Justia Iowa Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant's motion to suppress physical evidence and statements based on a police officer's alleged promise of leniency, holding that there was no improper promise of leniency.The officer at issue initiated a Terry stop on a public stop after observing Defendant make a possible drug buy. The officer told Defendant if he cooperated he would not be arrested that day but may be arrested later. Three months after Defendant handed over crack cocaine and marijuana the officer charged him with possession. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to suppress, concluding that the evidence obtained after the officer promised leniency was fruit of the poisonous tree. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the officer did not improperly promise leniency. View "State v. Hillery" on Justia Law

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In this construction law case, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Appellee, holding that Appellee was not entitled to claim preclusion or issue preclusion even though the federal court found in Appellee favor in a parallel federal case.The dispute in this case arose out of a contract between two subcontractors in a construction project. In the federal case, subcontracting parties litigated questions related to the fabrication of the salt conveyor system. The federal district court ruled in favor of Appellee. Appellant filed a second lawsuit in state court against subcontractors involved in the federal case. Appellee filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the judgment in the federal litigation compelled judgment in its favor in the state court litigation. The district court granted summary judgment for Appellee on both claim preclusion and issue preclusion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) under Noel v. Noel, 334 N.W.2d 146 (Iowa 1983), and Pagel v. Notbohm, 186 N.W.2d 638 (Iowa 1971), Appellee waived its claim preclusion argument; and (2) that the state district court ruling took too broad an approach to what the "issue" was in the federal lawsuit. View "Lemartec Engineering & Construction v. Advance Conveying Technologies, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Construction Law
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In this dispute over Contractor's attorney fees the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that Homeowners waived their assertion that including attorney fees in a mechanic's lien foreclosure decree violated their homestead rights, holding that Homeowners needed to raise their homestead exemption before the district court entered the foreclosure decree.This appeal stemmed from a judicial determination that Homeowners had to pay most of Contractor's unpaid bill and that Contractor was entitled to foreclosure of its mechanic's lien. Later, a revised decree was entered granting Contractor the right to foreclose a mechanic's lien against the property both for the principal amount due and for the attorney fees. When a second sheriff's sale of the residence was impending, Homeowners, for the first time, asserted that including attorney fees in the mechanic's lien foreclosure decree violated their homestead rights. The judicial court found a waiver by Homeowners. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) attorney fees can be recovered in a mechanic's lien foreclosure action against the homestead; and (2) the district court correctly found that principles of res judicata and waiver barred Homeowners' assertion of a homestead exemption. View "Standard Water Control Systems, Inc. v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court holding that mechanic's liens arising from the provision of materials and labor to a lessee did not attach to the property of the lessor under the circumstances of this case and that a construction mortgage lien ultimately obtained by the owner of the land on the leasehold and property of the lessee had prior over the later-filed mechanic's liens, holding that the district court's judgment was without error.Specifically, the Court held (1) the legislature has reworked Iowa Code 572.2 to limit mechanic's liens to property belonging to a narrowly defined owner, and therefore, Denniston & Patridge Co. v. Romp, 56 N.W.2d 601 (Iowa 1953), and Stroh Corp. v. K&S Development Corp., 247 N.W.2d 750 (Iowa 1976), are no longer good law; (2) the priority of the after-acquired construction mortgage lien was not defeated by the doctrine of merger; and (3) there was no fraud under the circumstances presented. View "Winger Contracting Co. v. Cargill, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lumber Specialties was hired as a subcontractor on a construction project to provide the truss package and certain engineering services. Dinsdale Construction was hired to supply the labor and building materials on the project. During a visit to the site, an employee of Lumber Specialties supplied false information to the builder regarding the structural integrity of the building. The visit was done was a courtesy to the builder and for the general goodwill of the business. The structure subsequently collapsed due to inadequate temporary bracing of the trusses. Dinsdale had not followed the industry standard temporary bracing plan. Dinsdale Construction brought suit against Lumber Specialties, alleging breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation. The jury returned a verdict for Dinsdale Construction on the negligent misrepresentation claim. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and reversed the district court judgment, holding (1) a defendant who is not acting in its information-giving capacity does not have a duty of care under the negligent misrepresentation tort; and (2) Lumber Specialties’ employee’s statements were excluded from the imposition of duty under the tort. View "Dinsdale Construction, LLC v. Lumber Specialties, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a contractor-developer, bought a residential lot from a realtor in order to build townhomes for sale. Plaintiff filed a complaint against the original developers whose contractor had performed purportedly substandard soil work, alleging that the lot had improperly compacted backfill which required significant additional work to get it ready for construction. Plaintiff sued under the theory of breach of the implied warranty of workmanlike construction. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that the implied warranty did not apply to the sale of a lot without a dwelling. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the implied warranty of workmanlike construction does not apply to a for-profit developer’s purchase of a lot with no dwelling, regardless of the work performed by the seller to make the lot buildable. View "Rosauer Corp. v. Sapp Dev., LLC" on Justia Law

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After a bank acquired an apartment complex by deed in lieu of foreclosure the bank discovered substantial black mold in the units. The bank sued the builder, alleging, inter alia, that the builder breached the implied warranty of workmanlike construction. The district court granted summary judgment to the builder on the implied warranty claim. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the bank may not recover under the implied warranty of workmanlike construction, as the implied warranty of workmanlike construction does not extend to a lender acquiring apartment buildings by a deed in lieu of foreclosure. View "Luana Savings Bank v. Pro-Build Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) hired a general contractor, which was a “targeted small business” (TSB), for two public construction contracts. The general contractor subcontracted with three subcontractors, which the general contractor failed to pay in full. The subcontractors sued IDOT and the general contractor. The district court granted IDOT’s motion to dismiss and entered default judgments against the general contractor, ruling that, in absence of a bond, the subcontractors’ remedy against the state was limited to the funds IDOT retained on its contract with the general contractor. The subcontractors appealed, arguing that Iowa Code 573.2, the statute that governs subcontractors’ remedies for unpaid work on public improvements when the state waives the performance bond for a general contractor that is a TSB, allowed broader recovery rights and required IDOT to step into the TSB’s shoes to pay the balances owed them. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 573.2 operates as a waiver of sovereign immunity that allows subcontractors to recover from IDOT the unpaid balances TSBs owe for work on public improvements. Remanded. View "Star Equip., Ltd. v. State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a construction supply business that entered into a dispute with City over a project upgrading City's wastewater treatment facility. After City excluded Plaintiff from its list of preapproved material suppliers, Plaintiff filed this action seeking a declaration that City's preapproval process violated Iowa's public construction bidding statute and constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. In addition, Plaintiff sought relief under the Open Records Act, claiming that City's significant delay in responding to Plaintiff's open records request violated the Open Records Act. The district court rejected each of Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the judgment dismissing Plaintiff's public biding and constitutional claims, as (i) Plaintiff lacked standing to challenge City's preapproval process, and (ii) Plaintiff's constitutional claims failed on the merits; and (2) reversed the district court's ruling denying Plaintiff relief under the open records law, as City's substantial and inadequately explained delay in responding to Plaintiff's open records request violated the law. View "Horsfield Materials, Inc. v. City of Dyersville" on Justia Law

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In this breach of contract case, the Supreme Court considered whether the district court erred in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial based on several rulings by the district court that Defendant claimed materially affected his rights and denied him a fair trial. The district court refused Defendant's request to exclude exhibits disclosed by Plaintiff the day before trial in violation of the district court's pretrial scheduling order. Additionally, the district court refused the request to declare a mistrial when Plaintiff testified to certain matters in violation of the district court's stipulated ruling on a motion in limine and denied Defendant's motion for a directed verdict. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial because it concluded the district court abused its discretion in admitting the exhibits into evidence. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals and affirmed the district court, holding that Defendant had not shown the district court committed any error in its decisions during the trial that substantially prejudiced Defendant's rights to a fair trial. Thus, Defendant was not entitled to a new trial. View "Fry v. Blauvelt " on Justia Law