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Posts Tagged ‘Connecticut’

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Construction Claim Arbitration and Res Judicata

Posted on: August 20th, 2019

By: Catherine Bednar

The Supreme Court of Connecticut recently affirmed the Appellate Court’s determination that when a property owner and a general contractor enter into binding, unrestricted arbitration to resolve disputes, the subcontractors are presumptively in privity with the general contractor for purposes of precluding subsequent litigation against them. In Girolametti v. Michael Horton Assocs., 332 Conn. 67 (June 25, 2019), Connecticut’s Supreme Court joined other jurisdictions in adopting a rebuttable presumption of privity between general contractors and subcontractors on a construction project in applying the doctrine of res judicata.

The Plaintiffs in Girolametti owned a retail store and hired the general contractor, Rizzo Corporation, to construct an expansion. After completion of the project, Plaintiffs and Rizzo entered arbitration to resolve various disputes concerning the Project, including Plaintiffs’ claims for alleged construction defects and delay and Rizzo’s claims for additional payments owed. Perhaps believing they would fare better in separate litigation, Plaintiffs abandoned the proceedings on the thirty-third day of the arbitration, which concluded two days later, and failed to present their damages claim contrary to the arbitrator’s recommendations.  The arbitrator ultimately entered an award in Rizzo’s favor.

Plaintiffs then pursued two lawsuits against Rizzo and five subcontractors collectively, which focused on the design and construction of the building.  All defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiffs’ claims had or could have been raised and resolved during the arbitration and were therefore barred. The trial judge granted Rizzo’s motion for summary judgment, but denied the subcontractors’ motions, holding the subs were not parties to the arbitration and not in privity with Rizzo. The Appellate Court reversed and granted summary judgment to the defendants.

In affirming the Appellate Court’s decision, the Supreme Court of Connecticut explained that “[w]hen applying the law to complex endeavors such as large-scale commercial construction, it often is desirable to adopt default rules, whether in the form of legal presumptions or standardized contracts.” The court reasoned the new default rule was an efficient and fair tool for resolving construction disputes.  A presumption of privity makes sense because not only is the general contractor in privity of contract with its subcontractors, but the general contractor is also responsible for the work of the subcontractors.  The court noted that absent a default rule, a property owner could relitigate its failed claims against the general contractor by bringing piecemeal, fact-intensive claims against subcontractors. The court also recognized that the default rule (which parties may contract around if they choose) is beneficial to both property owners and contractors by, resolving all outstanding disputes involving work on a project in the context of an owner-general contractor arbitration.

Having adopted the rebuttal presumption of privity between general contractors and subcontractors for the purposes of res judicata, the court found the facts and circumstances in the Girolametti case did not support an exception to the default rule. The court found the Plaintiffs reasonably should have understood the arbitration with Rizzo was the proper forum for addressing any claims against the subcontractors which were foreseeable at the time. In particular, the court pointed to the parties’ use of a standard form owner-contractor construction contract for their prime contract as evidence of their intent to abide by industry norms, making the general contractor responsible for all subcontractor work not separately contracted by the owner. The contract also contained a broad, unrestricted arbitration provision.

The Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in Girolametti serves as a reminder to parties engaged in complex construction disputes to carefully consider the scope of their arbitration provisions and evaluate the potential need to add claims and join third parties.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Catherine Bednar at [email protected].

Connecticut and Delaware Enact New Data Security Laws for the Insurance Industry

Posted on: August 8th, 2019

By: Ben N. Dunlap

Connecticut and Delaware have enacted new laws imposing data security obligations on the insurance industry, joining New York, South Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, and Mississippi.

Connecticut’s Insurance Data Security Law, signed by the Governor on July 26, 2019, creates new information security, risk management, and reporting requirements for carriers, producers, and other businesses licensed by the Connecticut Insurance Department.  Following the model of New York’s Department of Financial Services 2017 Cybersecurity Regulations, the Connecticut law requires licensees to maintain an information security program corresponding to the size and complexity of the licensee’s operations; perform regular risk assessments; and designate a responsible individual to oversee the information security program.  The law requires oversight by the licensee’s board of directors and annual certification of compliance to the Insurance Department.  The law also imposes a new reporting requirement: licensees will also have to report cybersecurity incidents to the Insurance Department within three business days.  The law becomes effective October 1, 2019, but licensees have until October 1, 2020 to prepare and implement programs compliant with the new requirements.

The Delaware Insurance Data Security Act, signed by the Governor on July 31, 2019, establishes a regulatory framework requiring insurers licensed to do business in Delaware to develop and implement a comprehensive data security program. Following the 2018 Model Act published by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the Delaware law requires insurers to report instances of data breaches to the Delaware Insurance Commissioner and consumers, and it authorizes the Department of Insurance to investigate violations of and impose penalties against insurance carriers.

The Delaware law requires licensees to (1) implement information security programs and conduct risk assessments to try to prevent data breaches and compromising of consumers’ nonpublic information and personal data; (2) conduct thorough investigations to determine if a cybersecurity event or data breach may have occurred and whose data may have been compromised; (3) notify the Insurance Commissioner within three business days of determining that a data breach or cybersecurity event has occurred; (4) notify all impacted consumers within 60 days of the determination that their data has or may have been compromised; and (5) offer free credit monitoring services for one year to consumers impacted by breaches.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Ben Dunlap at [email protected].

Connecticut Governor Signs Anti-Indemnity Law for Snow and Ice Management Contracts

Posted on: July 23rd, 2019

By: Marc Finkel

Connecticut recently became the third state, joining Illinois and Colorado, to pass legislation prohibiting certain indemnity and hold harmless clauses within snow and ice management services contracts.  An Act Concerning Snow and Ice Control Services Contracts (“the Act”) was signed into law by Governor Ned Lamont on July 12, 2019.  The Act forbids a service receiver from including provisions within snow and ice removal contracts that: (1) requires a service provider to indemnify a service receiver for acts not required under the terms of a snow and ice removal contract; or (2) requires a service provider to hold a service receiver harmless for the acts or omissions of the service receiver or its agents or employees.

The Accredited Snow Contractors Association has championed the passage of this legislation and has advocated for the passage of similar legislation throughout the United States.  Anti-indemnity legislation, such as the Act, has the anticipated benefit of ensuring that property owners and/or managers maintain adequate treatment for their roadways and sidewalks following a snow or ice event by forbidding the transfer of contractual defense and indemnity for the property owner or manager’s own negligence.  Additionally, the Act could also help to lower insurance premiums for snow and ice removal contractors by limiting tenders of contractual defense and indemnity by property owners and/or management companies.

Josh Ferguson and Marc Finkel of Freeman Mathis and Gary will join Kevin Gilbride of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association to discuss the Act at ASCA Snow Academy: Operating Under the New Law on August 20, 2019 at the Hartford/Windsor Marriott Airport Hotel in Windsor, CT. We look forward to seeing you there.

For further information on the Act or for inquiries involving hospitality or premises liability law, please contact Marc Finkel at [email protected].

“Sanctuary Cities” Get a Reprieve For Now

Posted on: January 10th, 2019

By: Pamela Everett

As many city, county and state attorneys are aware, in 2017 the US. Department of Justice (DOJ) added three conditions to the application process for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (“Byrne JAG”) program in an effort to eliminate so called sanctuary cities. The Byrne JAG program originated from the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968,  which created grants to assist the law enforcement efforts of state and local authorities. Under the Byrne JAG program, states and localities may apply for funds to support criminal justice programs in a variety of categories, including law enforcement, prosecution, crime prevention, corrections, drug treatment, technology, victim and witness services, and mental health.

The first condition, called the “Notice Condition” requires grantees, upon request, to give advance notice to the Department of Homeland Security of the scheduled release date and time of aliens housed in state or local correctional facilities. The second condition, called the “Access Condition,” requires grantees to give federal agents access to aliens in state or local correctional facilities in order to question them about their immigration status. The third condition, called the “Compliance Condition” requires grantees to certify their compliance with 8 U.S.C. § 1373, which prohibits states and localities from restricting their officials from communicating with immigration authorities regarding anyone’s citizenship or immigration status. Grantees are also required to monitor any subgrantees’ compliance with the three conditions, and to notify DOJ if they become aware of credible evidence of a violation of the Compliance Condition. Additionally, all grantees must certify their compliance with the three conditions, which carries the risk of criminal prosecution, civil penalties, and administrative remedies. The DOJ also requires the jurisdictions’’ legal counsel to certify compliance with the conditions.

A number of jurisdictions have sued the DOJ and the U. S. Attorney General regarding these new conditions and sought a nationwide injunction; however, so far, none have  been successful in obtaining a nationwide injunction.  Recently a partial win was handed to the states of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, and Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Virginia and the City of New York. The States and the City challenged the imposition of the three conditions on five bases: (1) the conditions violates the separation of powers, (2) the conditions were ultra vires under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), (3) the conditions were not in accordance with law under the APA, (4) the conditions were arbitrary and capricious under the APA, and (5) § 1373 violated the Tenth Amendment’s prohibition on commandeering.  This case challenged the authority of the Executive Branch of the federal government to compel states to adopt its preferred immigration policies by imposing conditions on congressionally authorized funding to which the states are otherwise entitled.

While the court held that the plaintiffs did not make a sufficient showing of nationwide impact to demonstrate that a nationwide injunction was necessary to provide relief to them, it did find as follows: (1) The Notice, Access, and Compliance Conditions were ultra vires and not in accordance with law under the APA. (2) 8 U.S.C. § 1373(a)–(b), insofar as it applies to states and localities, is facially unconstitutional under the anticommandeering doctrine of the Tenth Amendment. (3)  The Notice, Access, and Compliance Conditions violated the constitutional separation of powers. (4)The Notice, Access, and Compliance Conditions were arbitrary and capricious under the APA.  (5) The DOJ was mandated to reissue the States’ FY 2017 Byrne JAG award documents without the Notice, Access, or Compliance Conditions, and upon acceptance to disburse those awards as they would in the ordinary course without regard to those conditions.  Additionally, the DOJ was prohibited from imposing or enforcing the Notice, Access, or Compliance Conditions for FY 2017 Byrne JAG funding for the States, the City, or any of their agencies or political subdivisions.

The DOJ was prohibited from imposing or enforcing the Notice, Access, or Compliance Conditions for FY 2017 Byrne JAG funding for the States, the City, or any of their agencies or political subdivisions.

There are several other cases pending, including one filed by the City of San Francisco, seeking the issuance of a nationwide injunction to prohibit the enforcement of the new conditions. Stay tuned for more developments in this area.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Pamela Everett at [email protected].

 

Related litigation: City of Chicago v. Sessions, 264 F. Supp. 3d 933 (N.D. Ill. 2017); affd. appeal, City of Chicago v. Sessions, 888 F.3d 272 (7th Cir. 2018), but later stayed the nationwide scope of the injunction pending en banc review. Conference City of Evanston v. Sessions, No. 18 Civ. 4853, slip op. at 11 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 9, 2018) City of Philadelphia v. Sessions, 280 F. Supp. 3d 579 (E.D. Pa. 2017); City of Philadelphia v. Sessions, 309 F. Supp. 3d 289 (E.D. Pa. 2018)(currently on appeal); California ex rel. Becerra v. Sessions, 284 F. Supp. 3d 1015 (N.D. Cal. 2018)