Baldwin County Trial Reversed for Failure to Award Prejudgment Interest

Building a home can be an exciting time in a person’s life. It can also be an expensive venture, sometimes resulting in construction companies not being paid for the work performed.

Recently, in Baldwin County, inBallard v. Lee A. McWilliams Construction, Inc., the Court of Civil Appeals addressed an appeal in a construction law case based on preservation of an issue and the trial court’s assessment of prejudgment interest. In January 2010, Lee A. McWilliams Construction, Inc. began renovation work on a house owned by Angel Ballard.

Ballard had orally agreed with the construction company to pay for the costs of the materials plus 18%. Ballard paid the first of three invoices but did not continue to pay the remaining balance (totaling $42,947.33). Though Ballard made partial payments over the next few years, McWilliams, the owner of the company, sued Ballard for $27,612.52 in July 2015.

McWilliams requested prejudgment interest in the complaint. The complaint was later amended to add the company as a plaintiff. The trial court entered a judgment in favor of the company for $25,953.75. The company filed a postjudgment motion in which it argued it was due prejudgment interest; this motion was denied. Ballard appealed from the trial court’s judgment and the company filed a cross-appeal.

Ballard argued to the Court of Civil Appeals that the company had already recovered damages from a claim in made against British Petroleum stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Ballard’s argument on appeal was that the company had already recovered for its damages and she hoped to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence. However, in order to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal, Ballard was required to file a postjudgment motion raising that issue. Because she failed to file that motion, the judgment against Ballard was affirmed.

With regard to the company’s cross-appeal, the company argued that it was entitled to prejudgment interest. Alabama law states that all contracts for the payment of money bear interest from the day such money should have been paid.

The Court disagreed with Ballard’s arguments that the changing amount of damages made prejudgment interest impossible to calculate. In fact, even where parties disagree as to the amount of damages, prejudgment interest can still be calculated with reasonable certainty and the trial court erred by failing to award it. The trial court’s judgment was reversed here.

The main takeaways here are twofold: First, when challenging the sufficiency of evidence, the issue must be raised in a prejudgment motion. Because Ballard didn’t address the 2010 Deepwater Horizon payout in such a motion, she could not address the issue on appeal. The second takeaway is that even when parties disagree as to the amount of damages, prejudgment interest still can be calculated and should be awarded.

It is important to seek an experienced construction attorney who understands the realities of Alabama construction and contract law. If you need a construction lawyer, contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 236-3997for help with your case.

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