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Waller Corp. v. Warren Plaza, Inc.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 30, 2014

WALLER CORPORATION, Appellee
v.
WARREN PLAZA, INC., Appellant

Argued January 7, 2014.

Appeal from the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Washington County, Civil Division, No(s): 2007-1585. Before EMERY, J.

John A. Bacharach, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Marcia L.T. DePaula, Canonsburg, for appellee.

BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., LAZARUS, J., and MUNDY, J.

OPINION

Page 314

LAZARUS, J.

Warren Plaza, Inc. (Warren) appeals from the judgment entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, following a verdict in favor of Appellee, Waller Corporation (Waller). After careful review, we affirm.

On appeal, Warren presents the following issues for our consideration:

(1) Whether the trial court failed to apply hornbook contract law requiring the court to interpret the contract within the four corners of the document by holding that the contractor could unilaterally modify the contract despite the clear and comprehensive written contract provisions which required written amendment to the contract only by written agreement of the parties, the architect and prior written approval by a federal agency.
(2) Whether the trial court's opinion and its post-trial verdict reversing a portion thereof are wholly unsupported by any facts of record and at odds with legal precedent thus requiring the verdict to be reversed?
(3) No attorney fees should be awarded to the Plaintiff where Warren declined to pay based on the good faith belief that it was not obligated to pay under the contract's express language.

In November 2000, Warren, a Pennsylvania non-profit entity providing affordable, handicap-accessible housing, hired Waller as a general contractor to construct a fifteen-unit apartment building.[1] The

Page 315

project was valued at $1,304,899.00 and was funded 75% by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and 25% by Warren through grants and private funding. The project contract was prepared on a standard HUD form and incorporated general conditions promulgated by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). HUD contractual provisions took precedence over the AIA general conditions.

Changes to the project were memorialized in three ways: (1) a change order, representing an agreement between Waller and the Architect regarding the work to be accomplished, the additional cost incurred, and the time required; (2) a construction change directive, representing an agreement by Waller and the Architect, directing a change in the work without any agreement with Waller as to cost or time; and, (3) an order for a minor change, issued by the Architect alone and requiring no further ...


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