April 30, 2017

Colorado Court of Appeals: Senior Living Facilities Constitute “Residential Property” for CDARA Purposes

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Broomfield Senior Living Owner, LLC v. R.G. Brinkmann Co. on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

Senior Facility—Residential—Commercial—Breach of Contract—Construction Defect Action Reform Act—Homeowner Protection Act of 2007—Accrual—Statute of Limitations—Public Policy—Manifestation of a Defect.

Broomfield Senior Living Owner, LLC (Broomfield) brought claims against R.G. Brinkmann Company (Brinkmann) for breach of contract, negligence, negligence per se, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of express warranties in connection with Brinkmann’s construction of Broomfield’s facility. Brinkmann moved for summary judgment, raising both contractual limitations and statutory limitations defenses to all of Broomfield’s claims. The trial court granted Brinkmann’s motion for summary judgment, reasoning that the two-year statute of limitations applicable to civil claims had expired before Broomfield filed its complaint and that Broomfield had waived its rights to assert claims for repairs under the contract by failing to give Brinkmann timely notice of defects or adequate time to make repairs.

On appeal, Broomfield contended that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment and applying the accrual provisions of the contract rather than the accrual provision of the Construction Defect Action Reform Act (CDARA), titled the “Homeowner Protection Act of 2007” (HPA). Under the parties’ contract, the contractual limitations period expired independent of when the acts or failures to act were discovered, while CDARA links the accrual of construction defect claims to their discovery. The HPA renders a contract’s limitation or waiver of CDARA’s rights and remedies void as against public policy in cases involving claims arising from residential property. The Colorado Court of Appeals determined that the term “residential” is “unambiguous and means an improvement on a parcel that is used as a dwelling or for living purposes.” Here, the building is used as a home for senior residents. Accordingly, the senior facility is “residential property,” Broomfield is a “residential property owner,” and the HPA applies. As such, the contract’s terms limiting the accrual of claims are void as a matter of public policy, and the relevant statutory claims accrual periods apply, making Broomfield’s action timely.

Broomfield also contended that the trial court erred in precluding its breach of warranty claim based on its failure to give Brinkmann an opportunity to correct the defects. The court determined that genuine issues of material fact remain regarding whether Brinkmann received prompt notice of the defects and whether it had an adequate opportunity to correct its work.

Broomfield further argued that the trial court erred in concluding that its negligence claims were barred and that it failed to establish that Brinkmann performed design services. The court concluded that these claims were not barred and the parties offered conflicting design services evidence. Further, a genuine issue of fact remains concerning whether the alleged defects are patent or latent.

The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

HB 17-1169: Giving Construction Professionals the Right to Cure Alleged Defects

On February 6, 2017, Rep. Timothy Leonard and Sen. Jack Tate introduced HB 17-1169, “Concerning a Construction Professional’s Statutory Right to Repair under the ‘Construction Defect Action Reform Act’.”

The bill clarifies that a construction professional has the right to receive notice from a prospective claimant concerning an alleged construction defect; to inspect the property; and then to elect to either repair the defect or tender an offer of settlement before the claimant can file a lawsuit seeking damages.

The bill was introduced in the House and assigned to the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. It is scheduled to be heard in committee on March 1, 2017, at 1:30 p.m.

SB 17-045: Requiring Equitable Allocation of Costs in Construction Defect Claims

On January 11, 2017, Sens. Angela Williams & Kevin Grantham and Reps. Cole Wist & Crisanta Duran introduced SB 17-045, “Concerning a Requirement for Equitable Allocation of the Costs of Defending a Construction Defect Claim.”

In a construction defect action in which more than one insurer has a duty to defend a party, the bill requires the court to apportion the costs of defense, including reasonable attorney fees, among all insurers with a duty to defend. An initial order apportioning costs must be made within 90 days after an insurer files its claim for contribution, and the court must make a final apportionment of costs after entry of a final judgment resolving all of the underlying claims against the insured. An insurer seeking contribution may also make a claim against an insured or additional insured who chose not to procure liability insurance for a period of time relevant to the underlying action. A claim for contribution may be assigned and does not affect any insurer’s duty to defend.

The bill was introduced in the Senate and assigned to the Business, Labor, & Technology Committee. It is scheduled for hearing in committee on February 2 at 2 p.m.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Construction Defect Claims Filed Against Subcontractors were Time-Barred

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sopris Lodging, LLC v. Schofeld Excavation, Inc. on Thursday, October 20, 2016.

Construction Defect—Summary Judgment—Time Bar.

TDC was the general contractor for construction of a hotel owned by Sopris Lodging (Sopris). On March 11, 2011, Sopris sent TDC a notice of claim regarding alleged construction defects at the hotel. On May 24, 2013, Sopris filed a complaint in district court asserting construction defect claims against one of the subcontractors of the hotel and against TDC’s individual principals, who had guaranteed TDC’s performance. On the same date, Sopris and TDC entered into an agreement to toll the statute of limitations for Sopris’s claims against TDC.

In 2014, TDC filed third-party claims against several subcontractors including Schofield and CEC for breach of contract, negligence, contribution, and indemnification. CEC and Schofield moved for summary judgment, asserting the claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations in C.R.S. § 13-80-102. TDC did not dispute that the claims accrued on or before March 11, 2011 but argued C.R.S. § 13-80-104(1)(b)(II) tolled the statute of limitations for a defendant’s third-party clams until 90 days after a settlement or final judgment on the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of CEC and Schofield.

On appeal, Sopris (standing in the shoes of TDC following a settlement and assignment of the third-party claims) argued it was error to find the claims time-barred. C.R.S. § 13-80-104(1)(b)(II) gives a contractor the option to bring indemnity or contribution claims against subcontractors in a separate lawsuit after the underlying claims are resolved and tolls the statute of limitations for such claims. But because TDC asserted third-party claims in the original construction defect litigation, the tolling section does not apply. Thus TDC’s third-party claims were time barred.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Claim Preclusion Bars Relitigation of Attorney Fee Issue in CDARA Case

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Layton Construction Co., Inc. v. Shaw Contract Flooring Services, Inc. on Thursday, October 20, 2016.

Summary Judgment—Claim Preclusion.

Layton Construction Co., Inc. (Layton) hired Shaw Contract Flooring Services, Inc. (Shaw) to perform work on a project for BCRE, the property owner. BCRE subsequently terminated its contract with Layton and gave Layton notice of numerous construction defects, a few of which related to Shaw’s work. Layton sued BCRE, alleging BCRE had failed to pay for work and seeking damages. BCRE counterclaimed for defective workmanship. Layton then added claims against various subcontractors, including Shaw.

Pursuant to a clause in the subcontract, Layton sought indemnification from Shaw for all damages and costs arising from any liability it might have to BCRE, including Shaw’s failure to provide a defense or pay Layton’s costs. Later, after BCRE specifically identified Shaw’s allegedly defective work, Layton moved to dismiss its indemnification claim against Shaw with prejudice. Layton’s motion stated the dismissal would include “those claims that have been or could have been asserted in this lawsuit.” The district court dismissed Layton’s claims with prejudice.

After a subsequent bench trial, the court entered an award for Layton on its claims against BCRE. The subcontractors remaining in the case were found liable to Layton under the indemnification provisions in their subcontracts.

Layton then filed this case against Shaw and other subcontractors, asserting claims for contractual and common law indemnity and declaratory judgment seeking an award of attorney fees, costs, and expenses it had incurred in defending BCRE’s claims in the prior case. Layton asserted the indemnification claim against Shaw under C.R.S. § 13-80-104 of the Construction Defect Action Reform Act (CDARA). Shaw moved for summary judgment, arguing Layton’s indemnification claims were barred by claim preclusion because they had been dismissed with prejudice. The district court granted the motion.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals noted that for a judicial proceeding to be precluded by a previous judgment, there must exist finality of the first judgment, identity of subject matter, identity of claims for relief, and identity or privity between parties to the actions.

Layton argued that its claims were not identical to those asserted against Shaw in the prior case. Because Layton could have asserted an indemnity claim for attorney fees and costs in the prior case there is identity of claims.

Layton also argued that CDARA modifies the doctrine of claim preclusion in the construction defect context by requiring splitting of indemnification claims. The Court found nothing in CDARA that abrogates the doctrine of claim preclusion in this case.

Layton further argued that various exceptions to the claim preclusion doctrine applied. The Court found that the exceptions to the doctrine of claim preclusion do not apply to this case.

Shaw requested attorney fees incurred on appeal, arguing that Layton’s appeal was substantially frivolous and vexatious. The Court agreed that the appeal was substantially frivolous and found that Layton’s assertion that it raised “novel” issues was “nothing more than a reflection of their futility.”

The judgment was affirmed and the case was remanded for the district court to determine the reasonable amount of Shaw’s attorney fees incurred on appeal.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Statute of Repose Acts as Absolute Bar to Bringing Suit After its Expiration

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sierra Pacific Industries, Inc. v. Bradbury on Thursday, September 8, 2016.

Construction Defect Action Reform Act—Summary Judgment—Statute of Repose.

Sierra Pacific Industries, Inc. hired Bradbury to install windows and doors on a condominium construction project. Bradbury began and completed this work in 2002.Sierra Pacific attended to leaks and water damage between 2004 and 2011, including two substantial retrofit repairs in 2005 and 2011. Bradbury did some repair work in 2004. Construction defect litigation resulted over the cost of the repairs.

In 2014 Sierra Pacific filed this indemnification action against Bradbury to recover losses incurred in the settlement of the defective construction case and damages for related contractual breaches. Bradbury filed for summary judgment under C.R.C.P. 56(b), asserting that the claims, brought nearly 10 years after Bradbury ceased repair efforts, were time barred by the six-year statute of limitation in Colorado’s Construction Defect Action Reform Act. The trial court granted Bradbury’s motion for summary judgment.

On appeal, Sierra Pacific argued it was error to find that its claims were barred by the six-year statute of repose because under C.R.S. § 13-80-104(1)(b), it was allowed to file claims against Bradbury within 90 days of settling the underlying case in 2014, notwithstanding the statute of repose. This exact argument was previously rejected by a division of the court of appeals and the court here rejected it for the same reasons. The court concluded that the settlement in the underlying case did not impact the application of the statue of repose.

Sierra Pacific also contended that summary judgment was inappropriate because there remains a dispute of material fact as to when the statute of repose expired. Sierra Pacific argued that even if the statute of repose was not tolled by the settlement, the period of repose did not commence until the improvements to the property were completed in 2011. C.R.S. §§ 13-80-104(1)(a) and (2) provide a statute of repose that expires six years after substantial completion of improvements to real property, unless it is extended two years because the underlying cause of action arose during the fifth or sixth year after such substantial completion. Sierra Pacific argued that “substantial completion” did not occur until the repairs were finished in 2011. The court reasoned that a subcontractor has substantially completed its role in the improvement at issue when it finishes working on the improvement, and the statute of repose commences upon substantial completion. Here, the project was substantially completed in 2002, or in no event later than 2004, when the last repairs by Bradbury were completed. Moreover, there is no tolling of the statute of repose based on another’s efforts to repair work.

Under the applicable statute of repose, Sierra Pacific’s claims against Bradbury were time barred, and the district court properly granted Bradbury’s motion for summary judgment. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals Kicks the Can as to Whether HPA Voids Limitations-of-Liability Clauses in Residential A/E Contracts Between Construction Professionals

Tim_GordonBy Timothy Gordon

Colorado’s Homeowner Protection Act (the “HPA”) protects homeowners by voiding any contractual provision that would result in the waiver of a homeowner’s rights under the Construction Defects Action Reform Act. C.R.S. § 13-20-806(7)(a). But some have argued that this same law should also void certain waivers and releases in agreements between construction professionals working on residential projects. Recently, the Colorado Court of Appeals was faced with, but did not decide, this issue.

The HPA provision in question provides as follows:

In order to preserve Colorado residential property owners’ legal rights and remedies, in any civil action or arbitration proceeding described in section 13-20-802.5 (1), any express waiver of, or limitation on, the legal rights, remedies, or damages provided by the “Construction Defect Action Reform Act”, this part 8, or provided by the “Colorado Consumer Protection Act”, article 1 of title 6, C.R.S., as described in this section, or on the ability to enforce such legal rights, remedies, or damages within the time provided by applicable statutes of limitation or repose are void as against public policy.

C.R.S. § 13-20-806(7)(a).

The reference to “section 13-20-802.5(1)” is to the definition of the word “Action”, which is defined as “a civil action or an arbitration proceeding for damages, indemnity, or contribution brought against a construction professional to assert a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third party claim for damages or loss to, or the loss of use of, real or personal property or personal injury caused by a defect in the design or construction of an improvement to real property.” So the basic argument is that construction professionals who bring cross-claims or third party claims for indemnification against other construction professionals should be protected under C.R.S. § 13-20-806(7)(a).

In Taylor Morrison of Colorado, Inc. v. Bemas Construction, Inc., et al., 2014 COA 10, Taylor Morrison hired Terracon to perform certain geotechnical engineering and construction materials testing for a residential subdivision that Taylor Morrison was developing. After many homes were constructed, homeowners began complaining about cracks in the drywall. Taylor Morrison investigated the complaints and ended up spending significant amounts of money to remedy the defective conditions.

Taylor Morrison then sued Terracon to recover the money that it spent remedying the defects. Terracon’s contract with Taylor Morrison limited Terracon’s liability to $550,000, but Taylor Morrison was seeking more. So Taylor Morrison filed a motion with the trial court, asking the trial court to determine whether the HPA invalidated the limitation of liability in its contract with Terracon. The trial court ruled in favor of Terracon, holding that the HPA did not apply to invalidate a limitation of liability clause in a contract between it and Taylor Morrison because the HPA was meant to protect homeowners, not commercial entities. The Court of Appeals affirmed, but on different grounds. Specifically, the Court of Appeals held that the HPA could not apply retroactively to the contract between Terracon and Taylor Morrison. So the issue of whether the HPA would void a limitation of liability in an engineer’s agreement with a developer remains unresolved at the appellate level.

Consider the outstanding issue in light of the Court of Appeals’ decision in Mid Valley Real Estate Solutions V, LLC v. Hepworth-Pawlak Geotechnical, Inc., et al., 2013 COA 119. There, the Court of Appeals held that a bank holding title to residential property qualifies as a “homeowner” for purposes of the economic loss rule, and therefore may bring tort claims against construction professionals for construction defects. The Court’s reasoning in Mid Valley Real Estate Solutions is broad enough to include just about any person or entity holding title to residential property. So query the following:

  • Can developers who still hold title to homes that they have developed sue their own subcontractors and consultants in tort for alleged construction defects under Mid Valley Real Estate Solutions?
  • If so, are the developers bound by limitations of liability in their contracts with their subcontractors and consultants, or does the HPA void such limitations?
  • Finally, does it make sense to make a distinction between developers who still hold title to homes and developers who no longer hold title to homes when deciding whether or not the HPA applies?

Timothy Gordon represents construction and commercial real estate clients in complex disputes, and understands the interrelationship between the long-term real estate development, project construction, and property management. A thought leader in construction law, he currently authors Construction Law in Colorado, a blog that provides insight on key cases and developments relevant to construction law in Colorado, where this post originally appeared on February 21, 2014. He is the Co-Managing Editor of The Practitioner’s Guide to Colorado Construction Law, a three-volume treatise on construction law in Colorado.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.