Conejo Valley Unified School Dist. v. William Blurock & Partners, Inc.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtKLEIN
PartiesCONEJO VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, Petitioner and Appellant, v. WILLIAM BLUROCK & PARTNERS, INC., a California Corporation, and Strecker Construction Company, a California Corporation, Respondents. Civ. 57894.
Decision Date12 November 1980

Page 102

169 Cal.Rptr. 102
111 Cal.App.3d 983
CONEJO VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, Petitioner and Appellant,
v.
WILLIAM BLUROCK & PARTNERS, INC., a California Corporation, and Strecker Construction Company, a California Corporation, Respondents.
Civ. 57894.
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 3, California.
Nov. 12, 1980.

[111 Cal.App.3d 985]

Page 103

Dorothy L. Schechter, County Counsel, and Gary Byron Roach, Asst. County Counsel, Ventura, for petitioner and appellant.

Morris & Polich, Douglas C. Purdy and Suzan J. Radin, Los Angeles, for respondent William Blurock & Partners, Inc.

No appearance for respondent Strecker Const. Co.

KLEIN, Presiding Justice.

Petitioner and appellant Conejo Valley Unified School District (District) appeals from the denial of its petition for an order to compel arbitration under Code of Civil Procedure section 1281.2 1 and [111 Cal.App.3d 986] to consolidate separate arbitration proceedings under Code of Civil Procedure section 1281.3. 2 The appeal lies.

FACTS

On March 11, 1975, the District and respondent William Blurock & Partners, Inc. (Blurock) entered into a written contract wherein Blurock, an architectural firm, agreed to provide all necessary architectural services, including drawings and specifications, in connection with the District's intention to construct a new high school. The contract provided for arbitration of any dispute that might arise under it.

The District thereafter awarded Strecker Construction Company (Strecker) the site preparation contract for the high school. During the site preparation work, Strecker experienced difficulty in following and interpreting Blurock's plans and specifications relative to generating and stockpiling excess materials, which materials were to be accumulated during the grading process.

At the completion of the site preparation work, Strecker filed a claim against the District in the amount of $189,370 plus interest for rehandling of materials due to alleged misrepresentations in the plans. The District then made a demand for arbitration pursuant to American Arbitration Association (AAA) construction industry arbitration rules, seeking indemnification against Blurock for all amounts due Strecker under its claim. The District and Strecker have agreed to arbitrate their dispute "as provided for in their contract."

The District demanded arbitration of this same dispute with Blurock, but Blurock refused, claiming no dispute had risen under its agreement with the District.

[111 Cal.App.3d 987] The March 11, 1975, contract between the District and Blurock contains language relating to arbitration as follows:

"All questions in disput (sic) under this agreement shall be subjected to arbitration at the election of either party. Such arbitration shall be conducted in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association in so far (sic) as the same are

Page 104

not in conflict with the laws of the State of California."
CONTENTION

The District contends that the claim by Strecker against the District arising out of a question concerning the accuracy and completeness of the drawings and specifications prepared by Blurock creates a "dispute" under the agreement between the District and Blurock, and therefore the trial court erred in denying the District's petition for an order to compel arbitration between them and to consolidate separate arbitration proceedings.

DISCUSSION

One issue presented on this appeal is whether Strecker's claim against the District for a substantial sum in excess of the contract price arising from the rehandling of materials due to "... alleged misrepresentations in the specifications and drawings for the ... construction site preparation ..." created a dispute under the agreement between the District and Blurock which was properly the subject of arbitration, contrary to the trial court's finding that "(t)his dispute does not arise out of the agreement between (District) and (Blurock)."

Preliminarily, we note that we are not bound by the trial court's interpretation of the contract between the parties, since the trial court herein did not consider any extrinsic evidence. In addition to oral argument, the trial court read and considered the petition for an order to compel arbitration and to consolidate separate arbitration proceedings, the memorandum of points and authorities in support of said petition, together with the exhibits attached thereto, and the memorandum of points and authorities in opposition.

As the court in Integrated, Inc. v. Alec Fergusson Electrical Contractor (1967) 250 Cal.App.2d 287, 58 Cal.Rptr. 503, observed:

"The interpretation of a written instrument is solely a judicial function unless it turns upon credibility of extrinsic evidence. (Citation.) An appellate court is not bound by a trial court's construction of a written [111 Cal.App.3d 988] instrument where such construction is based solely on the instrument without extrinsic evidence.... (Citations.)" (Id., at pp. 293-294, 58 Cal.Rptr. 503.)

The same rule of appellate review applies to arbitration provisions of contracts. (B. L. Metcalf General Contractor, Inc. v. Earl Erne, Inc. (1963) 212 Cal.App.2d 689, 693, 28 Cal.Rptr. 382.) Thus, "(w)e are free to make our own independent interpretation of the terms of the contract and its application to the instant dispute. (Citations.)" (Berman v. Dean Witter & Co., Inc. (1975) 44 Cal.App.3d 999, 1003, 119 Cal.Rptr. 130.)

The contract between the District and Blurock specifically provides that "(t) he Architect shall prepare from the approved design development documents, working drawings and specifications setting forth in detail and prescribing the work to be done, and the materials, workmanship, finishes, and equipment required for ... site work." It also requires that "(t)he Architect will endeavor to secure compliance by contractors with the contract requirements," while not guaranteeing performance.

The contract thus requires Blurock to prepare adequate plans which set forth in detail with accuracy and clarity what is expected of the site work contractor and how the contractor is to go about performing the work. The contract also calls for Blurock to supervise the work toward compliance with the contract. When Strecker, the site work contractor, claims that the plans were faulty in some important aspects, causing Strecker to expend substantial additional sums in attempting to comply with Strecker's interpretation of the plans, a dispute is created between the District and Blurock concerning the accuracy, completeness and clarity of the plans as submitted and whether Blurock properly endeavored to secure compliance.

The District is in no position to defend the plans of its architect. It hired Blurock's expertise in this area and relied on Blurock to prepare adequate plans. Clearly Blurock

Page 105

must come forward with explanations to the District and in answer to Strecker's allegations in an effort to resolve the dispute.

In its demand for arbitration with Blurock, the District is seeking indemnification against Blurock for all amounts due Strecker under the latter's claim. If Strecker were to collect against the District in the...

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10 practice notes
  • Blue Cross of California v. Superior Court, No. B122446
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 6, 1998
    ...agreements provided for arbitration under AAA rules]; Conejo Valley Unified School Dist. v. William Blurock & Partners, Inc. (1980) 111 Cal.App.3d 983, 989-993, 169 Cal.Rptr. 102 [consolidated arbitration pursuant to section 1281.3 allowable despite conflict with arbitrator selection provis......
  • Keating v. Superior Court, S.F. 24242
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • June 10, 1982
    ...certain circumstances. This section was relied upon in Conejo Valley Unified School Dist. v. William Blurock & Partners, Inc. (1980) 111 Cal.App.3d 983, 169 Cal.Rptr. 102, in which a party to an arbitration agreement was compelled to arbitrate his claim in consolidated proceedings despite t......
  • Litton Bionetics, Inc. v. Glen Const. Co., Inc., No. 5
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • November 27, 1981
    ...the submission of any additional lists. See n.2, supra and Conejo Valley Unified School District v. William Blurock & Partners, Inc., 111 Cal.App.3d 983, 990-91, 169 Cal.Rptr. 102, 106 (1980). Under these circumstances the submission of another list of proposed arbitrators to Litton, Glen a......
  • Bos Material Handling, Inc. v. Crown Controls Corp.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 28, 1982
    ...arbitration clause applies to the instant controversy. (Conejo Valley Unified School Dist. v. William Blurock & Partners, Inc. [1980] 111 Cal.App.3d 983, 987-988, 169 Cal.Rptr. 102; Berman v. Dean Witter & Co., Inc. [1975] 44 Cal.App.3d 999, 1003, 119 Cal.Rptr. 130; Parsons v. Bristol Devel......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Blue Cross of California v. Superior Court, No. B122446
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 6, 1998
    ...agreements provided for arbitration under AAA rules]; Conejo Valley Unified School Dist. v. William Blurock & Partners, Inc. (1980) 111 Cal.App.3d 983, 989-993, 169 Cal.Rptr. 102 [consolidated arbitration pursuant to section 1281.3 allowable despite conflict with arbitrator selection provis......
  • Keating v. Superior Court, S.F. 24242
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • June 10, 1982
    ...certain circumstances. This section was relied upon in Conejo Valley Unified School Dist. v. William Blurock & Partners, Inc. (1980) 111 Cal.App.3d 983, 169 Cal.Rptr. 102, in which a party to an arbitration agreement was compelled to arbitrate his claim in consolidated proceedings despite t......
  • Litton Bionetics, Inc. v. Glen Const. Co., Inc., No. 5
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • November 27, 1981
    ...the submission of any additional lists. See n.2, supra and Conejo Valley Unified School District v. William Blurock & Partners, Inc., 111 Cal.App.3d 983, 990-91, 169 Cal.Rptr. 102, 106 (1980). Under these circumstances the submission of another list of proposed arbitrators to Litton, Glen a......
  • Bos Material Handling, Inc. v. Crown Controls Corp.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 28, 1982
    ...arbitration clause applies to the instant controversy. (Conejo Valley Unified School Dist. v. William Blurock & Partners, Inc. [1980] 111 Cal.App.3d 983, 987-988, 169 Cal.Rptr. 102; Berman v. Dean Witter & Co., Inc. [1975] 44 Cal.App.3d 999, 1003, 119 Cal.Rptr. 130; Parsons v. Bristol Devel......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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