Can a claimant recover attorney’s fees in a Miller Act payment bond dispute even though the Miller Act does not contain a prevailing party attorney’s fee provision? Yes, if the underlying contract that formed the basis of the suit provided for attorney’s fees.
What about a prime contractor and surety—can they recover their attorney’s fees if they prevail in a Miller Act payment bond claim and the underlying contract provides a basis for fees? The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S.A. f/u/b/o RMP Capital Corp. v. Turner Construction Co., 2017 WL 244066 (11th Cir. 2017) seemingly just answered this question in the affirmative when it reversed a lower court’s ruling that precluded a prime contractor and surety that prevailed in a Miller Act claim from recovering their attorney’s fees:
“Like all other parties to contracts, general contractors on federal projects and their sureties can recover attorney’s fees where a contract allocates attorney’s fees to them. Here the contract that Turner [prime contractor] and the Sureties claim entitles them to an award of attorney’s fees was between Southwick [sub-subcontractor] and Bolena [subcontractor]. We remand to the district court to interpret that contract in the first instance, so as to determine whether it entitles Turner and the Sureties to an award of attorney’s fees, and if so how much. Id at *2 (internal citation omitted).
While this ruling may seem harmless, it is a favorable ruling to a prime contractor and surety that prevail in a Miler Act payment bond claim when the underlying contract provides for attorney’s fees (which would likely be the same contract the claimant relies on to seek attorney’s fees).
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