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

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

Willie Nelson supposedly quipped the following about divorce: “Why is divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it!” The same can be true of an owner looking to “divorce” a prime contractor or a prime contractor looking to part ways with a subcontractor on a construction project.

But much like divorce, the termination of a contractor should only be considered where all faith has been lost in a contractor to perform its obligations under the parties’ contract. This is because terminating a contractor has been said to be the most drastic of sanctions.

Continue Reading Four Things to Consider Before Terminating a Construction Contract

There are many ways a project owner or contractor can breach a construction contract. The following is a list of the six most common types of claims a contractor may assert against an owner or a subcontractor might make against a prime contractor:

1. Payment claims: One very common dispute is where the owner fails to timely pay the prime contractor or the prime contractor does not pay a subcontractor on time. Cash flow is very important in construction. If the owner does not timely pay the prime contractor, then the prime contractor may have difficulty paying its subcontractors and the subcontractors may not be able to pay their sub-subcontractors and/or suppliers.

Many times, payment disputes turn on whether the owner had a valid reason for withholding funds from the contractor. For example, if the contractor has submitted a payment application for deficient work, then the owner should not have an obligation to pay for that work. But if it turns out that the work was not deficient, then the owner may have breached the contractor by not timely paying the contractor.


Continue Reading The Six Most Common Contractor Claims

Many construction payment disputes come down to one key question—who is responsible for extra costs incurred while building a project? Parties frequently have competing breach-of-contract actions that focus on who is liable. But a recent federal court case shows that you should not give short shrift to the damages that flow from the alleged breach.

In Barlovento, LLC v. AUI, Inc., Civ. No. 18-1112 GJF/JHR, 2021 WL 3879072 (D.N.M. Aug. 31, 2021), the United States Air Force awarded a general contractor a $5.5 million contract to renovate a taxiway at a military base. The general contractor then subcontracted the removal and replacement of the taxiway pavement and base course. This required the subcontractor to place three layers – subgrade, base course, and concrete.

The subcontractor fell behind in its performance of the work, and ultimately, the general contractor held a meeting with the subcontractor and a potential replacement subcontractor that would perform almost all the remaining work. At that meeting, the general contractor announced that it would take the concrete paving work away from the subcontractor. Despite the decision to de-scope the original subcontractor, the general contractor ended up terminating the subcontractor for default.

Continue Reading General Contractor Awarded $22,000 of Its $1.3 Million Claim Against a Subcontractor

In Cano, Inc. v. Judet, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal recently reaffirmed that when a contractor breaches a contract and the owner sues for breach of contract, the owner has three options for calculating its damages as follows:

  1. the owner may obtain the difference between the contract price and the additional money the owner spent to complete the project; or
  2. the owner can seek the difference between the value the construction would have had if completed and the value of the construction that had been performed before the contractor was terminated; or
  3. the owner can treat the contract as void and seek damages that will restore the owner to the position it was in before entering into the contract.

Courts refer to the first two options as the benefit-of-the-bargain remedy, which is intended to put the non-breaching party in the position it would have been in had the contract been completely performed.

Continue Reading Project Owner Damages When the Contractor Breaches a Construction Contract

If you are a construction contractor on a federal government project that is default terminated, do not forget that you only have, at most, one year to appeal the termination.

Under the Federal Acquisition Regulations, the federal government, through its contracting officer, may terminate a construction contract for default. Frequently, the terminated contractor does not agree with the CO’s decision to terminate the contract, and the contractor will want to appeal the CO’s decision.

Continue Reading Contractor’s Appeal of Default Termination Dismissed as Time-Barred