Articles Posted in Construction Law

by
In 1991 and 1992, defendant Rodney Bull was sentenced to two extended-term sentences, the second of which was imposed for crimes that occurred before defendant’s first sentencing took place. In 2012, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the plain language of N.J.S.A.2C:44-5(b)(1) prohibited the imposition of a second discretionary extended-term sentence for an offense committed before entry of the first extended-term sentence. There is no question that defendant’s second extended-term sentence would have been illegal under “New Jersey v. Hudson,” (209 N.J.513 (2012)). The question this case presented for the Court’s review was whether “Hudson” should be applied retroactively. The Court found “Hudson” : “illuminated a longstanding rule of law rather than announce[d] a new one.” The Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s determination that “Hudson” applied retroactively. Defendant’s second extended-term sentence was remanded for re-sentencing. View "New Jersey v. Bull" on Justia Law

by
This dispute arose from the construction of Cypress Point, a luxury condominium complex in Hoboken. Co-defendants Adria Towers, LLC, Metro Homes, LLC, and Commerce Construction Management, LLC (collectively, the developer) served as the project's developer and general contractor, and subcontractors carried out most of the work. During construction, the developer obtained four CGL policies from Evanston Insurance Company, covering a four-year period, and three from Crum & Forster Specialty Insurance Company, covering a subsequent three-year period (collectively, the policies). In this appeal, issue before the Supreme Court was whether rain water damage caused by a subcontractor's faulty workmanship constituted property damage and an occurrence under the developer's commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policy. In a published decision, the Appellate Division reversed, holding that, under the plain language of the CGL policies, the unintended and unexpected consequential damages caused by the subcontractors faulty workmanship constituted property damage and an occurrence. The Supreme Court agreed and affirmed, finding that the consequential damages caused by the subcontractors faulty workmanship constituted property damage, and the event resulting in that damage water from rain flowing into the interior of the property due to the subcontractors faulty workmanship was an occurrence under the plain language of the CGL policies at issue here. View "CypressPoint Condominium Association, Inc. v. Adria Towers, L.L.C., et al." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Robert Occhifinto filed suit against defendant Robert S. Keppler Mason Contractors, LLC (Keppler) and others seeking damages for alleged defective construction of an addition to his warehouse. In the liability action, Keppler was defended by its insurance carrier, Mercer Mutual Insurance Company, under a reservation-of-rights agreement. Before trial in the liability action, Mercer filed an action for a declaratory judgment challenging its obligation to provide coverage and to defend Keppler in the liability action. Occhifinto, on Keppler s behalf, contested the claims raised by Mercer, and filed counterclaims asserting that Mercer had a duty to defend and indemnify Keppler under the policy, and that Mercer was obligated for the counsel fees incurred in defending the declaratory judgment action. In the declaratory judgment action, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the insurance coverage question. The trial court held that Mercer was required to indemnify Keppler for damages covered by the insurance policy. The court therefore denied Mercer's motion for summary judgment and granted partial summary judgment to Occhifinto, reserving the claim for counsel fees until conclusion of the liability action. The liability action proceeded, and Occhifinto lost. After trial, Occhifinto sought to recover counsel fees from Mercer pursuant to Rule 4:42-9(a)(6), which authorized an award of counsel fees in an action upon a liability or indemnity policy of insurance in favor of a successful claimant. The trial court denied Occhifinto's motion, holding that he was not a successful claimant in the liability action because he was not entitled to indemnity coverage in the liability action. In an unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division affirmed that determination. The Supreme Court reversed, finding Occhifinto was a successful claimant and therefore was entitled to attorneys' fees. View "Occhifinto v. Olivo Construction Company" on Justia Law

by
In February 1995, the State executed a contract with Perini Corporation to design and build South Woods in Bridgeton (the Project), a twenty-six building medium- and minimum-security correctional facility. Perini subcontracted with L. Robert Kimball & Associates, Inc. as the architect and engineer. Defendant Natkin & Company was designated the principal contractor for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). The design that Kimball provided to Perini included an underground HTHW distribution system to serve the entire Project. It also included a central plant from which the hot water was distributed to the various buildings that comprised the Project. Perma-Pipe, Inc. manufactured the underground piping used in the HTHW system. Natkin furnished and installed the underground piping system and the boilers and heat exchangers housed in the central plant. Defendant Jacobs Facilities, Inc. (formerly known as CRSS Constructors, Inc.), was retained by the State to provide construction oversight services. In 2008, the State filed a complaint against Perini, Kimball, Natkin, Jacobs, and Perma-Pipe in which it alleged that the HTHW system failed in March 2000, and on several subsequent occasions, and that these failures were caused by various defects including design defects, defective site preparation for the pipes, defective pipes, and deficient system design. The State asserted breach of contract against Perini, negligence and professional malpractice against Kimball, negligence and breach of contract against Natkin, and breach of contract against Jacobs. Against Perma-Pipe, the State asserted a claim under the New Jersey Products Liability Act (PLA), as well as breach of implied warranties, negligence, and strict liability in tort. All defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the Project was substantially complete well before April 28, 1998, and that, therefore, the statute of repose barred the State's complaint. The Appellate Division reversed the orders granting summary judgment in favor of defendants Perini, Kimball, Natkin, and Jacobs. The panel held that the statute of repose was triggered when defendants substantially completed their work on the entire project, no earlier than May 1, 1998, the date when the minimum-security unit and garage were certified as substantially complete. After its review, the Supreme Court held that the statute of repose does not begin to run on claims involving an improvement that serves an entire project (including those parts constructed in multiple, uninterrupted phases) until all buildings served by the improvement have been connected to it. In addition, the Court held that the statute of repose did not apply to claims relating solely to manufacturing defects in a product used in the HTHW system. View "New Jersey v. Perini Corporation" on Justia Law

by
The issue before the Supreme Court centered on a decision by a county prosecutor to seek waiver of three juveniles, aged sixteen at the time of their offenses, to adult court for acts of delinquency that, as charged, were equivalent to aggravated assault, robbery, and second-degree conspiracy. A Family Part judge found probable cause that the juveniles committed the offenses but denied the waiver motion. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that the Family Part overstepped its bounds. The case called into question the standard of review to be exercised by a court reviewing such motions for waiver. "An abuse of discretion review does not allow the court to substitute its judgment for that of the prosecutor. Rather, a review for abuse of discretion involves a limited but nonetheless substantive review to ensure that the prosecutor’s individualized decision about the juvenile before the court, as set forth in the statement of reasons, is not arbitrary or abusive of the considerable discretion allowed to the prosecutor by statute. Cursory or conclusory statements as justification for waiver will not suffice to allow the court to perform its review under the abuse of discretion standard because such statements provide no meaningful explanation of the prosecutor’s reasoning." Applying that standard, the Court held that in this case the prosecutor’s explanation in the Statements of Reasons lacked detail. The Court reversed and remanded this case for a more full explanation by the prosecutor according to the new standard outlined in the Court's opinion. View "State In the Interest of V.A." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs William and Vivian Allen contracted defendant V and A Brothers, Inc. (V&A) to landscape their property and build a retaining wall to enable the installation of a pool. At the time, V&A was wholly owned by two brothers, Defendants Vincent DiMeglio, who subsequently passed away, and Angelo DiMeglio. The corporation also had one full-time employee, Defendant Thomas Taylor. After V&A completed the work, Plaintiffs filed a two-count complaint naming both corporate and individual defendants. The first count was directed solely to V&A and alleged that the corporation breached its contract with Plaintiffs by improperly constructing the retaining wall and using inferior backfill material. The second count was directed to the corporation and Vincent's estate, Angelo, and Taylor individually, alleging three "Home Improvement Practices" violations of the state Consumer Fraud Act (CFA). Before trial, the trial court granted the individual defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint against them, holding that the CFA did not create a direct cause of action against the individuals. Plaintiffs' remaining claims were tried and the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs on all counts, awarding damages totaling $490,000. The Appellate Division reversed the trial court's order dismissing the claims against the individual defendants under the CFA. The panel remanded the matter to determine whether any of the individual defendants had personally participated in the regulatory violations that formed the basis for Plaintiffs' CFA complaint. The panel precluded relitigation of the overall quantum of damages found by the jury in the trial against the corporate defendant. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that employees and officers of a corporation might be individually liable under the CFA for acts they undertake through the corporate entity. Furthermore, individual defendants are not collaterally estopped from relitigating the quantum of damages attributable to the CFA violations. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Allen v. V & A Bros., Inc." on Justia Law