SUBCONTRACTORS – READ AND UNDERSTAND THE IMPLICATIONS OF VENUE PROVISIONS

imagesCA7D565LSubcontracts often have venue provisions. However, these are often overlooked until a dispute arises. In many instances, the venue provision requires disputes to be brought in a court in a different venue than where the project is located. This could have the adverse effect of exposing a subcontractor, in particular, to disputes in multiple forums. The recent case of East Coast Metal Decks, Inc. v. Boran Craig Barber Engel Construction Co., Inc., 38 Fla. L. Weekly D1061a (Fla. 2d DCA 2013), explains the undesirable dynamics of venue provisions.
In East Coast Metal Decks, the general contractor hired the subcontractor on two public projects in Brevard County and Sarasota County. The general contractor, however, sued the subcontractor in Collier County due to a venue provision in the subcontract. The subcontractor brought the general contractor’s payment bond surety into the fold and then tried to transfer the venue to Brevard County because the subcontractor was being sued by material suppliers in that County. The trial court denied the transfer of venue because of the Collier County venue provision in the subcontract.

 

On appeal, the Second District affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The Second District found that (i) the parties were bound by the subcontract venue provision as there was not a compelling reason not to enforce the provision and (ii) because the payment bond was a public payment issued under Florida Statute s. 255.05, venue for a claim against the bond did not have to lie in Brevard County (where the project was located).

 
What does this case mean? Well, it means that the subcontractor needs to litigate with the suppliers in Brevard County and litigate with the general contractor in Collier County even though the disputes are related. Most likely, the suppliers sued the subcontractor because they were not paid and the general contractor did not pay the subcontractor due to the facts related to the general contractor’s claim against the subcontractor in Collier County.
Litigation in different counties over a related dispute can become expensive and undesirable. It is important to understand and consider the impact of venue provisions in contracts. Sometimes, it makes sense to argue the compelling reasons why the venue provision should not be enforced. However, courts do favor venue provisions because that is what parties negotiated and agreed to on the front-end. Other times, it makes sense to resolve the smaller lawsuits or lawsuits where the facts may not be in your favor (such as a subcontractor’s lawsuit with a supplier) to focus on the lawsuit with more upside (the subcontractor’s lawsuit with the general contractor or payment bond surety).

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

VENUE PROVISIONS – READ WHAT YOU SIGN!

UnknownVenue provisions, also known as forum selection provisions, are commonly included in contracts. These provisions state that if there is a dispute arising out of or relating to the contract, the dispute must be brought in the exclusive venue of a certain locale. (For example, the provision might say disputes must be brought in the exclusive venue of Miami-Dade County.) Parties should be aware of this provision when executing a contract.

 

In Espresso Disposition Corp. 1 and Rowland Coffee Roasters, Inc., 37 Fla. L. Weekly D2643a (Fla. 3d DCA 2012), the parties entered into a contract. However, the party that prepared the contract cut-and-pasted the venue provision / forum selection provision from another contract. In doing so, there was no realization that the venue provision required disputes to be brought in Illinois. When a dispute arose, the drafter filed suit in Miami and argued that the Illinois venue provision was in error because it was simply cut-and-pasted. The problem was that venue provisions are enforceable and presumptively valid. The Third District Court of Appeal ruled that the drafter’s lawsuit must be dismissed because according to the parties’ contract, disputes could only be brought in Illinois. In entering this ruling and enforcing the cut-and-pasted venue provision, the Third District maintained “be careful what you ask for!” In other words, review the contract you are preparing and executing.

 

This case stands for the important proposition that parties need to review the contracts they are executing. Failure to do so could result in you being required to resolve your dispute in a different state and inconvenient forum as was the circumstance in the above case.

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.