Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction Law
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In this dispute between a general contractor, Bacon Construction Co., Inc., and a subcontractor, NESC, Inc., regarding an agreement to install flooring in a college dormitory the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor NESC and awarding NESC $125,733.67 in damages, holding the trial justice did not clearly err in denying Bacon's motion for a new trial, appropriately denied Bacon's request for a remittitur and properly denied NESC's cross appeal.NESC brought this suit alleging, inter alia, breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Bacon filed a counterclaim against NESC alleging breach of contract and negligence. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of NESC. On appeal, Bacon challenged the trial justice's decision denying Bacon's motion for a new trial and its alternative request for a remittitur. NESC cross appealed from the denial of its motion to amend and its motion to reconsider its motion to amend. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and orders of the superior court, holding that the court did not err. View "NESC, Inc. v. Bacon Construction Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Insurer and Plaintiff's claims alleging that Insurer was contractually obligated to provide insurance coverage to Plaintiff, which was listed as an additional issued on the relevant insurance policy, holding that Insurer had no duty to defend Plaintiff.Plaintiff, the general contractor for a construction project, subcontracted with Insured for structural work on the project. Insured purchased a commercial general liability insurance policy from Insurer, which named Plaintiff as an additional insured. The policy provided for defense and indemnification costs to Insured for its work on the project. Insured's employee (Employee), who sustained injuries while working on the construction project site, filed a complaint against Plaintiff, alleging that Plaintiff's negligent acts were the proximate cause of his injuries. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that Insurer was contractually obligated to indemnify and defend Plaintiff as an additional insured relative to the Employee action. The superior court justice granted summary judgment for Insurer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Employee's complaint was devoid of any allegations that brought the underlying case within the coverage of the policy, and therefore, Insurer had no duty to defend Plaintiff. View "Bacon Construction Co. v. Arbella Protection Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this construction dispute, holding that summary judgment was appropriate.Plaintiff entered into a contract with a general contractor to construct a facility. The general contractor subcontracted the roofing installation to Defendant. When the roof began to leak, Plaintiff filed a complaint against the general contractor and Defendant, alleging breach of contract, breach of the implied warranty to construct in good and workmanlike manner, misrepresentation, and negligence. The superior court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, holding that Plaintiff was only an incidental beneficiary, as opposed to an intended beneficiary, of the subcontract between Defendant and the general contractor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the motion justice appropriately granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s claims. View "Hexagon Holdings, Inc. v. Carlisle Syntec Inc." on Justia Law

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The raise-or-waive rule barred consideration of the argument brought before the Supreme Court on appeal in this breach of a promissory note case.In a prior appeal in this case, the Supreme Court affirmed a judgment of the superior court in favor of the Judgment Creditor against the Judgment Debtors in the amount of nearly $4 million plus post-judgment interest on claims for breach of a promissory note and breach of a guaranty of that note. In this second appeal, one of the judgment debtors (Judgment Debtor) appealed from an order of the superior court directing that Judgment Creditor be substituted for Judgment Debtor as the party to litigate Judgment Debtor’s claims in receivership proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the issue raised on appeal was not properly before the court due to the raise-or-waive rule. View "Tri-Town Construction Co. v. Commerce Park Associates 12, LLC" on Justia Law

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Lend Lease (US) Construction was the general contractor on a project, and Rossi Electric Company, Inc. was a subcontractor. An employee of Rossi’s subcontractor was injured while working on the project and filed a negligence claim against Lend Lease. Lend Lease filed a third-party complaint against Rossi, alleging that, under the terms of a contract between the parties, Rossi was required to defend and indemnify Lend Lease. The superior court entered an order granting summary judgment for Rossi. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that issues of material fact remained to be determined, and therefore, this case was not ripe for summary judgment. Remanded. View "Walsh v. Lend Lease (US) Construction" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a dispute over the construction of a backyard patio at Defendant’s property. Defendants, the property owners, hired a general contractor, who contracted with Plaintiff for masonry work. Plaintiff filed suit, asserting that Defendants owed it money beyond that paid to it by the general contractor. At issue during the bench trial was whether Plaintiff was paid to construct Defendants’ backyard patio. The trial justice ultimately entered judgment for Defendants. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial justice erred in his factual determinations and credibility assessments. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice neither overlooked nor misconceived material evidence. View "A. Salvati Masonry Inc. v. Andreozzi" on Justia Law

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Cashman sued, alleging Cardi provided defective cofferdams for construction of the Sakonnet River Bridge. Cofferdams are temporary watertight enclosures that are pumped dry to expose the bottom of a body of water so that construction can occur. During discovery, Cashman sought, and Cardi refused to produce, computer models and draft reports that had been “considered by” its testifying engineering expert to determine “certain stress and loads that are going to be placed on certain points on this cofferdam,” including models “that [the expert] created which [he] may not have relied on but certainly would’ve considered” and draft reports. Cardi argued that Rule 26(b)(4)(A) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure does not allow discovery of materials “considered by” an expert in forming an expert opinion. The hearing justice concluded that he did not have the authority to compel production of the material. The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed, after considering interpretations of the corresponding Federal Rule. The state rule is “clear and unambiguous” and is confined to discovery through interrogatories or deposition. It does not provide for the disclosure of documents. View "Cashman Equip. Corp., Inc. v. Cardi Corp., Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants hired various construction companies to assist in the construction of a house and barn on their property. Plaintiff was one of the subcontractors that worked on the project. Plaintiff brought this action against Defendants for breach of contract, book account, and unjust enrichment seeking payment for the work it had completed but for which it had not been paid. The superior court justice entered judgment for Plaintiff on its claim of unjust enrichment but entered judgment for Defendants on the remainder of Plaintiff’s claims. The trial justice also entered an order awarding costs to Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s judgment but vacated and remanded the order, holding (1) the trial justice correctly found the three elements that a Rhode Island plaintiff must prove to recover on a claim of unjust enrichment; and (2) the trial justice erred in awarding Plaintiff’s “Application for Taxation of Costs” because the order explicitly included the fee generated by expert testimony. View "South County Post & Beam, Inc. v. McMahon" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the Town of Middletown issued an invitation for bids on a drainage improvement project. Two contractors submitted bids, including HK&S Construction Holding Corp., which provided the lowest bid. Woodard & Curran, Inc. recommended against awarding HK&S the project and in favor of negotiating a contract with the second bidder. The town counsel concluded that HK&S’s bid was non-responsive and awarded the contract to the second bidder. Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Town and Woodard & Curran alleging, among other claims, that the Town violated state and local law when it denied the contract award for the project. The superior court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no error in disposing of HK&S’s claims against the Town in summary judgment where HK&S failed to submit a responsive bid; and (2) HK&S’s claim of negligence against Woodard & Curran also failed. View "HK&S Constr. Holding Corp. v. Dible" on Justia Law

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Atwood Health Properties, LLC contracted with Calson Construction Company to construct a medical office building. Calson engaged Gem Plumbing & Heating Co., Inc. (GEM) as a subcontractor to design and install a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Five years after the project was completed, Atwood sold the building to Atwood Medical Properties, LLC (AMP). When AMP experienced compressor failures in the HVAC system, AMP filed suit against Atwood. Atwood paid for a new HVAC system and initiated arbitration proceedings against Calson to recover its costs. Calson, in turn, initiated an arbitration proceeding against GEM for indemnification under the parties’ contract. The two arbitration proceedings were consolidated. The arbitrator concluded that Calson should pay Atwood $358,223 and that GEM should pay Calson that same amount. The superior court confirmed the arbitration award. GEM appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice properly confirmed the arbitration award. View "Atwood Health Props., LLC v. Calson Constr. Co." on Justia Law