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Hampton Hall LLC v. Chapman Coyle Chapman & Associates Architects AIA Inc

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

December 26, 2018

Hampton Hall, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
Chapman Coyle Chapman & Associates Architects AIA, Inc., and Choate Construction Company, Defendants,
v.
Choate Construction Company, Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
ABG Caulking Contractors, Inc., et al, Third-Party Defendants. Southern Roof and Wood Care Corp., Fourth-Party Plaintiff,
v.
Atlantic Best Roofing, Inc., Fourth-Party Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard M. Gergef United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Chapman Coyle Chapman & Associates Architects AIA, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 138) and Defendant Choate Construction Company's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 144). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the motions.

         I. Background

         Defendant Chapman Coyle Chapman & Associates Architects, AIA ("Chapman Coyle") was responsible for the design and oversight of the construction of amenity facilities for Plaintiff Hampton Hall LLC, including a golf clubhouse, fitness center, [1] and community clubhouse. (Dkt. No. 34 at ¶ 3.) Defendant Choate Construction Company ("Choate") was the general contractor. (Dkt. No. 34 at ¶ 7.) In January 16, 2009, David W. Smith, an attorney from the Toll Brothers, Inc.'s ("Toll Brothers") General Counsel's office, wrote a letter to Choate complaining of "a number of water leaks" in the community clubhouse at Hampton Hall. (Dkt. No. 138-5.) The letter asserted that Choate was "responsible for the[] damage[]" and that Toll Brothers had a "formal claim" arising for the issue. Notably, Mr. Smith wrote that they anticipated claims for "breach of contract and negligence...." (Id.) While Toll Brothers is not a formal party in this case, an affiliate of Toll Brothers, Toll SC, L.P., is part of the joint venture that ultimately changed its name to Hampton Hall, LLC, the Plaintiff here. (Dkt. Nos. 138-2 at 30; 138-3.) Defendant Choate responded to the letter on January 26, 2009, including an itemized summary of the water damage discovered and detailing remedial action. (Dkt. No. 138-6.)

         An attorney for Toll Brothers, David A. Larkin, contacted Choate again on March 29, 2012. The letter claimed that there had been "numerous water intrusion issues" at "Club facilities" and asserted that the letter did not "waive any rights and remedies available to us" based in contract, law or equity. (Dkt. No. 138-7.) Choate replied on April 4, 2012, again disclaiming any responsibility, though noting that they saw that an "entire wall" of the golf clubhouse had been removed and replaced. (Id.) However, the letter stated that it was unclear what the "cause" of the damage was and they assumed it was "not due to water intrusion from above." (Id.) Choate offered to discuss the issues further. Additionally, Defendant Chapman submitted invoices showing that the Plaintiff paid third party contractors to repair the community clubhouse, golf clubhouse and fitness center during the same period. (Dkt. No. 138-9.) Repairs on the golf clubhouse occurred from June 7, 2010, to August 8, 2013, and repairs on the community clubhouse occurred from August 24, 2011, to December 16, 2013. (Dkt. No. 138-9.)

         Plaintiff filed the present action on May 12, 2017, alleging defective construction and asserting claims for breach of contract, negligence, gross negligence, and breach of express and implied warranties. (Dkt. No. 1-1.) Plaintiff amended the complaint on January 30, 2018, adding a claim for contractual indemnity and additional factual allegations. (Dkt. No. 34.) On February 14, 2018, Choate filed a third-party complaint against several of its subcontractors involved with the construction at issue. (Dkt. No. 38.)

         Defendants Chapman Coyle and Choate now move for summary judgment arguing that the case is barred by a three year statute of limitations. (Dkt. Nos. 138, 144.) Defendants argue that Plaintiff Hampton Hall was aware of their causes of action related to the community clubhouse, golf clubhouse and fitness center far more than three years prior to the filing of the Complaint. Plaintiff opposes Defendant Chapman Coyle's motion for summary judgment, arguing that they were unaware of the specific causes of action until more recently.[2] (Dkt. No. 145.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if a party "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should be granted "only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party." HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross, 101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323(1986).

         Once the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard, "[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a 'mere scintilla of evidence'" in support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX Tramp., Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999))

         III. Discussion

         South Carolina law governs the Plaintiffs claims in this case. The parties agree that Plaintiffs claims are subject to South Carolina's three year statute of limitations, as set forth in S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-530. (Dkt.Nos. 138-1 at 4; 145 at 6.) However, under "the discovery rule, the statute of limitations only begins to run from the date the injured party either knows or should know, by the exercise of reasonable diligence, that a cause of action exists for the wrongful conduct." True v. Monteith, 327 S.C. 116, 489 S.E.2d 615, 616 (1997). Under South Carolina law, the "exercise of reasonable diligence" requires that the injured party "act with some promptness where the facts and circumstances of an injury place a reasonable person of common knowledge and experience on notice that a claim against another party might exist." Dean v. Ruscon Corp., 321 S.C. 360, 468 S.E.2d 645, 647 (1996). The date on which the discovery of a cause of action should have been made is an objective question Bayle v. S. Carolina Dep 't of Tramp., 344 S.C. 115, 542 S.E.2d 736, 740 (2001). Therefore, to the extent that there is no conflicting evidence regarding whether a claimant should have known that a cause of action existed, resolution of the question is appropriate at summary judgment. See Moriarty v. Garden Sanctuary Church of God, 341 S.C. 320, 338 - 340 (2000).

         Plaintiffs causes of action relate to the three separate facilities, the community clubhouse, golf clubhouse and fitness center, and the facts related to potential discovery is different for each. Therefore, the Court discusses each separately below.[3]

         A. ...


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