanded to the district court for further considerations under Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc. View "Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey" on Justia Law

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ACT brought this suit against PCI and First National, alleging claims of breach of contract, quantum meruit, and recovery on a payment bond under the Miller Act, 40 U.S.C. 3131(b). Because United States ex rel. Celanese Coatings Co. v. Gullard was clearly irreconcilable with intervening higher authority, the court overruled it and held that the Miller Act's statute of limitations was a claim-processing rule, not a jurisdictional rule. Because nothing on the face of ACT's complaint indicated that it did not work on the project or rent equipment to PCI within one year of the date it filed the complaint, the complaint could not have been dismissed if the district court had treated the Miller Act's statute of limitations as a claim-processing rule. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Air Control Tech. v. Pre Con Indus." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Paul Braunstein, the owner and operator of an Arizona engineering and land surveying firm that previously performed work for the Arizona Department of Transportation, sought damages based on Arizona's use of an affirmative action program in its award of a 2005 transportation engineering contract. The district court concluded that Braunstein lacked standing to seek damages in this equal protection suit because he never demonstrated that the challenged affirmative action program affected him personally or impeded his ability to compete for subcontracting work. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the district court correctly concluded that Braunstein lacked standing; but (2) the district court erred in awarding Defendants attorneys' fees and imposing sanctions against Braunstein's attorneys for unreasonably prolonging the proceedings. View "Braunstein v. Ariz. Dep't of Transp." on Justia Law

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This case was a challenge to the State of Washington's Building Code brought by the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) along with individual builders and contractors. The impetus for this challenge was the State's 2009 requirement that new building construction must meet heightened energy conservation goals. At issue was the Energy Policy and Conservation Act's (EPCA) preemption-exemption provision, which expressly preempts state standards requiring greater efficiency than federal standards but exempts from preemption state building codes promoting energy efficiency, so long as those codes meet statutory conditions. Plaintiffs argued that the Building Code did not satisfy EPCA's conditions for exemption. The district court held that Washington had satisfied EPCA's conditions and therefore was not preempted. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that the Building Code satisfied the conditions Congress set forth in the EPCA for exemption from federal preemption. View "Bldg. Ind. Ass'n of Wash. v. Wash. State Bldg. Code" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Arizona answered questions that the court certified to that court. Specifically, it had determined that the rule of American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah did not toll the statute of repose for construction-defect claims set forth in Arizona Revised Statutes section 12-552. It also determined that Arizona's saving statute, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-504(A), did not operate to save appellants' claims. Both of the parties agreed that the Supreme Court of Arizona's answers to the court's certified questions put an end to the litigation that was before the court. Consequently, the court held that, for the reasons articulated by the Supreme Court of Arizona, appellants' claims were time-barred. Therefore, the judgment of the district court dismissing appellants' complaints was affirmed.

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Plaintiffs brought an action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, seeking to prove that they were subjected to excessive force while in custody at the Sacramento County Main Jail. At issue was whether the district court erred by refusing to use certain jury instructions plaintiffs had requested. The court held that the district court prejudicially erred in refusing to instruct the jury that, for purposes of proving a Monell claim, a custom or practice could be supported by evidence of repeated constitutional violations which went uninvestigated and for which the errant municipal officers went unpunished. Therefore, the court vacated the judgment and remanded for a new trial.

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Defendants, the owner and operator of a Nevada company that inspected homes for construction defects and encouraged homeowners to file claims against their builder under a Nevada statute, appealed an injunction enjoining them from conducting further inspections. Del Webb Communities, Inc. (Del Webb), the developer of a retirement community where defendants inspected many homes, sued, alleging that defendants' business practices violated federal and state law. The court held that the general prohibition against operating "by means of illegal, unlicensed and false practices" was too vague to stand. Accordingly, the court affirmed the remaining provisions of the injunction but rejected the district court's reliance on Nevada's common law of champerty to create a tort cause of action for which Del Webb could obtain relief. Therefore, the court vacated the injunction in part and affirmed in part.