Where Breach of Contract and Tortious Interference Collide

Newton cradle showing energy and gravity

Attorney Christopher G. Hill analyzes Clark Nexsen, Inc. et. al v. Rebkee.

January 11, 2022
Christopher G. Hill - Construction Law Musings

Claims for breach of contract are numerous in the construction law world. Without these claims we construction attorneys would have a hard time keeping the doors open. A 2021 case examined a different sort of claim that could arise (though, “spoiler alert” did not in this case) during the course of a construction project. That type of claim is one for tortious interference with business expectancy.

In Clark Nexsen, Inc. et. al v. Rebkee, the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia gave a great explanation of the law of this type of claim in analyzing the following basic facts:

In 2018, Clark Nexsen, Inc. (“Clark”) and MEB General Contractors, Inc. (“MEB”) responded to Henrico County’s (“Henrico”) Request for Proposals (“RFP”) for the design and construction of a sport and convocation center (the “Project”). Henrico initially shortlisted Clark and MEB as a “design-build” team for the Project, but later restarted the search, issuing a second RFP. Clark and MEB submitted a second “design-build” proposal, but Henrico selected Rebkee Co. (“Rebkee”) for certain development aspects of the Project. MEB also submitted proposals to Rebkee, and Rebkee selected MEB as the design-builder for the Project. MEB, at Rebkee’s request, solicited proposals from three design firms and ultimately selected Clark as its design partner. From December 2019 to May 2020, Clark and MEB served as the design-build team to assist Rebkee in developing the Project. In connection therewith, Clark developed proprietary designs, technical drawings, and, with MEB, several cost estimates. In February 2020, MEB submitted a $294,334.50 Pay Application to Rebkee for engineering, design, and Project development work. Rebkee never paid MEB. Henrico paid MEB $50,000.00 as partial payment for MEB’s and Clark’s work. MEB then learned that Rebkee was using Clark’s drawings to solicit design and construction proposals from other companies. On July 23, 2020, Rebkee told MEB that Henrico directed it to cancel the design-build arrangement with MEB and Clark and pursue a different planning method. MEB and Clark sued and Rebkee for, among other claims, tortious interference with a business expectancy. Rebkee moved to dismiss the tortious interference claim.

Mr. Hill may be contacted at chrisghill@constructionlawva.com



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