Sureties have many defenses that they like to assert to avoid paying under a performance bond. One of those defenses arises when the obligee (usually the owner or the general contractor terminating a subcontractor) precludes the surety from exercising one of its options under the bond.

While performance bond terms vary, a surety frequently has three options under the bond where a bonded contractor has been default terminated:

(1) the surety can step in and complete the defaulted contractor’s work;

(2) the surety can obtain bids from other contractors to complete the defaulted contractor’s work and tender a new contractor to complete the work; or

(3) the surety can simply pay the obligee (again, typically the owner or the general contractor that defaulted a subcontractor) the cost above the remaining contract balance to complete the defaulted contractor’s work.

If a surety perceives that it was not given a chance to exercise one of its options under the bond, you can rest assured that the surety will argue it is no longer liable for any of the excess completion costs.

The you-deprived-the-surety-of-its-completion-rights defense is playing out in real time right now in a pending lawsuit between a surety and a contractor in Western Surety Company v. PCL Construction Services, Inc.

Continue Reading Another Performance Bond Surety Defense – Impairing a Surety’s Completion Options Under the Bond

When submitting a bid for a public construction project, a contractor is typically required to submit a bid bond along with its bid. A bid bond is a written agreement under which a surety agrees to pay a specific amount to the owner if the contractor refuses to enter into a contract for the project.

In other words, if a contractor does not honor its bid that included a bid bond, the surety will usually be required to pay for the owner’s excess reprocurement costs. Those costs may included the difference in price between the low bid and the next lowest bidder along with the owner’s administrative reprocurement costs.

Continue Reading The Importance of Submitting a Proper Bid Bond

A performance bond ensures that the contractor or subcontractor that obtains the bond will complete its work under the parties’ contract. When a bonded contractor or subcontractor defaults, the surety that issued the bond should step in and exercise one of its options under the bond.

One of the surety’s options is to complete the defaulted contractor’s or subcontractor’s work. Frequently, the performance bond provides that a surety will not have an obligation to step up and complete the work unless the contract with the contractor or subcontractor has been terminated.

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit very recently considered whether a surety was liable for over $3 million in remedial costs that a prime contractor incurred to repair the work of one of its bonded subcontractors. See Arch Ins. Co. v. Graphic Builders, LLC, 36 F.4th 12 (1st Cir. 2022).

Continue Reading Surety Avoids Liability Because Subcontractor Was Never Terminated

Unpaid subcontractors on federal government projects typically have payment bond rights that allow subcontractors to sue for payment to which they are entitled. There are many deadlines subcontractors must meet to preserve their rights under a payment bond. One deadline requires subcontractors to file a payment bond claim no later than one year after the day on which the last of the labor was performed or material was supplied by the person bringing the action.

One year seems like plenty of time to file a payment bond claim, but you would be surprised how many subcontractors wait until the last possible second to file a payment bond lawsuit. That’s dangerous because it may subject an otherwise valid payment bond claim to the argument that it’s untimely because it wasn’t filed within one year of the last performance of the subcontractor’s work.

That’s exactly what happened in a very recent federal court case, United States ex rel. RCO Construction, LLC v. Federal Insurance Company. In that case,  a federal court judge provided one of the most thorough analyses of the one year statute of limitations for federal payment bond claims I have ever seen.

Continue Reading The One Year Statute of Limitations for Subcontractor Federal Payment Bond Claims

Resolving construction disputes through arbitration may be preferable under certain circumstances. I won’t go into the pros and cons of arbitration versus litigation, but one of the negatives of arbitrating a dispute is that the parties have to pay for the arbitrator(s) time. For larger construction disputes, the cost for the arbitrators is relatively small compared to the amount in dispute. And frequently, the extra cost to have arbitrators with significant construction experience is worth it for larger disputes. But for smaller disputes, the extra cost can be hard to justify and may discourage claimants from prosecuting their claim. In those situations, it may be smart to strike out any provision in a contract requiring the arbitration of disputes between the parties.

Continue Reading If You Don’t Want Arbitration, Make That Clear in Your Contract!

If you are an unpaid sub-subcontractor on a federal government project, don’t forget to provide notice of your claim to the general contractor within 90 days and file a lawsuit no later than one year after last furnishing labor or material to the project or you will lose your payment bond rights. That’s exactly what happened in a recent federal court decision in which a sub-subcontractor lost its right to assert its $8.5 million claim against the co-sureties that issued a payment bond because the sub-subcontractor failed to give notice within 90 days and file a lawsuit within one year of last furnishing labor or material on a federal government project.

Continue Reading Sub-Subcontractor Loses Payment Bond Rights on $8.5 Million Claim for Failing to Provide Timely Notice and File a Lawsuit