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C.A.S. Contracting, Inc. v. Hall Building Corp.

A-5653-03T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2006) (Unpublished)

CONTRACTORS; SUBCONTRACTORS; DAMAGES—Even though a subcontractor may be awarded quantum meruit damages that are greater than a contractor’s completion damages, it still may not be a prevailing party entitled to contractual attorneys fees if, in fact, the subcontractor lost on each of its breach of contract claims against the contractor.

A general contractor hired a subcontractor to work on school construction projects. A billing dispute arose. Believing the general contractor would not continue progress payments, the subcontractor abandoned its work. Finding there was no anticipatory breach by the general contractor, the lower court ruled that when the subcontractor abandoned its work, the subcontractor breached the contract by not following the dispute resolution process outlined in the contract. Further, the lower court ruled that the amount of money owed by the general contractor on each progress payment was minimal and within industry standards; and therefore did not amount to a breach by the general contractor. It awarded damages in favor of the subcontractor in quantum meruit, as well as in favor of the general contractor for its completion costs. In the end, the general contractor owed more in quantum meruit damages than it was awarded in completion costs. The contract provided for attorneys fees payable to the “prevailing party” in a suit “to collect damages for the breach” of the contract. Even though the subcontractor’s award of quantum meruit was in excess of the general contractor’s award of completion costs, because the subcontractor lost each of its breach of contract claims, it was not a “prevailing party” on account of a “breach of contract,” and therefore was not entitled to attorney’s fees.


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