Federal District Court in Virginia Holds That Prime Contractor’s Payment Bond Surety Cannot Rely on No-Damages-For-Delay Clause in Subcontract to Limit Liability to Subcontractor Under Miller Act

United States v. John C. Grimberg Co., Case No. 1:16-cv-991, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 173362 (E.D. Virginia, October 19, 2017)

John C. Grimberg (“Prime Contractor”) was awarded a contract (the “Prime Contract”) to design and complete certain improvements at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia (the “Project”).  Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company (“Surety”) issued payment and performance bonds for the Project pursuant to the Miller Act.  The Prime Contractor thereafter entered into a subcontract (the “Subcontract”) with Kitchens-to-Go (“Subcontractor”) to furnish, install, lease and remove a temporary kitchen facility for the Project.  The Subcontract contained a “no-damages-for-delay” clause, which provided that the Prime Contractor shall not be liable for delays beyond its control and that the Subcontractor is “entitled only to reimbursement for damages for delay actually recovered from the Owner.”  The Subcontract also incorporated the dispute resolution procedures in the Prime Contract, which required that all “disputes arising out of Owner acts, omissions or responsibilities” be submitted through an administrative process with the government’s contracting officer under 41 U.S.C. §§7101 et. seq.

The Subcontract originally contemplated a Project duration of approximately 13 months, ending on April 5, 2014, but was ultimately extended until June 27, 2015.  The Subcontractor submitted its Application for Payment to the Prime Contractor, which included $607,221 for extended rental of the kitchen facilities.  Although the Prime Contractor submitted a payment request to US Department of the Navy (“Owner”), for the extended rental and use of Subcontractor’s temporary kitchen facilities, this request was rejected by the Owner.  The Prime Contractor refused to pay Subcontractor’s Application for Payment and the Subcontractor filed a complaint against the Surety under the Miller Act.  Continue reading “Federal District Court in Virginia Holds That Prime Contractor’s Payment Bond Surety Cannot Rely on No-Damages-For-Delay Clause in Subcontract to Limit Liability to Subcontractor Under Miller Act”

Federal Court in Alabama Rules that 1999 Amendment to the Miller Act Does Not Preclude Arbitration of Underlying Claims

United States v. Int’l Fid. Ins. Co., No. 16-0472-WS-C, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16791 (S.D. Ala. Feb. 7, 2017)

This action arose out of a payment dispute between Bay South Limited, Inc. (“Bay South”) and Stephens Construction & Concrete, Inc. (“Stephens”). Bay South entered into two subcontracts with Stephens, whereby Bay South agreed to furnish labor and materials to Stephens on two federal construction projects.  In connection therewith, International Fidelity Insurance Company (“Fidelity”) issued payment bonds (the “Bonds”) to Stephens.  Bay South filed a complaint in federal court to assert claims against the Bonds under the Miller Act (40 U.S.C. §3133), as well as other claims.  Stephens sought to compel arbitration of Bay South’s claims, pursuant to the arbitration provision in the subcontracts, which provided:

“In the event of a dispute arising between [Stephens] and [Bay South] under the Subcontract Agreement, the dispute shall be settled by arbitration in accordance with the Construction Industry Rules of the American Arbitration Association then in effect …”

Bay South argued that the 1999 Amendment to the Miller Act prohibits such claims from being arbitrated, and, in the alternative, even if these claims may be arbitrated generally, Bay South’s specific claims are not subject to arbitration because they are not within the scope of the parties’ arbitration agreement. Continue reading “Federal Court in Alabama Rules that 1999 Amendment to the Miller Act Does Not Preclude Arbitration of Underlying Claims”

Federal Court in Oklahoma Rules that Bond Issued on a Sovereign Tribal Construction Project is Not a Miller Act Bond Even Though it Stated it was Issued Pursuant to the Act and Named The United States As Obligee

United States ex rel. J.A. Manning Constr. Co. v. Bronze Oak, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6054 (N.D. Okla. Jan. 17, 2017)

 In May 2014 the Cherokee Nation issued a bid notice for bridge and roadway construction in Mayes County, Oklahoma (the “Project”). Funding was authorized pursuant to the Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of the Interior’s Tribal Transportation Program, 23 U.S.C. § 202, by which federal funding is offered to Native American tribal governments to pay the costs of certain transportation projects located on, or providing access to, tribal lands.

Bronze Oak, LLC submitted a bid proposal and was hired as the general contractor for Project, and J.A. Manning Construction Company (“JAMCC”) was hired as a subcontractor to supply labor and materials to the Project. Bronze Oak’s bid proposal provided that any resulting contract would be construed under U.S. and Cherokee Nation laws.  A payment bond was issued for the Project naming Bronze Oak as the principal, Mid-Continental Casualty Company as surety, and the United States as obligee.  The payment bond also stated it was for the protection of persons supplying labor and materials pursuant to the Miller Act. Continue reading “Federal Court in Oklahoma Rules that Bond Issued on a Sovereign Tribal Construction Project is Not a Miller Act Bond Even Though it Stated it was Issued Pursuant to the Act and Named The United States As Obligee”