Terminating A Subcontractor Or Sub-Tier Contractor—Not So Fast—Read Your Contract!

Word Contract with ripped paper above and below it.

In his blog post, John P. Ahlers explains the importance of discussing liability issues with your attorney prior to terminating your subcontractor.

May 24, 2018
John P. Ahlers - Ahlers Cressman & Sleight PLLC Blog

Every few months I receive a call from a general contractor or subcontractor who has just terminated a subcontractor or sub-tier contractor for non-performance and is “checking in with me to see if there are any liability issues.” After the termination has taken place, if the termination is wrongful, there are serious legal consequences. Calling your lawyer after the fact will not cure missteps in the termination process. Termination for non-performance is a common term in most contract documents. As courts interpret contracts, however, the right to earn revenue from a contract is a substantial interest, and courts generally “abhor” forfeitures (termination) of that right. In other words, the courts will strictly determine whether the terminating party to a contract has complied with the termination process to the letter. A recent example from Connecticut is instructive in this regard. [1]

The general contractor on a large hospital project in Connecticut terminated its electrical subcontractor, hired others to finish the electrical subcontractor’s work, and then sued the electrical subcontractor for $26 million. The electrical subcontractor countersued the general contractor for $3.6 million of work that it had completed at the time of the termination which had not been paid for. The subcontractor claimed that due to the many changes that had occurred on the project, it stopped work because the changes altered the contract to the point that it was no longer the same contract. The subcontractor walked off the project and the general contractor then terminated the subcontractor and re-procured the work from other subcontractors.

Mr. Ahlers may be contacted at john.ahlers@acslawyers.com


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