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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Boring Through the Details: U.S. District Court Declares Boring Company Dispute Not Covered by Insurance Policies

Maxum Indemnity Co. v. Robbins Co., P.C., No. 1:17-CV-01968, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57729 (N.D. Ohio Mar. 28, 2018)

On March 21, 2018, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio granted a motion for judgment on the pleadings in favor of Maxum Indemnity Co. and declared that Maxum has no duty to defend or indemnify The Robbins Company in an international arbitration initiated by a third-party, JCM Northlink, LLC.

Robbins is a designer, manufacturer, and supplier of tunnel-boring machines (“TBMs”) and was engaged by JCM to supply a TBM for Seattle’s Northgate Link Extension project to add additional light rail lines to the city’s existing public transportation system.  Maxum insured Robbins under two commercial general liability policies in connection with the Northgate Link Extension project.

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Although Texas Statute Expressly Allows an Immediate Interlocutory Appeal of Any Decision Granting or Denying a Motion to Dismiss Based Upon the Certificate of Merit Requirement, There Is No Jurisdiction for an Interlocutory Appeal of an Arbitrator’s Decision on That Issue

SM Architects, PLLC v. AMX Veteran Specialty Servs., LLC, 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 9203 (November 8, 2018)

AMX Veteran Specialty Services, LLC (“AMX”) filed a demand for arbitration alleging professional negligence against SM Architects, PLLC (“SMA”).  A Texas statute requires a plaintiff in an action or arbitration involving architectural services to file a certificate of merit affidavit by a third-party licensed architect in support of its claims.  AMX attempted to meet this requirement by attaching an unsigned letter by an architect to its demand.

AMX twice amended its demand.  It attached to its second amended demand a signed certificate of merit affidavit by the same architect.  The affidavit was substantially similar to the original unsigned letter, but with added information regarding SMA’s alleged negligence.

SMA moved to dismiss AMX’s claims for failure to comply with the certificate of merit requirement.  SMA argued that the unsigned letter submitted with AMX’s first demand for arbitration was not an affidavit, and that the affidavit filed with its second amended demand was ineffective because its failure to file an affidavit contemporaneously with the first-filed complaint could not be cured by amendment.  The arbitration panel denied SMA’s motion. Continue reading

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