Sometimes a Reminder is in Order. . .

Post its on cork board

Some of the things that we construction attorneys would think are so obvious are not always as clear as we may think.

February 18, 2020
Christopher G. Hill - Construction Law Musings

Recently, I was talking with my friend Matt Hundley about a recent case he had in the Charlottesville, VA Circuit Court. It was a relatively straightforward (or so he and I would have thought) breach of contract matter involving a fixed price contract between his (and an associate of his Laura Hooe) client James River Stucco and the Montecello Overlook Owners’ Association. I believe that you will see the reason for the title of the post once you hear the facts and read the opinion.

In James River Stucco, Inc. v. Monticello Overlook Owners’ Ass’n, the Court considered Janes River Stucco’s Motion for Summary Judgment countering two arguments made by the Association. The first Association argument was that the word “employ” in the contract meant that James River Stucco was required to use its own forces (as opposed to subcontractors) to perform the work. The second argument was that James River overcharged for the work. This second argument was made without any allegation of fraud or that the work was not 100% performed.

Needless to say, the Court rejected both arguments. The Court rejected the first argument stating:

In its plain meaning, “employ” means to hire, use, utilize, or make arrangements for. A plain reading of the contractual provisions cited–“shall employ” and references to “employees”–and relied on by Defendant does not require that the persons performing the labor, arranged by Plaintiff, be actual employees of the company or on the company’s payroll. It did not matter how the plaintiff accomplished the work so long as it was done correctly. The purpose of those provisions was to allocate to Plaintiff responsibility for supplying a sufficient workforce to get the work done, not to impose HR duties or require the company to use only “in house” workers. So I find that use of contracted work does not constitute a breach of the contract or these contractual provisions.

Mr. Hill may be contacted at chrisghill@constructionlawva.com



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