Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Construction Law
McInnis Electric Company v. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC et al.
Construction firm Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, received the prime contract to expand the University of Mississippi Medical Center Children’s Hospital in 2017. Electrical contractor McInnis Electric Company secured the winning bid to install the electrical and low voltage systems package for the project and subsequently signed a subcontract with Brasfield & Gorrie. Terms of the subcontract incorporated the prime contract, which were related to the same project by reference. The contract provided that work was set to begin on the project on February 15, 2018. However, McInnis, was directed not to report on site until June 4, 2018, and, due to delays, was unable to begin until July 23, 2018. As work progressed, the schedule allegedly became delayed as a result of Brasfield & Gorrie’s failure to coordinate the work of the various subcontractors. McInnis averred that Brasfield & Gorrie’s failure to coordinate and facilitate the work of the various subcontractors worsened as the project progressed, and Brasfield & Gorrie experienced turnover in management. This failure allegedly delayed McInnis’s work, which was not on the path toward completion, supposedly through no fault of its own. Construction issues were amplified when on March 11, 2020, Mississippi experienced its first reported case of COVID-19. On April 1, 2020, the Mississippi Governor instituted a shelter in place order in response to the ongoing pandemic, requiring certain nonessential businesses to close and recommending social distancing to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Mississippi. The children’s hospital was not classified as an existing infrastructure as it was a nonoperational work in progress and thus was not subject to the executive order’s exception to the governmental shutdowns. By May 8, 2020, McInnis had suffered an approximately 40 percent loss in its workforce due to employees testing positive for COVID-19. Despite the decrease in the available workforce, Brasfield & Gorrie demanded McInnis perform under its contractual obligation. McInnis took measures to continue the work. Brasfield & Gorrie further declined requests for accommodation and instead terminated McInnis on May 13, 2020. The case before the Mississippi Supreme Court here stemmed from disagreements and a broken contract between the parties, contesting whether arbitration was appropriate to settle their disputes. The trial court compelled arbitration, and the Supreme Court affirmed. View "McInnis Electric Company v. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC et al." on Justia Law
Luxe Homes, LLC v. Brewer
Robert and Gloria Brewer (the Brewers) alleged Luxe Homes, LLC failed to comply with the terms of their construction contract, and they filed suit at the Hinds County Chancery Court for specific performance, damages, fees and a declaratory judgment. Luxe Homes claimed in a motion to transfer venue that, according to the terms of the contract, the parties agreed to Rankin County Circuit Court as their exclusive forum. The chancellor denied the motion to transfer venue, and Luxe Homes petitioned for interlocutory appeal. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted the petition, and found the chancellor abused her discretion by denying Luxe Homes’ motion to transfer venue when the venue clauses, agreed to by the parties, unambiguously required that the parties resolve their disputes exclusively in Rankin County Circuit Court. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the chancellor and remanded this case with instructions to transfer venue to Rankin County Circuit Court. View "Luxe Homes, LLC v. Brewer" on Justia Law
Estate of Greenwood v. Montpelier US Insurance Company, et al.
William Greenwood was in the business of salvaging valuable materials from old buildings. Greenwood was insured by Mesa Underwriters Specialty Insurance Company through a policy sold by Dixie Specialty Insurance. Greenwood was later sued by adjoining building owners who complained he had damaged their property, and Mesa denied coverage based, in part, on a policy exclusion for demolition work. Greenwood later brought suit against his insurers alleging breach of contract and bad-faith denial of coverage. Greenwood averred that his business was actually “deconstruction” rather than demolition, but the trial court granted summary judgment to the insurers. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Estate of Greenwood v. Montpelier US Insurance Company, et al." on Justia Law
Hillhouse v. Chris Cook Construction, LLC, et al.
Timothy and Rebecca Hillhouse entered into a contract with Chris Cook Construction for the construction of their home. The contract contained an arbitration provision mandating that arbitration be conducted before a forum that was unavailable at the time the contract was executed. The trial court entered an order compelling arbitration and appointing an arbitrator. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in so doing: because the forum was a contract requirement, the arbitration provision was unenforceable, and appointing an arbitrator required courts to reform the contractual agreement between the parties. Judgment was reversed and the trial court’s order compelling arbitration and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Hillhouse v. Chris Cook Construction, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
KD Oak Grove, LLC v. Warren & Warren Asphalt Paving, LLC
KD Oak Grove and KP Westwood entered into two separate contracts with Coumanis Allen, a general contractor. Subsequently, Coumanis did not pay subcontractors for their work, and Warren & Warren, one of Coumanis’s subcontractors, filed construction liens on Oak Grove’s and Westwood’s separate real property. In both payment actions, Warren admitted to failing to file its lis pendens notice along with its construction liens, waiting 110 days to file it. The two separate legal actions were brought before the Chancery Court of Lamar County, Mississippi, and were assigned to separate chancellors. Oak Grove and Westwood filed separate motions for summary judgment, which were denied by the chancellors; they timely appealed. The crux of the appeals was one of statutory interpretation: whether the failure to comply with Mississippi Code Section 85-7- 405(1)(c)(i) (Supp. 2020), which required the simultaneous filing of a lis pendens notice with the commencement of the payment action, rendered Warren’s liens unenforceable and ineffective. Chancellor Sheldon erred by denying Oak Grove’s motions for summary judgment, and Chancellor Gambrell erred by denying Westwood’s motion to dissolve. Therefore, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancellors’ decisions and entered summary judgment in favor of KD Oak Grove and KP Westwood. View "KD Oak Grove, LLC v. Warren & Warren Asphalt Paving, LLC" on Justia Law
Taylor Construction Company, Inc. v. Superior Mat Company, Inc.
Michael Montgomery, an employee of Taylor Construction working as a truck dispatcher, called Superior Mat Company to rent mats for Taylor Construction’s use. From June 9, 2017, to June 27, 2017, Taylor employees drove to Superior’s location in Covington County and picked up more than seven hundred mats. When Taylor returned the mats, Superior alleged that many were in varying degrees of dirtiness, or in some cases, damaged beyond repair. Taylor paid Superior for the mats until Superior additionally billed Taylor for the mats Taylor did not return. Taylor later stopped payment on all invoices from Superior. Superior filed suit against Taylor in Covington County Circuit Court, alleging breach of contract, open account, quantum meruit, and bad-faith breach of contract. Taylor filed its answer along with a motion to transfer venue under Rule 82(d). After hearing arguments, the circuit court denied Taylor's motion. Taylor appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed, finding the record demonstrated credible evidence that substantial events or acts occurred in Covington County. View "Taylor Construction Company, Inc. v. Superior Mat Company, Inc." on Justia Law
Mississippi State Board of Contractors v. Hobbs Construction, LLC
At stake in this appeal before the Mississippi Supreme Court was the ability of Hobbs Construction, LLC, to continue doing business in the state as a commercial general contractor. The Mississippi State Board of Contractors revoked the certificate of responsibility (COR) held by Hobbs. The chancery court granted Hobbs’s motion for a preliminary injunction and enjoined the Board’s revocation decision during the pendency of the appeal. Later the chancery court entered an order reversing the Board’s decision and reinstating Hobbs’s COR. The Board appealed, arguing that the chancery court erred because the Board’s revocation decision was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary and capricious, was within the Board’s power to make, and did not violate Hobbs’s statutory or constitutional rights. The Board argued also that the chancery court erred by granting a preliminary injunction. The Supreme Court determined the Board violated Hobbs’s constitutional right to due process of law by not providing sufficient notice of the charges that were considered at the revocation hearing and were a basis for the revocation decision, therefore it affirmed the chancery court's. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found the chancery court did not err by granting a preliminary injunction. View "Mississippi State Board of Contractors v. Hobbs Construction, LLC" on Justia Law
Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Fowlkes Plumbing, L.L.C.
In May 2015, the Chickasaw County School District entered into a contract with Sullivan Enterprises, Inc., for window restoration work on the Houlka Attendance Center. In July 2015, during construction, a fire began that completely consumed the attendance center. Liberty Mutual, the school district’s insurer, paid the school district $4.3 million for the damage to the building. Liberty Mutual then filed a subrogation suit against Sullivan Enterprises, Fowlkes Plumbing, LLC, and Quality Heat & Air, Inc. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi found that the waiver of subrogation did not apply to damages to the “non-Work” property, thus Liberty Mutual could proceed in litigation as to “non-Work” property damages. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed an interlocutory appeal and certified a question to the Mississippi Supreme Court regarding whether the subrogation waiver applied to “non-Work” property. The Supreme Court determined that based on the plain meaning of the contract language, the waiver of subrogation applied to both work and non-work property. View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Fowlkes Plumbing, L.L.C." on Justia Law
Henderson v. Copper Ridge Homes, LLC
John and Cindy Henderson filed suit against Copper Ridge Homes (“Copper Ridge”) and First Bank regarding the construction of their new home in Magnolia, Mississippi. The case quickly spiraled into foreclosure proceedings upon the Hendersons’ defaulting on their loan with First Bank. The judge granted First Bank’s motion for judicial foreclosure. After that, the Hendersons unsuccessfully moved multiple times to amend their complaint to add wrongful foreclosure. The judge granted Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s motions for summary judgment on the Hendersons’ claims, finding that the claims, which arose from the alleged faulty construction of the house traveled with the title to the property. Because the Hendersons no longer owned any interest in the house and land, the judge found that they had lost their right to seek damages. On appeal, the Hendersons argued the trial court erred by granting First Bank a judicial foreclosure, by granting Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s motions for summary judgment, and by denying their motions for leave to amend and to add wrongful foreclosure to their complaint. Finding that the trial court erred in granting Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s post-foreclosure motions for dismissal of the Hendersons’ claims, The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the grant of judicial foreclosure, reversed the grant of summary judgment to both parties, and remanded the case to the trial court for determination of the Hendersons’ claims. View "Henderson v. Copper Ridge Homes, LLC" on Justia Law
Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company v. Smith
Dorothy Smith sued her homeowner's insurance carrier, Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company (“Farm Bureau”), after Farm Bureau denied her claim based on the earth-movement exclusion in the policy. Smith filed suit against her home builder, Larry Brown, d/b/a Brown’s Construction Company, and Farm Bureau after learning that her home’s foundation was defective. Smith filed a claim for the repair of the foundation. Farm Bureau filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied by the trial court. Farm Bureau then filed a petition for interlocutory appeal by permission, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. The Supreme Court found the trial court erred in denying Farm Bureau’s motion for summary judgment: the earth-movement exclusion was unambiguous and excluded coverage for the property damage suffered by Smith. View "Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company v. Smith" on Justia Law