By Jason T. Piskel
Kunda v. Shaul, 34920-9-III, 2018 WL 619897 (Wn. App. Jan. 30, 2018)
A contractor in the State of Washington must register under the Contractor Registration Act. This Act requires a contractor to file a $12,000 bond issued by a surety. This surety may have to pay when its contractor breaches its contract with either a homeowner, subcontractor, or supplier. A plaintiff does not need to sue both the contractor and the surety in a single action, suits may be brought separately. The liability of the bond is measured by the liability of the contractor, up to the limit of the bond.
In this recent Division III case, the plaintiff, a home owner, convinced a jury the contractor breached its contract and the jury awarded the plaintiff with a judgment against the contractor. The surety, a party in the lawsuit, was for some reason not named on the jury verdict form submitted to the jury. Thus, when the contractor failed to pay, the plaintiff turned to the bond asking for the $12,000. The surety responded by not paying, arguing it was not responsible. So, the plaintiff filed a “post judgment” motion for summary judgment against the surety. The trial court denied the request and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, but the Court of Appeals reversed and entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff against the surety up to the $12,000. The case demonstrates the power of a Court to strike down potential games or mistakes to reach the appropriate and a just result under the law. The appeals court remarked that the lack of naming the surety on the jury verdict form “might even have been a deliberate effort to take advantage of the plaintiff’s apparent oversight on her verdict forms” or some “oversight or it may simply have been deemed unnecessary… .” Rather than protract litigation, the Court cut through the “knot” and granted the Plaintiff relief. That said, the court did eliminate the plaintiff’s fees on appeal, noting that the plaintiff’s “failures made this appeal necessary.”
If you have any questions or concerns regarding filing or defending bond claims, call the lawyers at PYK - 509.321.5930.