When Surety Bond Incorporates the Subcontract by Reference, Is the Subcontract’s Arbitration Clause Also Incorporated? Federal Court in South Carolina Says Yes; Federal Court in Kansas Says No — In Two Matters Involving the Same Parties

Developers Sur. & Indem. Co. v. Carothers Constr., Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111021 (D.S.C. July 18, 2017); Developers Sur. & Indem. Co. v. Carothers Constr., Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135948 (D. Kan. Aug. 24, 2017)

Two recent decisions from United States District Courts for the District of South Carolina and the District of Kansas, respectively, reached opposite conclusions when presented with the same issue:  Is a surety bound to arbitrate claims against it when the surety’s bond incorporates its principal’s contract by reference, and the principal’s contract contains an agreement to arbitrate disputes.  The District of South Carolina, applying South Carolina law, held that a surety is bound by the arbitration agreement in the incorporated contract, while the District of Kansas held that a surety is not so bound.

These cases both arise from an arbitration demand filed by the general contractor, Carothers Construction, Inc. (“Carothers”) against the surety, Developers Surety and Indemnity Company (“DSI”).  DSI issued performance and payment bonds on behalf of subcontractors Liberty Enterprises Specialty Contractor (“Liberty”) and Seven Hills Construction, LLC (“Seven Hills”) in favor of Carothers for their work on Projects located in South Carolina and Kansas, respectively.  Each subcontractor defaulted on its contractual obligations.  Carothers initiated arbitration against DSI regarding both Projects.  According to Carothers, the bonds incorporated by reference the subcontracts’ mandatory arbitration clauses and thus, DSI was subject to binding arbitration.  In declaratory judgment actions before Federal District Courts in South Carolina and Kansas, DSI asked the courts to declare that the arbitration clause did not bind it to arbitrate Carothers’ claims.  Each court reached the directly opposite conclusion.  This article discusses the decision reached by each court in turn. Continue reading “When Surety Bond Incorporates the Subcontract by Reference, Is the Subcontract’s Arbitration Clause Also Incorporated? Federal Court in South Carolina Says Yes; Federal Court in Kansas Says No — In Two Matters Involving the Same Parties”

Michigan Appellate Court Rules That, Absent Proof of Prejudice, Defendant’s Filing of a Cross-Complaint Does Not Constitute a Waiver of Arbitration

Universal Acad. v. Berkshire Dev., 2017 Mich. App. LEXIS 975 (Ct. App. June 20, 2017)

The dispute arose out of an agreement between Universal Academy (“Universal”) and Berkshire Development (“Berkshire”), under which Berkshire agreed to provide demolition services to Universal and Hamadeh Education Services (“HES”).  The agreement also contained an arbitration provision which provided in part:

In the event of a dispute between Contractor and the Owner that cannot be resolved, the parties agree to binding arbitration with the American Arbitration Association in accordance with the Construction Industry’s Rules of the American Arbitration Association in effect as of the date of this Agreement.

The agreement was terminated by Universal, alleging material breaches by Berkshire.  Following termination, subcontractors for the project filed a complaint against Berkshire, Universal, and HES, requesting foreclosure of construction liens and payment for services.  In response, Berkshire filed a cross-complaint against Universal and HES, requesting foreclosure of its lien and asserting claims of promissory estoppel and fraudulent inducement.  Five months after it filed the cross-complaint, Berkshire filed a motion to enforce the arbitration agreement between it and Universal. Continue reading “Michigan Appellate Court Rules That, Absent Proof of Prejudice, Defendant’s Filing of a Cross-Complaint Does Not Constitute a Waiver of Arbitration”