The proper venue for a Miller Act payment bond claim is “in the United States District Court for any district in which the contract was to be performed and executed, regardless of the amount in controversy.” 40 U.S.C. s. 3133(b)(3)(B).
Well, there are a number of federal construction projects that take place outside of the United States. For these projects, where is the correct venue to sue a Miller Act payment bond if there is no US District Court where the project is located? A recent opinion out of the Southern District of Florida answers this question.
In U.S. ex. rel. Salt Energy, LLC v. Lexon Ins. Co., 2019 WL 3842290 (S.D.Fla. 2019), a prime contractor was hired by the government to design and construct a solar power system for the US Embassy’s parking garage in Burkina Faso. The prime contractor hired a subcontractor to perform a portion of its scope of work.
The subcontractor remained unpaid in excess of $500,000 and instituted a Miller Act payment bond claim against the payment bond surety in the Southern District of Florida, Miami division. The surety moved to transfer venue to the Eastern District of Virginia arguing that the Southern District of Florida was an improper venue. The court agreed and transferred venue. Why?