Handyman Connection of Sacramento, Inc. v. Sands
123 Cal. App. 4th 867 (3d Dist Oct. 29, 2004)

Plaintiff contractor appealed trial court judgment affirming Contractors’ State License Board decision that plaintiff violated four aspects of Contractors’ State License Law related to solicitation and obtaining of a contract to perform home improvement work. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court judgment as to all violations except the charge of using an improper business name.

The court explained that in an administrative mandate case where the only sanction under review is a fine – not revocation, suspension, or restriction of one’s license – no fundamental vested right is implicated even though the contractor’s violation may be disclosed publicly. In such a case, the trial court may not exercise independent judgment as to administrative findings of fact but must determine only whether substantial evidence supported the administrative findings of fact.

MW Erectors, Inc. v. Niederhauser Ornamental and Metal Works, Inc. previously published at 115 Cal. App. 4th 512 (4th Dist. Jan. 30, 2004)
(review granted by California Supreme Court May 12, 2004)

General contractor, Niederhauser, entered into two contracts with subcontractor MW Erectors for metal work on Disney’s Grant California Hotel. One contract provided for MW Erectors to perform structural steel work while the other contract called for certain “ornamental” metals work. MW did not obtain a Class C-51 structural steel contractor license until after it began performing, and never held a Class C-23 ornamental metal contractor license. MW brought an action alleging that Niederhauser had wrongfully terminated both the contracts and claiming monies allegedly owed MW under both.

The trial court granted Niederhauser’s motion for summary judgment on the basis that Business and Professions Code section 7031 precluded compensation for work performed under both contracts. (Section 7031(a) precludes compensation where a contractor does not allege that he was licensed “at all times during the performance of that act or contract.”)

With respect to the structural steel contract, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court judgment, finding that the plain language of Section 7031 distinguishes between an “act” and a “contract” and allows a contractor to recover for acts performed while it was licensed. The Court also reversed the trial court judgment as to the ornamental steel contract because an issue of material fact existed regarding whether a C-51 structural steel license was a superior and therefore sufficient license for ornamental work. Finally, the Court of Appeal held that the two contracts “are not void [for illegality] just because MW was unlicensed on the date of signing.”

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