Recent Developments in California Construction Law

by Snell & Wilmer

Notable 2014 Case Law

Liability for owners, developers, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and design professionals

This year, California courts decided a variety of cases with important relevance to potential liability for owners, developers, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and design professionals. In the July 2014 case of Beacon Residential Community Association v. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill,[1] the California Supreme Court held that an architect providing design services for a residential condominium project as the principal architect owed a duty of care to future homeowners and could be sued for construction defects under the common law theories of negligence and strict liability, despite the lack of privity with the future homeowners and even if the architect did not exercise ultimate control over construction decisions. It is unclear how far this recent decision will extend potential liability for design professionals, however, because the Court determined that the duty of care arose because the architect was the principal architect on the project and was not subordinate to other design professionals.

Similarly in Burch v. Superior Court[2] the California Court of Appeal held that a general contractor owed a duty of care supporting negligence liability to future residential home purchasers, and allowed claims by a homeowner directly against a homebuilder for negligence and breach of implied warranty. This affirmed that California’s Right to Repair Act is not the exclusive remedy for construction defects and may not provide procedural protections for suits under common law claims.

These two decisions represent a growing trend towards easing privity requirements, especially in suits against developers, owners, architects, contractors and design professionals in the residential housing arena.

Subrogation Actions

For subrogation actions under the Right to Repair Act, however, the California Court of Appeal determined in KB Home Greater Los Angeles, Inc. v. Superior Court[3] that if a subrogation action is brought under the Right to Repair Act, the statutory requirement of notice must be given before actual property damage repairs are made, even where the repairs are funded by insurance. In KB Home, the insurance company’s lack of notice under the act was ultimately fatal to its claims under the Right to Repair Act.

Patent Defects

Another 2014 construction defect case, Delon Hampton & Associates, Chtd. v. Superior Court,[4] refined the definition of what constitutes a patent defect. The Court of Appeal rejected the argument that only a “technical reading of the applicable building codes” could reveal a construction or design deficiency and determined that the existence of Building Code provisions demonstrates that the defects should have been discovered on reasonable inspection.

Pertinent Statutes, Codes and Regulations for 2014 and 2015

New Energy Efficiency Standards

A new set of energy efficiency standards went into effect on July 1, 2014. The California Energy Commission’s Energy Efficiency Standards (Standards) are periodically updated to allow for consideration and incorporation of new energy efficient technology and advances. The Standards are part of the California Building Standards Code, Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations, and are also known as “The Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings.”

Public Contract Code Section 4104(a)

Assembly Bill 44 also took effect on July 1, 2014, amending Section 4104(a) of the Public Contract Code. This bill requires prime contractors to list the contractor license number of subcontractors when bidding on public construction projects. The bill also requires that public agencies include the new requirement placed on prime contractors on their public bid forms.

California Paid Sick Leave

On September 10, 2014, California signed into law the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, with an effective date of July 1, 2015. With the signing of this law, California becomes the second state to mandate that certain employers provide paid sick leave to employees. This law has limited exceptions, and provides that employers with California employees need to provide at least 24 hours of paid sick time per year.

Workplace Bullying Prevention Bill

On September 9, 2014, Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2053 amending California Government Code § 12950.1. This provision requires an employer, defined as “any person regularly employing 50 or more persons or regularly receiving the services of 50 or more persons providing services pursuant to a contract,” to include prevention of abusive conduct as a component of the sexual harassment training and education required in Subdivision (a) of Government Code § 12950.1.

Serious Injury or Illness or Death Reporting Requirement

There is a new Cal/OSHA “Serious Injury or Illness or Death” reporting requirement starting January 1, 2015. Assembly Bill 326 amended California Labor Code § 6409.1. Subdivision (b), and requires every employer to make an immediate report to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health by telephone or email of every case involving an employee’s serious injury or illness or death.

These cases and statutes cover some of the many legal updates pertinent to California owners, developers, general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and design professionals in 2014.


[1] (2014) 59 Cal. 4th 568.

[2] (2014) 223 Cal.App.4th 1411.

[3] (2014) 223 Cal.App.4th 1471.

[4] (2014) 227 Cal.App.4th 250.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Snell & Wilmer | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Snell & Wilmer

Snell & Wilmer on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.