National American Insurance Company v. United States
No. 2007-5016, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 20058 (Fed. Cir. August 23, 2007)
The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the lower court’s grant of a motion for summary judgment. The Court held that a payment bond surety is equitably subrogated to the rights of the contractor whose debt it discharges, and thus can pursue a claim directly against the government.
The case arose out of a contract between Innovative PBX Services, Inc. (“Contractor”) and the United States Small Business Administration (the “government”) for the replacement of a telephone system at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The Contractor subcontracted part of the work to Nortel Communications Systems, Inc. (“Subcontractor”). As required by the Miller Act, the Contractor executed payment and performance bonds in favor of the government with National American Insurance Company (“Surety”) as the surety. After completion of the contract work, the Subcontractor notified the Surety that it was owed approximately $675,000 for labor and materials that the Contractor had failed to pay for. The Subcontractor then instituted a Miller Act claim under the payment bond against the Surety, which the Surety settled. The Surety also notified the government that no addition payments should be made to the Contractor in light of the Miller Act claim and requested that all remaining contract funds be held for the Surety’s benefit. The government, however, did not follow the Surety’s request and made its final contract payment to the Contractor. As a result, the Surety filed a complaint against he government seeking damages of $280,000. Continue reading “Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Holds that a Payment Bond Surety that Discharges a Contractor’s Obligation to Pay a Subcontractor is Equitably Subrogated to the Rights of Both the Contractor and Subcontractor and May Bring Suit Directly Against the United States”