Federal Court in Maryland Holds Subcontractor Waived Right to Bring Labor Inefficiency Claim Despite Voicing ‘Expression[s] of Frustration’ and ‘General Complaints’ of Mismanagement Throughout Project

Hagen Constr. Inc. v. Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., No. JKB-18-1201, 2019 BL 36862 (D. Md. Feb. 04, 2019)

This case arises out of the construction of a pediatric outpatient center in southern New Jersey.  Plaintiff subcontractor Hagen Construction, Inc. (“Hagen”) filed suit in New Jersey state Court against defendant general contractor Whiting-Turner Construction Co. (“W-T”), seeking reimbursement for labor inefficiency costs incurred as a result of W-T’s alleged project mismanagement.  Hagen claimed it incurred additional costs to repeat work and remobilize to multiple areas because it was not afforded unimpeded access or timely supply of necessary materials and information.  Once the case was removed and transferred to Maryland federal Court, W-T moved for partial summary judgment on the portion of Hagen’s breach of contract claim reflecting labor inefficiency costs. Continue reading

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The Doctrine of Arbitral Immunity Applied to an Arbitral Organization Absent a Showing of Clear Lack of Jurisdiction

Univ. of Iowa Bd. of Regents v. Am. Arbitration Ass’n, No. 17-0949, 2019 BL 7069 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 09, 2019)

Modern Piping, Inc. (“Modern Piping”) and the University of Iowa, Board of Regents, and State of Iowa (“University”) entered into two construction contracts, both containing arbitration provisions.  Disputes arose related to each contract and Modern Piping filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association (AAA).  The University filed an action against AAA, seeking to enjoin it from arbitrating the disputes.  AAA filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that arbitral immunity doctrine applied.  The district court granted AAA’s motion and the University appealed.

The doctrine of arbitral immunity provides that arbitrators are immune from liability for acts performed in their arbitral capacity and generally shields all functions which are integrally related to the arbitral process.  The doctrine applies to a claim against an arbitrator where the claim effectively seeks to challenge the decisional act of an arbitrator or arbitration panel.  The immunity extends to associations administering arbitration procedures.

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Federal Court Clarifies When Idle Equipment Costs Are Recoverable Under the Miller Act

United States ex rel. Am. Civ. Constr., LLC v. Hirani Eng’g & Land Surveying, P.C., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 200829 (D.D.C. Nov 28, 2018).

The case involved the construction of a levee wall on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  In September 2010, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded Hirani Engineering & Land Surveying, P.C. (“Hirani”) the prime contract for the project.  Hirani’s surety was Colonial Surety Company (“Colonial”).  Hirani subcontracted the majority of the work to American Civil Construction, LLC (“ACC”).  Following a series of disputes and project delays, the Army Corps terminated Hirani.  ACC then filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia seeking over $2 million in damages under the Miller Act as well as state law for breach of contract.  After a bench trial, the court entered judgment in favor of ACC.

As part of its claim, ACC sought damages for costs related to idle equipment at the project site.  Although the claim was only a small part of ACC’s overall claim, the court’s approach was noteworthy.  ACC asserted that all of the costs were recoverable under the Miller Act.  Conversely, Hirani and Colonial argued that standby equipment expenses were per se unavailable under the Act.  The court disagreed with both parties and held that, although the Miller Act permitted a contractor to recover for idle equipment, it could not do so in all instances. Continue reading

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New York Court of Appeals Holds That Direct Consent by Landlord Is Not Necessary for Contractor to Enforce a Lien Against the Property for Work Performed for a Tenant

Ferrara v. Peaches Café LLC, 2018 NY Lexis 3244 (November 20, 2018)

COR Ridge Road Company, LLC (“COR”), as landlord, entered into a 10 year lease with Peaches Café, LLC (“Peaches”).  The lease imposed certain construction requirements on Peaches for it to operate its restaurant, including adherence to specific electrical specifications. The lease also provided that COR approve of any improvements to the premises, that Peaches submit to COR all design plans for the electrical work, and that any improvements made become part of the realty.  Angelo Ferrara (“Ferrara”) performed some of the electrical work.

After Peaches closed its business, Ferrara filed a mechanics lien against the property for more than $50,000 Peaches owed him, noticing both Peaches and COR. Ferrara subsequently sought to foreclose on the lien.  Both Ferrara and COR moved for summary judgment in the foreclosure action, and the trial court granted COR’s motion and dismissed the complaint against it. The Appellate Division granted Ferrara’s motion for summary judgment, upholding the validity of the lien on COR’s property. COR appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed. Continue reading

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Government’s Notice That It Questioned Certain Costs and Would Take ‘Appropriate Action’ Is Not a Notice of ‘Disallowance’ as Required by the Contract: Contractor Granted Summary Judgment for Over $1 Million

CB&I Areva Mox Servs., LLC v. United States, 2018 U.S. Claims Lexis 1549 (November 9, 2018)

Nearly two decades ago, the Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration (“NNSA”) awarded a contract for the design, construction and operation of a Facility at the Savannah River Nuclear Site (‘the Contract”) to Mox Services’ (“Mox’s”) predecessor in interest, Duke, Cogema, Stone & Webster, LLC.  Mox has no employees and subcontracts out the entirety of its work under the Contract to subcontractors.  CB&I Project Services Group (“CPSG”), Mox’s parent company, was the principal subcontractor.  The Contract followed a “cost reimbursement” model whereby NNSA would pay Mox for certain allowable costs that Mox incurred in performing the Contract.

In 2015, CPSG began an employee “re-slotting” process where CPSG changed its employees titles and, in some cases, their compensation.  During this process, CPSG put nearly all of its non-craft workforce (roughly 863 employees) into new positions.  Of the 863 employees, 55 received salary increases.  CPSG increased its billing rate for these 55 employees.  Mox did not specifically notify NNSA about this re-slotting and increase, but instead provided the increased billing rates to NNSA as part of its pay requisitions.  In April 2016, upon realizing the increase, NNSA notified Mox that the information it provided to justify the salary increase was insufficient and requested additional information, and warned it would take “appropriate action” to protect itself.  The NNSA later withheld 2% of the total direct non-craft labor expenses –$1,142,112.00. Continue reading

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