California has a number of prompt payment penalty statutes on the books. Among them is Civil Code section 8800 which requires project owners on private works projects to pay progress payments to direct contractors within 30 days after demand for payment pursuant to contract or be subject to prompt payment penalties of two percent (2%) per month on the amount wrongfully withheld. Like California’s other prompt payment penalty statutes, however, there is an important carve out: If there is a good faith dispute between the project owner and the direct contractor the project owner may withhold up to 150% of the dispute amount and not be subject to prompt payment penalties. And that, my friends, is a higher-tiered party’s “get out of jail free” card.
In a case of first impression, the 1st District Court of Appeals, in Vought Construction Inc. v. Stock (2022) 84 Cal.App.5th 622, examined whether a project owner’s claim for liquidated damages constitutes a good faith dispute under Civil Code section 8800.