Forum-selection clause

Sachse Constr. & Dev. Corp. v. Affirmed Drywall, Corp., 2018 Fla App. Lexis 9998 (July 18, 2018)

Sachse Construction, a Michigan-based general contractor, entered into a subcontract (the “Subcontract”) with Affirmed Drywall Corp. (“Affirmed”), a Florida drywall subcontractor, to perform work on a property in Florida.  The Subcontract provided that all disputes be resolved by mediation and/or arbitration in Southfield, Michigan, or within 20 miles thereof, pursuant to the Construction Industry Rules of the American Arbitration Association and in accordance with Michigan laws.  However, under Section 47.025 of the Florida Statutes, a venue provision in a contract involving a Florida-based contractor or subcontractor, etc., for the improvement of real property located in Florida is considered void as a matter of public policy if it requires that legal action be brought outside of Florida.

Affirmed filed an action in Florida state court alleging claims for breach of contract against Sachse and to recover against a bond naming Sachse and the surety on the bond.  Sachse moved to dismiss or to compel arbitration in Michigan in accordance with the dispute resolution provision in the Subcontract.  Sachse argued that the Subcontract involved interstate commerce, so the Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”) governed the Subcontract and preempted inconsistent state law.  Sachse claimed that Section 47.025 did not void the provision in the Subcontract mandating that disputes be resolved by arbitration in Michigan because of the FAA’s liberal policy favoring arbitration agreements.  The trial court disagreed, denied Sachse’s motion and ordered Sachse to answer the complaint.  Sachse appealed.
Continue Reading Federal Arbitration Act Preempts Florida State Statute Which Prohibits Out-of-State Resolution of Construction Claims Involving Florida Real Property

Pritchett Controls, Inc. v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 192182, 2017 WL 5591872 (D. Md. Nov. 21, 2017)

James W. Ancel, Inc. (“JWA”) was the prime contractor on a project for the Maryland Transit Authority in Baltimore.  JWA subcontracted a portion of the work to Pritchett Controls, Inc. (“Pritchett”).  The subcontract contained a forum selection clause requiring any disputes to be “brought in the District or County where Contractor’s  principal office is located….”  JWA’s principal office is located in Towson, Maryland, which sits in Baltimore County.

As required by Maryland’s Little Miller Act, JWA, as principal, executed a payment bond with Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co. (“Hartford”), as surety.  This case involves Pritchett’s claim against Hartford for payment under the bond.

While performing its work on the project, Pritchett submitted twelve (12) payment applications to JWA totaling $744,799.  It completed its work on March 16, 2017 but never received any payment for its work.  On May 11, 2017, Pritchett submitted a notice of claim to Hartford.  When that claim remained unpaid by July 25, 2017, Pritchett filed this action against Hartford in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.


Continue Reading Use of the Word “in” Indicates Geography; Use of the Word “of” Indicates Sovereignty: Federal District Court in Maryland Holds That Venue Is Proper in Federal Court in Maryland Where Forum Selection Clause Requires Action to be Brought “In the District or County” Where the Prime Contractor Is Located

Bell Prods. v. Hosp. Bldg. & Equip. Co., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9183 (ND of Cal. Jan. 23, 2017)

A Contractor, Hospital Building and Equipment Company (“HBE”) entered into a subcontract with a mechanical subcontractor, Bell Products, Inc. (“Bell”), on a design-build project for a California hospital.  Bell sued HBE, asserting that HBE’s plans and specifications were deficient and failed to meet requirements of the applicable regulatory agencies, resulting in 15 months of delay to the project.  Bell initially sued HBE in State Court.  However, the case was removed to federal court, and the federal court stayed the proceedings pending conclusion of arbitration.

The subcontract provided that:  all claims between HBE and Bell shall be decided by arbitration; the arbitration shall be per the Construction Industry Rules of the American Arbitration Association; the arbitration provisions shall be governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and “unless [HBE] requests the locale to be the place of the Project, the arbitration locale shall be St. Louis, Missouri.  Bell sought relief from the venue provision, based upon a California Statute, C.C.P. § 410.42(a)(1), which provides:

(a) The following provisions of a contract between the contractor and a subcontractor with principal offices in this state, for the construction of a public or private work of improvement in this state, shall be void and unenforceable:
(1) A provision which purports to require any dispute between the parties to be litigated, arbitrated, or otherwise determined outside this state.
Continue Reading Federal Court in California Rules That the Federal Arbitration Act Preempts California Statute That Requires Arbitrations Relating to California Construction Projects Take Place in California

KNL Construction, Inc. v. Killian Construction Co., Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58269 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 28, 2014)

This action arose out of the construction of the Mohegan Sun Hotel in Luzerene County, Pennsylvania.  General contractor Killian Construction Co., Inc. (“Killian”) retained KNL Construction, Inc. (“KNL”) as a subcontractor to perform certain work on the project.  The parties executed a subcontract which contained a forum selection clause mandating that disputes thereunder be litigated in Greene County Missouri, or if federal jurisdiction is applicable, in the District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
A dispute arose over KNL’s performance under the subcontract, eventually leading to its termination.  In response, KNL brought suit in Pennsylvania state court for breach of contract and related claims premised on payments allegedly owed by Killian, including a claim under Pennsylvania’s Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act (“CASPA”).  Killian removed the case to the Middle District of Pennsylvania on diversity grounds and filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue, or, in the alternative, transfer for forum non conveniens.  In support of its motion, Killian argued that the clear language of the forum selection clause designates Missouri as the exclusive venue for litigation.


Continue Reading District Court in Pennsylvania Concludes that CASPA Prompt Payment Act Does Not Override Unambiguous Forum Selection Clause

Atl. Marine Constr. Co. v. United States Dist. Court
2013 U.S. LEXIS 8775 (U.S. 2013)  

This action arose out of a forum-selection clause in a contract for a federal construction project. The U.S. Corps of Engineers contracted with Atlantic Marine Construction Company (“Atlantic”), a Virginia Corporation, to build a child development center at Fort Hood, a military base located in the western district of Texas. Atlantic then entered into a Subcontract Agreement (the “Subcontract”) with J-Crew Management, Inc. (“J-Crew”), a Texas corporation, to provide labor and materials. The Subcontract included a forum-selection clause, providing that disputes “shall be litigated in the Circuit Court for the City of Norfolk, Virginia, or the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division.” Following a dispute over payment, however, J-Crew sued Atlantic in the Western District of Texas.


Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Holds Forum-Selection Clauses Are Presumptively Enforceable

Roberts & Schaefer Co. v. Merit Contracting, Inc.,
99 F.3d 248, 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 28280 (U.S. Ct. of Appeals, 7th Cir.)
Contract between the parties contained an enforceable forum selection clause, even though the actual written agreement was signed by only one of the parties; therefore, suit brought in Illinois state court pursuant to the forum selection clause, was not removable to Federal Court.

Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Rules That Forum Selection Clause in Construction Contract Is Enforceable Under Illinois Law