The amount of a mechanic’s lien in California is generally the lesser of: 1) the reasonable value of the work; or 2) the price agreed upon in the lien claimant’s contract. But does the same measure apply if a lien defendant was not a party to the contract? In Appel v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 214 Cal. App. 4th 329 (2013), the appellate court clarified that the same measure does apply.Continue Reading...
Contractors usually assume that the statutory prohibition on submitting “false claims” refers to inflated invoices, phony change order costs, and the like. However the courts are giving the relevant statutes a broader meaning which public works contractors should take into account. For example, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a bidder for a government contract that is found to have knowingly underbid the contract may have liability under the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”). In Hooper v. Lockheed Martin Corporation, 688 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir. 2012), Lockheed was the successful bidder for a contract with the Air Force to automate and modernize software and hardware used to support U.S. space launch operations. The contract was structured as a reimbursable cost plus “award fee” contract, where the contractor would be paid its costs of performing the work, plus “award fees” given at periodic intervals based on overall performance, including factors such as “spending less money than estimated.” Id. at 1041. Because the extent of the work required was uncertain, bidders were to submit their estimated costs of performing the work. Lockheed initially submitted a bid of $439.2 million, and later submitted a “Best and Final Offer” of $432.7 million. Id. at 1042. After the award, the government paid Lockheed more than $900 million for its work.Continue Reading...
Binding arbitration of construction disputes is frequently required by standard industry contracts. For example, the contract forms published by the American Institute of Architects either require or provide an option for arbitration under the Construction Industry Rules of the American Arbitration Association ("AAA"). The latter rules authorize the arbitrator to decide whether the contractual arbitration agreement is enforceable. (See, e.g. Rule 9 of AAA Construction Industry Rules). However some courts have decided this issue should be determined by the courts, rather than the arbitrator.
By Candace L. Matson
In California, the payment of contractors is governed by so-called "prompt payment statutes" which are sprinkled through various legislative codes, and which impose sanctions on the paying party for non-compliance. Progress payments by general contractors to their subcontractors on private and most public works of improvement are governed by section 7108.5 of the Business & Professions Code. Retention payments to subcontractors on public works of improvement are governed by section 7107 of the Public Contracts Code, and on private works of improvement by section 3260 of the Civil Code. In some cases the statutes permit withholding of payments only where there is a "good faith" dispute. But what constitutes "good faith"?
- Yassin v. Solis, 184 Cal. App. 4th 524 (2d Dist. May 2010)
Homeowners entered into an agreement with a contractor for home improvement work. The agreement called for the contractor to be paid fixed amounts upon reaching specific milestones on the project, with the final payment of $7,500 due once the work was complete and a certificate of occupancy issued. The homeowners became dissatisfied with the contractor's work, terminated him from the project, and hired another to complete the work.
By Edward Lozowicki
In a recent decision the California Supreme Court expanded the implied warranty of specification suitability to include claims for a public agency's failure to disclose material information. In doing so it resolved a split in the decisions of the lower appellate courts. Notably, the Court adopts virtually the same rationale recognized by the Federal Circuit and Court of Federal Claims on federal procurement contracts, namely, the "superior knowledge" doctrine. In Los Angeles Unified School Dist. v. Great American Ins., 49 Cal. 4th 738, 2010 WL 2720825 (July 12, 2010), the Court held that a contractor need not prove intentional misrepresentation to recover compensation for a public entity's failure to disclose material information. The Court expressly disapproved Jasper Construction v. Foothill Junior College, (1979) 91 Cal. App. 3d 1, which held to the contrary.
By John A. Yacovelle and Matthew W. Holder
In a recent case the California Court of Appeal confirmed in an unpublished decision that, when a construction manager is tasked with supervising and managing a general contractor, the construction manager does not owe a duty of care to the general contractor to prevent economic loss. The Court reasoned that imposing such a duty would subject the construction manager to an untenable conflict in loyalties. Appellate courts in other states are split on this issue. Ledcor Builders, Inc. v. Janez Development, LLC, 2010 WL 925876 (Mar. 16, 2010).
By Edward B. Lozowicki and Bram Hanono
Dillingham-Ray Wilson v. City of Los Angeles, 182 Cal.App.4th 1396 (opinion modified by 106 Cal.Rptr.3d 691, (April 16, 2010, No. B192900))
In Dillingham-Ray Wilson v. City of Los Angeles, the California Court of Appeal signaled its holding in the first sentence of its opinion: "The City of Los Angeles (City) obtained millions of dollars worth of construction work that it does not want to pay for." The City argued it was absolved of any obligation to pay the contractor, Dillingham-Ray Wilson (DRW), pursuant to Public Contracts Code sections 7105 and 7107 and Amelco Electric v. City of Thousand Oaks (2002) 27 Cal.4th 228 on the theory that they dictate a method of proving contract damages, a method DRW said was impossible under the circumstances. The Court disagreed because "section 7107 [sic] and Amelco impact the measure of damages, not the method of proving them . . . ." The Court also held that the modified total cost method of proving damages is permissible in California.
By Candace L. Matson
As most construction professionals know, California law requires that any person engaged in the business of a contractor, or that acts in the capacity of a contractor, must be properly licensed by the Contractors State License Board (“CSLB”). Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 7028. A contractor is defined broadly, as follows:
The Fifth Day, LLC v. James P. Bolotin, et al., ___ Cal.App.4th ___(March 27, 2009, No KC047712)
By Jon E. Maki & Bram Hanono
The California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District determined that an entity which provided construction management services to a private owner developing commercial real property was not required to be licensed as a contractor pursuant to the Contractors' State License Law ("CSLL") (opinion by Acting Presiding Justice Armstrong, concurrence by Justice Krieger). In a lengthy dissent, Justice Mosk disagreed, highlighting that the intent of the CSLL is to protect consumers from unqualified and unlicensed contractors and predicted that the decision on a case of first impression creates a loophole in the license requirements by allowing unlicensed contractors to call themselves "construction managers."
Court Of Appeal Finds That A Tolling Agreement Between An HOA And Developer Tolls The Applicable Statute Of Limitations Even As To A Non-Party Subcontractor.
Landale-Cameron Court, Inc. v. Ahonen (Oct. 10, 2007, B190309 [2nd Dist., Div. 2]), ___ Cal. App. 4th ____; http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/opinions
By Thomas B. Snyder and Andriana Ledesma
In Landale-Cameron, the homeowner's association of a condominium complex ("HOA"), discovered various water leaks to the building and subsequently sued the builder-developers Arnold and Helen Kaufman ("Kaufman") and Petri Ahonen dba Riteway Decking and Flooring ("Riteway") for negligence and contract causes of action. Riteway moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the complaint was barred because it was filed after the expiration of the three-year statute of limitations for actions involving injury to real property under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 338.Continue Reading...
Court Of Appeal Holds General Contractor Is Not Entitled To Indemnity From Subcontractors Under General Indemnity Clause Because General Contractor Was Actively Negligent
McCrary Construction Company v. Metal Deck Specialists, Inc., California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, November 14, 2004
In McCrary, a general contractor sought indemnity from two of its subcontractors for damages arising from the death of a construction worker who fell through a hole in the metal roof of the project. One subcontractor, Metal Deck Specialists, Inc., was responsible for installing the metal deck system on the roof, and had cut the hole in the roof and left it uncovered. The other subcontractor, Horizon Sheet Metal Co., covered the hole with plywood at the request of the general contractor, but failed to secure the plywood to the metal decking. The accident occurred when the worker lifted the plywood up, and not realizing there was hole beneath it, stepped into the hole and fell to his death.Continue Reading...
Federal Circuit Court Rejects Claim That Contractor Violated The False Claims Act By Allegedly Submitting A Fraudulently Low Bid With The Intent Of Later Making Up For The Loss By Submitting Change Orders For Extra Work
United States ex. rel. Bettis v. Odebrecht Contractors of California, Inc.
393 F.3d 1321 (D.C. Cir. 2005)
A contractor entered into a contract with the Army Corp of Engineers for construction of the Seven Oaks Dam in San Bernardino County, California. The plaintiff was an alleged "whistleblower" who worked for one of the contractor's consultants. Plaintiff alleged the contractor had violated the federal False Claims Act ("FCA") by fraudulently inducing the government to enter into the contract by knowingly submitting a bid that was too low, with the intent of later making up for the loss by requesting change orders for extra work.Continue Reading...