CCP 998 Does Not Confer an Independent Right to Attorneys’ Fees

By: Tony Carucci

A so-called “offer to compromise” under California Code of Civil Procedure section 998 can reverse the parties’ entitlement to costs after the date of the offer, depending on the outcome of the litigation. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 998. When making a 998 offer, parties may designate the plaintiff as the prevailing party and provide that the plaintiff may seek attorneys’ fees allowed by law, or expressly include the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees within the amount of the offer. But does an offer that simply provides that the plaintiff may seek attorneys’ fees “allowed by law” provide the plaintiff with an independent right to attorneys’ fees?… Read More »

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What If Your CCP 998 Offer is Silent on Costs?

By: Tony Carucci

In California, the “prevailing party” in litigation is generally entitled to recover its costs as a matter of law. See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 1032. But under California Code of Civil Procedure section 998, a party may make a so-called “offer to compromise,” which can reverse the parties’ entitlement to costs after the date of the offer, depending on the outcome of the litigation. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 998. The potential payoff of a 998 offer is that “If an offer made by a defendant is not accepted and the plaintiff fails to obtain a more favorable judgment or award, the plaintiff shall not recover his or her postoffer costs and shall pay the defendant’s costs from the time of the offer.” Cal.… Read More »

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Cybersecurity on Your Project: Why Not Follow National Security Strategy?

By Rick Erickson

In its recent Cybersecurity Strategy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defined “cyberspace” as “the independent network of information technology infrastructure, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computers, information and communications systems, and embedded processors and controllers.”  To DHS, protecting cyberspace includes threats against “federal and nonfederal information systems.”  In other words, both private and public interests are at risk.  In his 2018 National Defense Strategy, U.S. Department of Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, essentially concurred in declaring cyberspace a “warfighting domain” and promising to “invest in cyber defense, resilience, and the continued integration of cyber capabilities into the full spectrum of military operations.”

The construction industry is a key player in cybersecurity because contractors, designers and owners are responsible for building and delivering projects providing critical public services like national defense, health care, law enforcement, transportation, and utilities.… Read More »

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When Does a Contractor Legally Abandon a Construction Project?

By Rick Erickson

Lately, we’ve been spending more time as litigators pursuing and defending claims of abandonment against contractors. It has become apparent that abandonment is often misinterpreted in its legal meaning and effect.  Here are some thoughts on abandonment to consider.

On its face, the concept of abandonment is simple enough. For any number of reasons, a contractor abandons a project when the contractor stops showing up.  Abandonment is major concern for all players on the project because it causes critical path delays and significant costs to replace the contractor with another contractor, many times at a much higher cost than the original contractors’ bid.… Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court Confirms a Prevailing Homeowner Can Recover Fees on Implied Warranty Claims

By Rick Erickson

On August 9th, in Sirrah Enterprises, L.L.C. v. Wunderlich, the Arizona Supreme Court settled the question about recovery of attorneys’ fees after prevailing on implied warranty claims against a residential contractor.  The simple answer is, yes, a homeowner who prevails on the merits can recover the fees they spent to prove that shoddy construction breached the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability.  Why?  Because, as Justice Timmer articulated, “[t]he implied warranty is a contract term.”  Although implied, the warranty is legally part of the written agreement in which “a residential builder warrants that its work is performed in a workmanlike manner and that the structure is habitable.”

In other words, a claim based on the implied warranty not only arises out of the contract, the claim is actually based on a contract term.… Read More »

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Transfer of Property Title to a Holding Company Did Not Divest Landowner of Owner-Occupant Status Under A.R.S. § 33-1002(B)

By:  Richard G. Erickson

Recently, in Marco Crane & Rigging Co. v. Masaryk, 703 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 29 (Dec. 30, 2014), the Arizona Court of Appeals established that a subcontractor on a residential project has no lien rights against an owner-occupant, even though the homeowner transferred the property’s title to a holding company (an Arizona limited liability company) after the subcontractor commenced work.

In other words, the lien protections afforded to owner-occupants are determined, at the latest, when a contractor records its lien.  After the contractor commences work and records its lien, the homeowner’s actions in negating owner-occupant status do not divest the homeowner of statutory protections against lienholders. … Read More »

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General Contractor’s Prospective Waiver Of Its Lien Rights Is Enforceable In California

By: Lyndsey Torp

http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/lyndsey_torp

In another decision favoring lenders (See http://www.swlaw.com/blog/real-estate-litigation/2014/08/29/arizona-supreme-court-to-contractor-sorry-but-equitable-subrogation-of-a-banks-later-deed-of-trust-trumps-earlier-mechanics-lien-rights/), the California Court of Appeal, in an opinion published in September 2014, entitled Moorefield Construction, Inc. v. Intervest Mortgage Investment Company, et al., D065464, held an original contractor can contractually waive or impair its own lien rights, even before it gets paid or performs work, as long as it does not waive or impair the lien rights of its subcontractors. In Moorefield, the court of appeal reversed a trial court’s decision awarding a general contractor $2.2 million on its mechanic’s lien.  In doing so, the court of appeal upheld a subordination agreement that the general contractor, Moorefield Construction, Inc., signed with the lender, Intervest Mortgage, “subordinating” the general contractor’s mechanic’s lien claim to the lender’s deed of trust, which was security for the construction loan.… Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court to Contractor: Sorry But Equitable Subrogation of a Bank’s Later Deed of Trust Trumps Earlier Mechanics’ Lien Rights

By Rick Erickson

http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/rick_erickson

The smoke has finally cleared in a hard and long-fought battle between a bank and contractor both claiming priority to foreclose millions of dollars on a Phoenix condominium project. The project, well-known as Summit at Copper Square in central Phoenix (“Summit”), went broke in 2007. The foreclosure case began in 2008, and the construction and real estate industries have been keeping a close eye on the outcome. In the end, the Arizona Supreme Court weighed in for its “first opportunity to address the interplay between equitable subrogation and the priority granted to mechanics’ liens by [Arizona Revised Statutes] § 33-992(A).”

The Arizona Supreme Court issued its decision in The Weitz Company L.L.C.… Read More »

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