Miller Act Claims

Although the law is nearing 100 years old, the Miller Act is still a crucial tool that regulates payments on federal construction projects and helps subcontractors get paid. If you meet the prerequisites and can get the proper paperwork filed within set deadlines, pursuing a Miller Act claim can ensure you receive the payment you are owed for providing work and materials.

What You Need to Know About the Miller Act

The provisions of the Miller Act kick in if any federal project’s construction or improvement cost will exceed $100,000. If that threshold is met, then the prime or general contractor must provide performance and payment bonds to ensure sub-contractors are eventually paid. The Act is primarily meant to help either subcontractors or suppliers performing work on federal buildings like courthouses, prisons, military bases, or other locations designated for government use.

There are extremely strict requirements you need to know about if you are planning on trying to file a Miller Act claim or pursue a lawsuit for recovering payment, however. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know:

  • Only applies to federal projects
  • Isn’t applicable to any private construction, commercial building projects, or even state or local government funded-projects
  • Doesn’t apply to general contractors
  • Can only be used by first-tier contractors, second-tier subcontractors, or suppliers of the general contractor
  • Not applicable to third-tier or lower parties involved in the construction project
  • You must have furnished either materials or labor to the project within the last 90 days

It’s important to understand that the Miller Act specifically isn’t useful for prime contractors struggling to recover payment for government projects. If you are the prime contractor and haven’t been paid by the federal government, you should speak with a construction litigation attorney about pursuing a lawsuit for recovering costs through methods other than the Miller Act.

How to Pursue a Miller Act Claim in Louisiana

If you were involved in providing materials or workers within the last three months but haven’t been paid by the primary contractor, you have the option to pursue a claim. It will have to come from the bonding company, however, rather than the contractor.

It’s also crucial to take specific steps within limited timeframes for the best shot at having a claim approved. If you need to enforce a claim for your work, be sure to contact an attorney for assistance in:

  • Providing notice of a Miller Act claim to the prime contractor within the 90-day timeframe using either certified mail or some other means that provides written confirmation the document was delivered.
  • Sending the same notice to the surety bonding company used by the prime contractor on the project (in some cases, you or your attorney may need to submit a request to find out which company is handling the Miller Act-required bond).
  • Fill out a claim form for the surety, including all the relevant information about your lack of payment, such as a copy of your contract, emails and other communications with the prime contractor, delivery receipts, purchase orders, and so on.
  • Receiving a payment or rejection notice from the surety.
  • Filing a lawsuit within one year of your final furnishing of materials for the project if the claim was rejected but you are still owed money.

When a claim is incorrectly rejected, a lawsuit can be filed against the bond set up by the contractor, rather than the actual construction company itself. That lawsuit must be filed in federal court within the jurisdiction of the project, and requires the assistance of a skilled construction litigation lawyer with experience in government projects.

Get Help From a Legal Professional With Your Miller Act Claim Questions

If you are a subcontractor or supplier on a federal government construction project and you haven’t been paid what you are owed, contact the Scott Vicknair law firm today. We want to hear about your potential Miller Act claim and find out how to help your company move forward towards successful compensation for your work.

You deserve to get paid for your hard work, but in the construction industry that’s not always guaranteed. While you might file a mechanic’s lien against a private property to acquire payment from a stingy general contractor, that option doesn’t exist in public projects with the federal government. The good news is that you may be able to recover what you are owed by filing a claim under the Miller Act instead.

How the Miller Act Works

General contractors are required by law to set aside payment and performance bonds before starting federal government-backed projects estimated to cost more than $100,000. The statutes of the Act have no bearing on private projects of any size, from individuals building a family home all the way to large-scale construction work for major corporations.

The purpose of those bonds is to make funds available for paying subcontractors. That financial cushioning is meant to protect the government by keeping necessary construction projects going during payment disputes, but it also protects the subcontractors. Obviously, the federal government doesn’t want an unpaid subcontractor to be able to place a lien on something like a courthouse or military base. Instead, they can get paid by filing a claim against the bond.

For those who qualify, a claim under the Miller Act allows you to recover damages for costs like:

  • Attorney’s fees you incurred while pursuing the claim
  • Delays
  • Equipment rentals
  • Freight and transportation
  • Labor and materials used in the project (including gas and oil)
  • Materials that weren’t used but that the sub-contractor expected in good faith to use in the project

Who Can File a Miller Act Claim and Why You Need a Lawyer

First and foremost, the Miller Act specifically does not help the general contractor in any way. Both first- and second-tier subcontractors and material suppliers can file a claim, but only under these specific conditions:

  • First-tier subcontractors, if they contracted directly to a prime contractor
  • Second-tier subcontractors, if they contracted directly to a first-tier subcontractor
  • First-tier material suppliers, if they contracted directly to a prime contractor
  • Second-tier material suppliers, if they contracted directly to a first-tier subcontractor (but not a first-tier material supplier)

Anyone further down than second-tier sub-contractor or material supplier is typically excluded and can’t file a claim under this particular law. You aren’t necessarily left completely unprotected if you fall into one of those groups, however. If you can’t file a claim under the Miller Act, there may be other options available, like filing a lawsuit over breach of contract.

The Miller Act additionally has very strict filing restrictions. Claims must be filed within a very specific frame that can become complicated depending on your role in the project. For instance, second-tier subcontractors have to provide notice of a Miller Act claim to the general contractor within 90 days of last providing material or labor. The notice also has to be served in a specific way in order to satisfy the requirements of the Act.

If you still don’t receive full payment after providing notice, you can’t actually bring a civil action against the contractor for at least another 90 days. Crucially, a lawsuit has to be filed before one year has elapsed from the last time you supplied materials or labor in the project. It is critical to discuss your potential need for a Miller Act claim with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure you don’t fall outside those time frames.

Don’t Lose out on the Pay You Deserve

Because your attorney’s fees may be awarded as an element of your damages, it can actually end up costing you more not to file a claim, or to try to handle the claim on your own. Are you struggling to recover payment from a contractor in a federal public works project? Get in touch with the Scott Vicknair New Orleans office by calling (504) 500-1111 or send your contact details and a brief overview of your legal needs online here.

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