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Antony P. Dethloff v. Krump Construction

November 6, 2012

ANTONY P. DETHLOFF, PLAINTIFF, CROSS-DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT,
v.
KRUMP CONSTRUCTION, INC., DEFENDANT, CROSS-COMPLAINANT AND RESPONDENT.



(Super. Ct. No. 15835)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Raye , P. J.

Dethloff v. Krump Construction CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

After opening statements in the trial of this construction dispute, the parties announced they had reached a stipulation "to resolve this matter" and placed on the record their stipulation that each party was damaged on its respective breach of contract claim, resulting in a "net award" to defendant of $2.2 million. In response to the trial judge's questions, the parties characterized their agreement as a stipulation "[t]o a judgment as to the principal amount of damages," plus a possible attorney fees award.

Notwithstanding the stipulation, plaintiff's counsel asserted moments later that defendant is entitled to no damages because it had failed to prove its compliance with the licensing requirements of the Contractors' State License Law. (CSLL; Bus. & Prof. Code, § 7000 et seq.)*fn1 The trial court rejected plaintiff's argument and found that there had "been a stipulation for judgment" in defendant's favor; it excused the jury and entered judgment in defendant's favor.

Plaintiff appeals from the judgment and contends (among other things) that the court erred in construing the parties' stipulation as an agreement for judgment, and plaintiff "properly and timely" raised the issue of defendant's licensure in the trial court.

There was no error. We shall affirm the judgment.

BACKGROUND*fn2

Underlying Dispute and Prior Appeal

Metco Engineering & Construction (Metco) entered into a subcontract with defendant Krump Construction, Inc. (Krump), in October 2005 to perform work on a condominium project in Mammoth Lakes (the contract), at a contract price exceeding $4 million. Metco contracted to provide (among other things) site work, concrete and rebar, framing, and sheeting for the project. Plaintiff Antony P. Dethloff signed the contract on behalf of Metco.

A dispute between the parties arose after work under the contract began. Dethloff (as an individual doing business as Metco) sued Krump for breach of contract and to recover the reasonable value of work under a theory of quantum meruit, claiming damages in excess of $974,466. Krump answered and admitted that the reasonable value of the work rendered by Dethloff on the project was $974,466 (though it denied Dethloff's contract claim in that amount). Krump also cross-complained for breach of contract.

In answer to the cross-complaint, Dethloff raised as an affirmative defense that Krump is barred from any recovery for its failure to comply with the CSLL's requirements regarding contractor licensure.

Krump moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Metco is not a licensed contractor and, pursuant to the CSLL, is precluded as a matter of law from maintaining any action for contracting work performed. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment in Krump's favor. It reasoned that because Dethloff (as an individual) held the valid contractor's license in the name of Metco rather than in his own name, Dethloff could not bring an action to recover under the subcontract.

Dethloff appealed, and this court reversed the summary judgment and remanded the matter. (Dethloff v. Krump Construction, Inc., supra, C059798.)

The Stipulation

Trial began. The parties made their motions in limine, chose a jury, and made their opening statements on their respective breach of contract claims.

When the parties and counsel reconvened after opening statements, the following colloquy occurred outside the presence of the jury (which, in light of the contentions on appeal, we quote extensively):

"The Court: . . . I've had discussions with counsel, which leads meto [sic] believe that there may be a stipulation to resolve this matter. Is that correct?

"[Krump's Counsel]: That's correct, Your Honor.

"[Dethloff's Counsel]: Yes.

"The Court: Very well. If you would please state. [Sic.] Your agreement for the record.

"[Dethloff's Counsel]: The parties stipulate that Krump was damaged, on its breach of contract claim, in the amount of $3,200,000. Metco is damaged, on its breach of contract claim, in the ...


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