Strategy is important. This is especially true if you are trying to avoid arbitration. In a recent federal district court case, a subcontractor sued the prime contractor and the Miller Act payment bond surety. The subcontractor, however, had an arbitration provision in its subcontract with the prime contractor. The prime contractor moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the subcontract and moved to stay the subcontractor’s Miller Act payment bond claim. The last thing, and I mean the last thing, the subcontractor wanted to do was to stay its claim against the Miller Act payment bond. However, the district court compelled the subcontractor’s claim against the prime contractor to arbitration and stayed the subcontractor’s Miller Act payment bond claim pending the outcome of the arbitration. See U.S. v. International Fidelity Ins. Co., 2017 WL 495614 (S.D.Al. 2017). This is not what the subcontractor wanted.
The outcome of this ruling may have been different if the subcontractor never sued the prime contractor and only sued the Miller Act payment bond surety. The Miller Act payment bond surety did not move to compel the Miller Act claim to arbitration evidently meaning there was nothing in the subcontract that would support such an argument. Had only the Miler Act payment bond surety been sued, the subcontractor may have likely been able to proceed with its payment dispute against the surety in federal district court without having to worry about arbitrating the same dispute with the prime contractor.
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