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Foundation Arbitration Doesn’t Preclude Suing Over Cracks

March 28, 2012 — CDJ Staff

The Louisiana Court of Appeals has reversed the decision of a lower court, allowing a construction defect case to go through. In Greer v. Town Construction Company, the Greers hired Town Construction to build a home in Baton Rouge. The business relationship went sour, with disputes over “costs, change orders, workmanship, and timeliness issues.”

Town Construction filed an arbitration claim for the unpaid contract balance. In the counterclaim, the Greers made claims of mold and mildew problems, and wall cracks that they attributed to a “structural defect in the foundation.” In arbitration, Town Construction was awarded the full contract balance plus extra costs and interest, while the Greers were awarded for their structural claims.

Three years later, the Greers found additional cracks and filed a suit against Town Construction. Town Construction argued that the Greer’s lawsuit should be dismissed, as the claims had already been through the arbitration process. The district court agreed with Town Construction and dismissed the suit.

The appeals court noted that the Greers would have no ground for a suit if the arbitration was a “valid and final judgment,” and went on to note that there was no evidence in the trial record that the arbitration met this qualification. The court noted that although it was clear that both parties had agreed to the decisions of the arbiter, under Louisiana law, arbitration is not final until it has been “rendered by a court with jurisdiction over subject mater and over parties.”

The court remanded the case to the lower court, noting that “the district court is obligated to first determine whether a valid arbitration award is in existence and had been confirmed before considering the merits of the exception. The court noted that their decision “should not be read to express any opinion as to the merits of the claims or as to the propriety of damages sought in the Greer’s lawsuit.”

Read the court’s decision…

Foundation Arbitration Doesn’t Preclude Suing Over Cracks