Archive: May 2007

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General Contractor May Recover from Subcontractor Without Joining Owner as Party
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Winning Race to Courthouse Does Not Win ERISA Preemption

General Contractor May Recover from Subcontractor Without Joining Owner as Party

Floor Express, Inc. v. Daly, 138 Wash. App. 750, 158 P.3d 619 (2007)

In this case, a subcontractor sued a general contractor for failing to make payments on the parties’ contract.  The general contractor asserted a counterclaim against the subcontractor for the cost of removing and replacing the subcontractor’s work.  On the first day of trial, the subcontractor moved to dismiss the counterclaim, arguing that the project owner was a necessary party and that the general contractor had no standing to sue the subcontractor because the alleged defective work injured only the owner.  The trial court granted the motion, but Division Two reversed.

The Court of Appeals noted that, where a subcontractor breaches its agreement with a general contractor by failing to perform the work pursuant to the parties’ agreement, the general contractor has legal exposure to the owner.  The court held that the owner was not a necessary party to the litigation under Civil Rule 19 because the general contractor’s claims were based on the subcontract, to which the owner was not a party.  The court also held it could afford complete relief to the general contractor, and that the owner’s absence did not impede any of the owner’s interests.  Accordingly, the general contractor’s claim against the subcontractor should have been allowed to proceed.

Winning Race to Courthouse Does Not Win ERISA Preemption

Bd. of Trustees of Cement Masons & Plasterers Health & Welfare Trust v. GBC Northwest, LLC, 2007 WL 1306545 (W.D. Wash. May 3, 2007), reconsid’n denied, 2007 WL 1521220 (W.D. Wash. May 22, 2007)

A split of authority exists between Washington state courts and federal courts regarding whether an employee benefit trust fund can use state lien laws to recover unpaid employee benefit contribution payments.  In 2000, the Washington Supreme Court held that ERISA preempted the state public works lien law.  Int’l Bd. of Elec. Workers v. Trig Elec. Contr. Co., 142 Wash.2d 431, 13 P.3d 622 (2000).  Two years later, however, Judge Coughenour of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington noted that federal law, as determined by federal courts, governs questions of ERISA preemption, and that ERISA does not preempt Washington’s public works lien laws.  Ironworkers Dist. Council of the Pacific Northwest v. George Sollit Corp., M.A., 2002 WL 31545972 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 4, 2002).

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