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Team Contractors, LLC v. Waypoint Nola, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 6, 2019

TEAM CONTRACTORS, LLC, Plaintiff
v.
WAYPOINT NOLA, LLC, ET AL., Defendants

         SECTION: “E” (2)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SUSIE MORGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are four motions in limine, filed by Defendant Waypoint NOLA, L.L.C. (“Waypoint”).[1] The motions deal with the issue of the damages recoverable at the second trial in this matter. Plaintiff Team Contractors, LLC (“Team”), opposes.[2] The parties also have submitted memoranda regarding the scope of the trial and damages recoverable.[3] For the following reasons, the motions are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, as set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         This dispute arises from contracts made in connection with the construction and renovation of Waypoint's property at 1250 Poydras St. in New Orleans (“the Project”). On September 19, 2014, Waypoint entered a contract with Development Construction Management LLC, represented by Steve Laski (“Laski”), under which Laski agreed to provide project management services for the Project.[4] On September 24, 2019, Team and Waypoint entered into a construction contract (“the Prime Contract”), under which Team became the general contractor for the Project.[5] Waypoint also entered into a contract with HC Architecture, Inc. (“HCA”), under which HCA agreed to serve as the project's architect.[6] HCA, in turn, subcontracted the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design work to KLG, L.L.C. (“KLG”).[7]

         On February 5, 2016, Team filed a complaint against HCA, KLG, and Waypoint.[8]Team alleged there were errors in the plans and specifications provided by Waypoint for the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems relating to the construction project, which were prepared by KLG.[9] Team also alleged Waypoint directed it to modify the MEP systems, but did not compensate Team for the additional costs Team incurred as a result of the modifications.[10] Team brought a breach of contract claim against Waypoint, alleging Waypoint failed to compensate Team, in breach of the construction contract.[11]Team also brought negligence claims against Waypoint, HCA, and KLG, alleging they breached their duties of care and caused damage to Team.[12]

         On July 10, 2017, after this case was filed but before trial, Waypoint paid Team $1, 023, 514.09.[13] Team's breach of contract claim at the time of trial was divided into (1) remaining sums Team alleged were outstanding and (2) contractual interest on the $1, 023, 514, 09 resulting from the alleged late payment.

         This Court conducted a jury trial in this matter from February 26, 2018 to March 9, 2018. There were three remaining claims at trial: Team's breach of contract claim against Waypoint and Team's negligence claims against HCA and KLG.[14] Team did not pursue a negligence claim against Waypoint at trial.[15]

         At trial, Team used a demonstrative exhibit labeled “Design-Related Acceleration, ” breaking down its claim into the following categories: “Unpaid Subcontractor Labor, ” “Team Hourly Labor, ” “Supervision, ” “Recurring Expenses, ” and “Extended General Conditions.”[16] Team listed a total damages amount of $1, 342, 087.05 for its design-related acceleration claims.[17] Team used a separate demonstrative exhibit labeled “Unpaid Contract Amounts Unrelated to Design Errors, ” breaking down its contract claim against Waypoint and listing a total damages amount of $103, 423.27 for its claim for “unpaid contract amounts unrelated to design errors.”[18]

         In the section of the jury verdict form dealing with liability, the jury found HCA and KLG's conduct violated their professional duties of care and caused damage to Team.[19] The jury also found Waypoint had not breached the contract.[20]

         In the section of the jury verdict form dealing with damages, the jury was asked separately about the amount of damages on the design-related acceleration claims, each party's percentage of responsibility, and the amount of damages on Team's contract claim against Waypoint. In the question dealing with the amount of damages on the design-related acceleration claims, the jury awarded Team $565, 979.99 in damages, broken down as follows:

Subcontractor Labor

$219, 353.74

Team Hourly Labor

$90, 015.89

Supervision

$136, 560.90

Recurring Expenses

$120, 049.46

Extended Home Office Overhead

$0.00

TOTAL:

$565, 979.99 [21]

         In its responses to the next question, dealing with comparative fault, the jury assigned Waypoint and its agent responsibility for damages.[22] The jury assigned 30% of the responsibility to HCA, 60% to KLG, 5% to Waypoint, and 5% to Waypoint's project manager Steve Laski, who was not a party to the suit.[23] On the question with respect to damages on the breach of contract claim separate from design-related acceleration, the jury assigned $0 in damages as follows:

Unapproved Change Orders

$0

Contractual Interest

$0

TOTAL:

$0 [24]

         On March 19, 2018, the Court entered judgment on the verdict against Defendants HCA and KLG for $509, 381.99, representing 90% of the total damages the jury awarded on the design-related acceleration claims.[25] The Court entered judgment in favor of Defendant Waypoint on the breach of contract claim.[26] On April 2, 2018, Team filed a motion to amend, arguing the jury's finding that Waypoint did not breach its contract with Team was irreconcilably inconsistent with its assigning Waypoint and its agent responsibility for damages.[27]

         On September 6, 2018, the Court granted Team's motion.[28] The Court found the jury verdict irreconcilably inconsistent, ordered “that the Court's judgment for Defendant Waypoint on Plaintiff Team's breach of contract claim” be vacated, and ordered a new trial on this claim.[29]

         On March 20, 2019, the Court denied Team's motion for summary judgment on Team's liability on the breach of contract claim.[30] The Court found Team had not shown it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law that Waypoint breached the contract.

         The instant motions and the parties' memoranda deal with the scope of the damages claim to be tried.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. At the second trial, Team will not be permitted to recover damages on its design-related acceleration claims.

         At the first trial in this matter, the jury decided the amount of damages caused by design-related errors, and the damages have been paid.[31] In its Order of September 6, 2018, the Court ordered “that the Court's judgment for Defendant Waypoint on Plaintiff Team's breach of contract claim” be vacated.[32] It did not vacate the section of the judgment relating to the jury's finding of damages caused by design-related errors.

         “It is well settled that a new trial on part of the issues is properly resorted to if it clearly appears that the issue to be retried is so distinct and separate from the others that a trial of it alone may be without injustice.”[33] At the first trial in this matter, Team tried damages caused by the design-related acceleration errors.

         In its Order of September 6, 2018, the Court did not disturb these factual findings regarding damages caused by the design-related errors or vacate the portion of the order based on these findings. The Court ordered that there be a retrial only of the breach of contract claim and not the design-related acceleration claims.

         II. At the second trial, Team will be permitted to seek damages only relating to its contract claim.

         At the first trial in this matter, in Team's demonstrative exhibit labeled “Unpaid Contract Amounts Unrelated to Design Errors, ” Team broke down its contract claim against Waypoint into the following six categories: “Guestroom Cabinet Modifications, ” “Owner Directed Painting of Stairwells Floors 11-17, ” “PVC Owner Directed Changes Moved from PCO #81, ” “Reconcile Original Change Order #1 VE Credit . . ., ” “Owner Directed Unapproved L. Pugh & Assoc. Change Orders, ” and “Contractual Interest on Unpaid Contract Balance.”[34] Team listed a total damages amount of $103, 423.27 for its claim for “unpaid contract amounts unrelated to design ...


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