New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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Construction Projects & Contracts; Real Property, Facilities & Construction

Murnane Building Contractors, LLC v. Syracuse University, et al. (N.Y. App. Div. March 23, 2018)

Order reversing the Supreme Court of New York, denying Defendant Syracuse University’s Motion to Dismiss, and reinstating the mechanic’s lien. Plaintiff is a subcontractor hired by Defendant Cameron Hill Construction to work on the construction of a building for Defendant Syracuse University. Due to delays in construction, Defendants entered into a right-of-entry agreement, which required Cameron to acquire a mechanic’s lien waiver from Plaintiff for “work, labor, and materials furnished up to April 30, 2014” and which provided, “[n]othing in this [agreement] shall be construed as the consent or request of [defendant], express or implied, by inference or otherwise, to any contractor, subcontractor, laborer or materialman for the performance of any labor or the furnishing of any material for any improvement, alteration, or repair of the [p]remises.” In the present litigation, Plaintiff alleged that he was not paid for work performed after April 30, 2014 and sought a mechanic’s lien on the property. Under New York law, a mechanic’s lien cannot attach to real property if the owner of the property did not consent to the subcontractor’s improvements. The court found that Plaintiff stated a cognizable cause of action against Defendants because the consent provision in the right-of-entry agreement was not dispositive. Rather, the purpose of the right-of-entry agreement was to construct a building for the University and its non-consent provision was at odds with a prior ground lease entered into by the parties. Further, the plain language of the mechanic’s lien waiver did not release claims accruing after April 30, 2014, particularly where Plaintiff offered affidavits that showed that the lien waiver was not a release.

Construction Projects & Contracts; Real Property, Facilities & Construction

Pizza Hut of America, L.L.C. v. Houston Community College System (Tex. App. Dec. 19, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion affirming the trial court’s finding that Plaintiff lacked standing. Plaintiff, Pizza Hut of America, L.L.C., alleges that as a tenant of Woodridge Plaza—a property acquired by Defendant Houston Community College System (HCCS) through a petition for condemnation for educational purposes—Plaintiff had standing in the condemnation proceeding and was entitled to a portion of the condemnation award. To establish standing in a condemnation proceeding and therefore to receive a condemnation award, a Plaintiff must show that they have a viable interest in the outcome of HCCS’s taking under its lease terms. Here, the court found that Plaintiff did not show that it had a viable interest in Defendant’s taking because Plaintiff did not suffer harm as a result of the condemnation, specifically because the condemnation did not impair Plaintiff’s physical access or use of the property, and Plaintiff did not incur any improvement costs or relocation expenses as a result of the condemnation.