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 Federal Court Clarifies When Idle Equipment Costs Are Recoverable Under the Miller Act

Pinnacle Crushing & Constr. LLC v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67965 (W.D. Wa. Apr. 23, 2018)

The Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”), as owner, and Cherokee General Corporation (“CGC”), as prime contractor, entered into a contract (the “Contract”) in connection with work at the Yakima Training Center (the “Project”).  CGC subcontracted with SCI Infrastructure (“SCI”) for certain work related to the Project (the “SCI Subcontract”), and SCI subcontracted with Pinnacle Crushing & Construction, LLC (“Pinnacle”) (the “Pinnacle Subcontract”).  CGC obtained a Miller Act payment bond (the “Bond”) from Hartford Insurance Co. (the “Surety”) to provide coverage for labor and materials supplied in carrying out the work.

After the Corps terminated the Contract with CGC, CGC submitted a claim under the Contracts Disputes Act.  As required by the SCI Subcontract, CGC asserted SCI’s pass through claims against the Corps, which included amounts allegedly owed to both SCI and Pinnacle.

Separately, SCI and Pinnacle sued CGC and the Surety to recover under the Bond for the work they performed under the subcontracts, but for which CGC had not paid them.


Continue Reading Subcontract Provision Requiring Subcontractor to Pass Through its Claims Does Not Prevent the Subcontractor From Suing to Recover Against Miller Act Bond

United States ex rel. Metro Mech., Inc. v. Triangle Constr. Co.,  2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1487 (S.D. Miss. Jan. 4, 2018)

Triangle Construction Company, Inc. (“Triangle”) contracted with Mississippi Portfolio Partners III, LP (“Mississippi Partners”) to serve as the prime contractor on four apartment complex construction projects (the “Projects”) in Mississippi.  Triangle subcontracted the HVAC and plumbing work to Metro Mechanical, Inc. (“Metro”).  After Metro completed its work, Metro filed suit in the Federal District Court under the Miller Act, to collect sums due from Triangle and its payment bond surety.  Triangle moved to dismiss, asserting that the Court was without Miller Act jurisdiction because the projects and contracting parties were private.

The Miller Act requires contractors on “public work[s] of the Federal Government” to obtain payment bonds for the protection of subcontractors and suppliers.  See 40 U.S.C. § 3131.  To that end, the Millers Act also creates a civil action in federal court in favor of any “person that has furnished labor or material in carrying out work provided for” under a Miller Act contract and “that has not paid in full within 90 days.” 40 U.S.C. 3133(b)(1).  The District Court applied two alternative tests to determine whether the Projects were “public works of the Federal Government subject to the Miller Act.”


Continue Reading Federal Court in Mississippi Holds That Although Projects Were Constructed With Federal Funds, They Were Not “A Public Work of the Federal Government” and Therefore the Court Had No Jurisdiction Over a Subcontractor’s Claim Under the Miller Act, Where the United States Was Not a Contracting Party and the Projects Were Not Constructed on Federal Property

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

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

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

United States ex rel Jack Daniels Construction, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 172189 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 28, 2015)

This action arises from the construction of the Joint Intelligence Technical Training Facility at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas (the “Project”).  Plaintiff Jack Daniels Construction, Inc. (“Jack Daniels”) was a sub-subcontractor who was retained by the subcontractor, Ragghianti Foundations III, Inc. (“Ragghianti”), to perform certain concrete work at the Project.  Jack Daniels commenced its work on the Project in late August of 2011, but it was demobilized by early September as a result of problems encountered by Ragghianti and the prime contractor.  Jack Daniels resumed its work in late October, but by November of 2011, the Project was behind schedule.


Continue Reading Federal District Court in Florida Considers Damages (Including Delay Costs and Attorneys Fees) and Defenses Available Under the Miller Act

DVBE Trucking and Construction Co., Inc. v. McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90052 (N.D. Cal. July 10, 2015)

This payment dispute case arises out of a Veterans Affairs (“VA”) construction project located in Palo Alto, California.  McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. (“McCarthy”) was the prime contractor, Federal Insurance Company and Travelers Casualty and Surety provided the performance and payment bonds on behalf of McCarthy mandated by the Miller Act, and DVBE Trucking and Construction Company, Inc. (“DVBE”) was McCarthy’s subcontractor.  Section 11.1 of DVBE’s subcontract required that, for any dispute involving the VA, it would follow the dispute resolution procedures agreed to by McCarthy in its contract with the VA, and agreed to be bound by the result of any such dispute resolution procedures to the same degree as McCarthy.


Continue Reading Federal District Court in California Holds that Subcontract Provision Binding Subcontractor to Result of Dispute Resolution under Prime Contract Was Not an Effective Waiver of Miller Act Rights

Marenalley Constr., LLC v. Zurich American Ins. Co. and Nason Constr. Inc., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30968 (E.D. Pa. March 13, 2015)

This payment dispute case arises out of a Veterans Affairs (“VA”) construction project located in Philadelphia. Nason was the general contractor, Zurich was Nason’s surety, and Marenalley was Nason’s subcontractor. Marenalley’s subcontract required it to pursue any claim related to the project through the administrative disputes resolution process provided by Nason’s prime contract with the VA before bringing suit against the project’s bond.  The prime contract’s administrative dispute resolution process clause incorporated the terms of the Contract Disputes Act (the “CDA”).


Continue Reading U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania Holds Subcontractor’s Miller Act Suit Not Subject to Stay Pending Prime Contractor’s Prosecution of Claim Against Government

KBW Assocs. v. Jaynes Corp., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18220 (D. Nev. Feb. 13, 2015)

This action arose out of the construction of additions to existing buildings at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada (the “Project”).  The United States Army Corps of Engineers (the “COE”) contracted with Defendant Jaynes Corporation, Inc. (“Jaynes”) to perform the work.  Jaynes then subcontracted with Plaintiff, KBW Associates, Inc. (“KBW”), to construct the metal framing and outer shell of the buildings.

Following construction delays, Jaynes found itself involved in two separate actions.  In the first action (the “Prime Contract Litigation”), Jaynes was defending against liquidated damages assessed by the COE under the prime contract.  In the instant action (the “Subcontract Litigation”), Jaynes was defending a Miller Act suit for contract balances brought by KBW.  KBW alleged Jaynes was responsible for the construction delay, through a “pattern of mismanagement”, involving failure to timely approve work, unilateral imposition of work beyond the scope of the subcontract and improper scheduling.  Jaynes asserted several affirmative defenses and filed counterclaims against KBW, on grounds that KBW failed to perform in accordance with the subcontract and failed to meet construction schedules.


Continue Reading Federal District Court in Nevada Denies Contractor’s Motion to Stay Subcontractor’s Miller Act Suit Pending Resolution of Contractor’s Suit Against the Government