Render Unto Caesar: Considerations for Returning Withheld Sums

Businessman with briefcase money

Withholding too much money during a dispute can turn a position of strength into one of weakness.

January 18, 2021
William E. Underwood Partner, Jones Walker LLP - ConsensusDocs

Withholding sums during a dispute can be an effective and perfectly legitimate means to protect against the harms caused by another party’s breach. However, withholding too much money during a dispute can turn a position of strength into one of weakness.

“Why should I fund the other side’s litigation war chest?” and “Isn’t this just a display of weakness?” are common questions raised by contractors when this issue is discussed. Often, the contractor is well within its contractual or legal rights to withhold money from a breaching subcontractor (another topic for another day). But it may not always be in a contractor’s best interest to withhold every single penny available.

This article addresses some of the long-term implications for failing to return withheld sums, including the potential to recover attorneys’ fees, possible bad faith, accruing interest, and overall litigation costs. Admittedly, it can be hard to give money back in the middle of a dispute. But sometimes it can positively impact the overall outcome of the case.

Mr. Underwood may be contacted at wunderwood@joneswalker.com



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