MILLER ACT STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS AND EQUITABLE TOLLING

When it comes to a Miller Act payment bond claim, there is a one-year statute of limitations—“The Miller Act contains a statute of limitations provision that requires actions to ‘be brought no later than one year after the day on which the last of the labor was performed or material was supplied by the person bringing the claim.’” U.S. f/u/b/o Techniquex Specialty Flooring, Inc., v. Philadelphia Indemnity Ins. Co., 2022 WL 169070, *3 (M.D.Penn. 2022) (citing the Miller Act).

There is an argument, albeit a difficult one, to support an equitable tolling of the one-year statute of limitations. This would be an argument filed when the one-year statute of limitations expires, but there is reason for missing the statute of limitations caused typically by the overt misleading of the defendant (surety/bond-principal):

“Equitable tolling functions to stop the statute of limitations from running where the claim’s accrual date has passed.” “Equitable tolling is appropriate in three situations: (1) when the defendant has actively misled the plaintiff respecting the facts which comprise the plaintiff’s cause of action; (2) when the plaintiff in some extraordinary way has been prevented from asserting his rights; and (3) when the plaintiff has timely asserted his rights in the wrong forum.” The first ground for equitable tolling“appears to be the same, in all important respects” to equitable estoppel, which “excuses late filing where such tardiness results from active deception on the part of the defendant” and “what courts describe as ‘equitable tolling’ is encompassed by the latter two parts of our Circuit’s doctrine.” The extraordinary circumstances standard may be met “where the defendant misleads the plaintiff, allowing the statutory period to lapse; or when the plaintiff has no reasonable way of discovering the wrong perpetrated against her …”

Tehniquex, supra, at *5 (internal citations omitted).

If you are involved on a federal project, it is imperative that you appreciate your Miller Act payment bond rights.  This includes knowing when your last date of furnishing is as well as your last date to file a Miller Act payment bond lawsuit. While equitable tolling is an argument if the statute of limitations expires, it is admittedly a very difficult argument to prevail on and will require evidence substantiating the basis for the equitable tolling.  Otherwise, you are just a party that missed the deadline to file a Miller Act payment bond claim, and in most occasions, there is really no justifiable reason for this to  be the situation.

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.

 

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