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Contractors awarded damages for unjust enrichment

In these consolidated appeals after remand, the court held, among other things, that neither the law of the case nor res judicata precluded the trial court from considering unjust enrichment on remand. It affirmed the trial court's decision to award unjust enrichment damages to the appellees-contractors-Lakeview Contracting, ASI, and A & R, holding that the "unique circumstances" of the case precluded them "from practical and timely recovery on their construction liens." It also affirmed the attorney fee awards, holding that the amount of the awards was consistent with the attorney fee provision in the CLA. This lawsuit initially arose from disputes involving the priority of various claims against a golf course developer that defaulted on its payment obligations to appellant-WVC and to the contractors. After a prior appeal, WVC argued that the trial court exceeded its authority on remand by awarding money damages for unjust enrichment and that res judicata barred the trial court from considering unjust enrichment on remand. The court held that the trial court on remand "properly implemented the prior panel's directives." The panel's decision primarily addressed the CLA. In keeping with that decision, the trial court "set aside its order requiring sale of the golf course and its order attaching the construction liens to the golf course real property." It "implemented the prior panel's decision by ordering that the liens attach only to the improvements. Nothing in the prior panel's decision" precluded the trial court from considering unjust enrichment on remand. "The panel made no definitive decision" as to the viability of unjust enrichment claims. "Rather, in the section of the opinion addressing possible alternative remedies, the prior panel noted that foreclosure on improvements is not a lien claimant's sole remedy." The panel recognized, "Lakeview, ASI, and A & R could arguably pursue a claim against WVC outside" the CLA for unjust enrichment. "This statement neither required nor prohibited the circuit court from considering unjust enrichment on remand." Thus, the law of the case did not preclude it from considering unjust enrichment. As to res judicata, according to WVC, the contractors abandoned any claim for unjust enrichment by opting not to cross-appeal the trial court's construction lien judgment. The court disagreed, for two reasons. "First, an appellee need not cross-appeal to maintain alternate grounds of support for the relief granted by the circuit court." A cross-appeal "is required if the appellee seeks relief that is more favorable than that granted by the circuit court." In the prior appeal, "the contractors did not seek more favorable relief, so they were not required to file cross-appeals." Second, the doctrine of res judicata did not extend to the particular issue presented here, "which involved an alternate ground for relief in the same proceeding on remand."

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