Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction Law

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John and Jane Couto entered into a contract with Joseph General Contracting, Inc. for the purchase and construction of a home and carriage house. The trial court found that the contract existed also between the Coutos and Anthony Silvestri, the owner and president of Joseph General. After disputes arose regarding the construction of the dwellings, Joseph General sued the Coutos for, inter alia, breach of contract. The Coutos counterclaimed against Joseph General, Silvestri and Landel Realty, LLC. The trial court held Joseph General, Landel and Silvestri each jointly and severally liable for breach of contract and implied warranty, trespass and violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). Silvestri appealed the propriety of these adverse rulings with respect to his personal liability. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment pertaining to Silvestri in an individual capacity. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court as to the claims of breach and contract and implied warranty against Silvestri in his individual capacity and affirmed in all other respects, holding that the Appellate Court (1) erred in determining that Silvestri had incurred contractual obligations to the Coutos in his individual capacity; and (2) properly determined that Silvestri could be held individually liable for alleged violations of CUTPA. View "Joseph Gen. Contracting, Inc. v. Couto" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff entered into a subcontract with a general contractor to perform work on a public construction project. The general contractor provided a payment bond with Defendant, a surety on the project. Plaintiff later submitted to the general contractor a request for equitable adjustment to the subcontract to recoup additional costs allegedly incurred as a result of the general contractor’s deficient performance. When the general contractor did not respond to the claims, Plaintiff sent Defendant notice of its claim. Defendant failed either to pay or to deny notice of the claim within ninety days as required by Conn. Gen. Stat. 49-42(a). Plaintiff subsequently sued Defendant in federal district court, alleging that Defendant had waived any substantive defenses, and Plaintiff was therefore entitled to judgment in the full amount of the claim. The district court certified questions of law to the Supreme Court regarding the correct interpretation of section 49-42(a). The Supreme Court answered that a surety’s failure to pay or deny a claim under section 49-42(a) within the ninety day deadline is tantamount to a denial of the claim and does not constitute a waiver of the surety’s right to defend the claim on the merits. View "Elec. Contractors, Inc. v. Ins. Co. of State of Penn." on Justia Law
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Plaintiff contracted with the Town of Bethel to perform electrical work in connection with the Town’s renovation of its high school. Plaintiff later sued the Town, alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment and claiming that the Town must reimburse it for additional costs incurred due to the Town’s ongoing asbestos abatement work at the school. The trial court rendered judgment for the Town in part, concluding that the Town's conduct did not fall within either of two judicial created exceptions to the enforcement of “no damages for delay” clauses adopted by the Court in White Oak Corp. v. Dep’t of Transportation. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision that Plaintiff was not entitled to compensation under any of the “no damages for delay” exceptions at issue, holding (1) the term “active interference,” as used in the contract, did not require a showing of bad faith or gross negligence; but (2) the Town’s conduct in this case did not rise to the level of active interference or fall within either of the White Oak exceptions. View "C & H Elec., Inc. v. Town of Bethel" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs served as the general contractor and the project developer for construction of a student housing complex at the University of Connecticut (UConn). UConn procured a commercial general liability (CGL) policy for the project, which insured Plaintiffs and their work. Defendant, American Motorists Insurance Company (AMICO), was the issuing insurer's successor in interest. UConn alleged that Plaintiffs breached the agreement with UConn, and Plaintiffs demanded that AMICO defend against UConn's claims. AMICO denied coverage. Plaintiffs settled their claims with UConn and then brought this action against Defendant for breach of contract and bad faith. The U.S. district court certified three questions of law for the Connecticut Supreme Court's consideration. The Court answered (1) allegations of unintended defective construction work by a subcontractor that damages nondefective property may trigger coverage under a CGL policy; (2) under the plain language of the insurance policy in this case, there is no cause of action based on AMICO's failure to conduct a discretionary investigation of claims for coverage; and (3) in global settlements encompassing multiple claims, the insured has the burden of proving that a pre-suit settlement is reasonable in proportion to claims that the insurer has a duty to defend. View "Capstone Bldg. Corp. v. Am. Motorists Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, the state, commenced this action against the named defendant, Lambardo Brothers Mason Contractors, and twenty-seven other defendants, to recover damages for the allegedly defective design and construction of the library at the University of Connecticut School of Law. Defendants raised time-based defenses to the state's claims by way of motions to strike or motions for summary judgment, with nearly all of them relying on applicable statutes of limitation and repose. The trial court concluded that the rule of nullum tempus, which exempts the state from the operation of statutes of limitation and statutes of repose, was never adopted as the common law of the state, and consequently, the state's claims against the defendants were barred by applicable statutes of limitation and repose. Accordingly, the trial court rendered judgment for the defendants. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings on the merits of the state's claims, holding that the doctrine of nullum tempus was well established in the state's common law, and the doctrine exempted the state from the operation of the relevant statutes of limitation and repose. View "State v. Lombardo Bros. Mason Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was whether nonunion Plaintiffs, Electrical Contractors, Inc. (ECI) and six of its employees had standing to challenge prebid specifications requiring the successful bidder on two state financed construction projects to perform all project work with union labor under the terms of a project labor agreement. The trial court dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint for lack of standing. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's dismissal of the claims of ECI against the city and other nonstate defendants, and affirmed the court's dismissal of ECI's claims against several state defendants, holding (1) the individual plaintiffs did not have standing to bring their claims; (2) ECI had standing to bring its claims against the nonstate defendants, as it had a colorable claim of injury; (3) ECI had standing to bring its claim against the city for violation of the Connecticut Antitrust Act; (4) Plaintiffs' claims were not preempted by federal labor law; and (5) Plaintiffs failed to allege facts that reasonably supported their claims against the state defendants, and therefore, the trial court's judgment could be affirmed on the alternative ground that Plaintiffs' claims against the state defendants were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. View "Elec. Contractors, Inc. v. Dep't of Educ." on Justia Law

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The Town's building officials refused to issue permits to Plaintiff-Appellant Levine for two dwelling units Plaintiff wanted to build on his property. Plaintiff sued for permission to build but lost at trial and appealed, challenging the Town's authority to change its mind after considerable time and money was spent on development. Plaintiff also argueed that there were problems with the trial court's conclusion on his municipal estoppel claim. The Court found that the town properly enacted its land use ordinance, but the lower court improperly applied the law to Plaintiff's municipal estoppel claim to allow him damages for reliance on Town's initial permission to build. Starting in 2005, Plaintiff sought permission from the Town to develop a parcel of land. In 2006, the Town amended its land use ordinance to prohibit the construction of more than one dwelling on a lot, but did not expressly provide whether the revisions would apply to projects already in development. A February, 2006 meeting of the board of selectmen passed a resolution to allow Plaintiff's project to proceed; a September, 2006 meeting rescinded the February approval, and reserved the right to enforce the Town's land use ordinances against Plaintiff's project. In November, 2006, Plaintiff sought the building permits for work already in progress, and the Town refused to issue them. The Court affirmed the lower court's determination that the Town's board had authority under state law to pass the September, 2006 resolution. However, though the Court agreed with Plaintiff that he had demonstrated significant time and money was spent in developing his land. The Court held that the standard used to decide was too strict under state law, and ordered a new trial to resolve Plaintiff's municipal estoppel claim.