Justia California Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Construction Law
Protecting Our Water & Environmental Resources v. County of Stanislaus
In this action challenging Stanislaus County's classification of well construction permits the Supreme Court held that the blanket classification of all permit issuances as ministerial was unlawful and that under the ordinance authorizing the issuance of these permits some of the County's decisions may be discretionary.Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Cal. Pub. Resources Code, 21000 et seq., any government action that may directly or indirectly cause a physical change to the environment is a project, including the issuance of a permit. Projects can be either discretionary or ministerial actions, and discretionary projects general require some level of environmental review, while ministerial projects do not. In this case, Plaintiffs challenged Stanislaus County's practice of categorically classifying a subset of its issuance of well construction permits as ministerial, arguing that the permit issuances are discretionary projects requiring CEQA review. The trial court found the permit issuances were ministerial. The Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiffs were entitled to a declaration that classifying all issuances as ministerial violates CEQA; but (2) Plaintiffs were not entitled to injunctive relief because they failed to demonstrate that all permit decisions covered by the classification practice were discretionary. View "Protecting Our Water & Environmental Resources v. County of Stanislaus" on Justia Law
United Riggers & Erectors, Inc. v. Coast Iron & Steel Co.
A direct contractor’s timely payment to its subcontractors may be excused under Cal. Civ. Code 8814(c) only when the direct contractor has a good faith basis for contesting the subcontractor’s right to receive the specific monies that are withheld.United Riggers & Erectors, Inc. (United Riggers) sued Coast Iron & Steel Co. (Coast Iron) alleging failure to make prompt payment of monies owed United Riggers for its work on a project. See Cal. Civ. Code 8814, 8818. Coast Iron paid United Riggers, but the payments did not moot United Riggers’s statutory claim because the statutory scheme imposes a penalty for delay. The trial court entered judgment for Coast Iron. The court of appeal reversed on the statutory claim for failure to make timely retention payments, holding that Coast Iron could not use the parties’ dispute over project mismanagement to justify withholding United Riggers’s pay. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Coast Iron did not present a good faith argument for why the withheld monies were no longer due to United Riggers. View "United Riggers & Erectors, Inc. v. Coast Iron & Steel Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Construction Law
McMillin Albany LLC v. Superior Court of Kern County
At issue was whether this common law action alleging construction defects resulting in both economic loss and property damage was subject to the prelitigation notice and cure procedures set forth in the Right to Repair Act, Cal. Civ. Code 895-945.5. After noting that the answer depended on the extent to which the Act was intended to alter the common law, the Supreme Court held that the Legislature intended that the Act was to supplant the common law with new rules governing the method of recovery in actions alleging property damage rather than to supplement common law remedies with a statutory claim for purely economic loss. Thus, the court held that the present suit for property damage was subject to the Act’s prelitigation procedures, and the court of appeal properly ordered a stay until those procedures were followed. View "McMillin Albany LLC v. Superior Court of Kern County" on Justia Law
Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara
Charges that constitute compensation for the use of government property are not subject to Proposition 218’s voter approval requirements. To constitute compensation for a property interest, however, the amount of the charge must bear a reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest, and to the extent the charge exceeds any reasonable value of the interest, it is a tax and requires voter approval.Plaintiffs contended that a one percent charge that was separately stated on electricity bills issued by Southern California Edison (SCE) was not compensation for the privilege of using property owned by the City of Santa Barbara but was instead a tax imposed without voter approval, in violation of Proposition 218. The City argued that this separate charge was the fee paid by SCE to the City for the privilege of using City property in connection with the delivery of electricity. The Supreme Court held that the complaint and stipulated facts adequately alleged the basis for a claim that the surcharge bore no reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest and was therefore a tax requiring voter approval under Proposition 218. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law
Beacon Residential Cmty. Ass’n. v. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Defendants, two architectural firms, were the sole entities that provided architectural services for a collection of condominium units in San Francisco. The homeowners association sued several parties involving in the construction of the condominiums, including Defendants, alleging that negligent architectural design work performed by Defendants resulted in several defects. The trial court sustained a demurrer in favor of Defendants, determining that because the final decision regarding how the homes would be built rested with the owner, Defendants owed no duty to the future condominium owners. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that, under both the common law and the Right to Repair Act, Defendants owed a duty of care to the homeowners in this case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an architect owes a duty of care to future homeowners in the design of a residential building where the architect is a principal architect on the project, and the duty of care extends to such architects even when they do not actually build the project or exercise ultimate control over construction; and (2) the complaint int his case sufficiently alleged the causal link between Defendants’ negligence and the condominium association’s injury. View "Beacon Residential Cmty. Ass’n. v. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill" on Justia Law
Pinnacle Museum Tower Ass’n v. Pinnacle Market Dev.
An owners association for a construction defect action against a condominium developer, seeking recovery for damage to its property and damage to the separate interests of the condominium owners who composed its membership. In response, the developer filed a motion to compel arbitration based on a clause in the recorded declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions providing that the association and the individual owners agreed to resolve any construction dispute with the developer through binding arbitration. The trial court determined that the clause embodied an agreement to arbitrate between the developer and the association but invalidated the agreement upon finding it marked by slight substantive unconscionability and a high degree of procedural unconscionability. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the arbitration clause bound the association and was not unconscionable. View "Pinnacle Museum Tower Ass'n v. Pinnacle Market Dev." on Justia Law
State Bldg. & Constr. Trades Council v. City of Vista
A charter city entered into certain contracts for the construction of public buildings. A federation of labor unions then petitioned the superior court for a peremptory writ of mandate, asserting that the city must comply with California's prevailing wage law notwithstanding local ordinances stating otherwise. The prevailing wage law requires that certain minimum wage levels be paid to contract workers constructing public works. At issue on appeal was whether, under the state constitution, the subject matter of the state's prevailing wage law was a "statewide concern" over which the state has primary legislative authority, or whether the matter was a municipal affair and therefore governed by the charter city's local ordinances. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal, which in turn affirmed the trial court's judgment denying the union's petition for a writ of mandate, holding that there was no statewide concern at issue in this case, and therefore, the state's prevailing wage law did not apply to the charter city. View "State Bldg. & Constr. Trades Council v. City of Vista" on Justia Law