As Georgia construction litigation lawyers regularly working in every county in Georgia, we have been able to gain a great deal of experience with filing mechanics and materialmen’s liens as well as making payment bond claims on behalf of our subcontractor and supplier clients. As seasoned professionals, we have represented multiple parties in construction disputes in Savannah, Georgia and throughout Chatham County, Georgia including Bloomingdale, Garden City, Pooler, Port Wentworth, Tybee Island, Thunderbolt, and Vernonburg.
The Cobb Law Group’s lien attorneys and surety lawyers have helped our clients negotiate construction contracts as well as arbitrate and negotiate payment disputes; in addition, we have filed countless construction liens and made multiple payment bond claims on public and private projects in Chatham County. From time to time, we share case studies in the hopes of educating construction professionals in Georgia about their lien and bond rights and offering valuable lessons from which those in the industry can learn. The following is a recent matter we handled on behalf of a client supplying materials on a project in Savannah, Georgia. The results in this case study may not be typical, as Georgia’s lien and bond laws mandate strict compliance to each step in the process, and every situation has a unique fact pattern, issues and personalities involved, but the payment bond lawyers of the Cobb Law Group apply the same experience, professionalism, and knowledge to every matter they handle.
The Project: Chatham County government was constructing a new detention center in Savannah, Georgia.
The General Contractor: The General Contractor was a joint venture between an out-of-state contractor and a local, Chatham County contractor.
The Subcontractor: A foreign corporation (from Florida) who contracted with the general contractors to construct a specific portion of the prime construction contract.
Material Supplier: Our client, a national supplier of materials used on construction sites all across the United States, whom we have represented for over 15 years in virtually every county in Georgia including many times in Savannah.
Default on Payment: Our client, the material supplier, was contracted to supply certain building materials to the subcontractor for use on the Chatham County project; unfortunately, the Subcontractor failed to pay our client for the supplies (although it had received payment from the prime contractor); to be clear, there were no allegations that the supplies were defective or otherwise nonperforming or noncomplying goods.
The Call from our Client: After the subcontractor was 45 days in arrears with our client, our client contacted us to see what remedies were available under Georgia’s Lien and Bond Laws.
Which Bonding Statutes Apply: First, we had to establish whether the project was a public works project or whether it was a private project. Since Chatham County was building a jail in Savannah, we thought it was likely a public project, but it had to be confirmed (some states contract their detention centers to outside vendors). After we established that it was a public project, we had to confirm whether it was a Federal public works project (and thus subject to the Miller Act) or whether it was a Georgia public works projects (and subject to the Little Miller Act). We determined that it was a Chatham County, Georgia project; however, Georgia statutes divide “State of Georgia” projects and local municipal projects into separate statutes. Thus, we confirmed that the local municipal statutes would apply in this matter.
Notice to Owner / Notice to Contractor: Georgia has a statutory notice scheme whereby third-tier subcontractors and material suppliers (those who are not in privity of contract with either the project owner or the prime contractor) must send a written notice to both the project owner and the prime contractor informing them of the type of labor or materials they are supplying, the name and address of the person or entity requesting the labor or materials and related information. In this case study, our client was third-tier and, fortunately, they had sent the required notices within 30 days of the first day in which they began supplying materials to the Chatham County, GA project in Savannah.
Deadline to File a Payment Bond Claim in Georgia: In this scenario, our client had to make its payment bond claim within 90 days of the last day in which it had actually delivered materials to the Chatham County detention project.
Filing the Claim Against the Bond: Locating a copy of a payment bond can sometimes be difficult and very frustrating; however, our bond law paralegal was able to find a copy of the Chatham County payment bond very quickly; when bond claims are made, there are (i) statutory requirements which must be met, but there may also be (ii) contractual requirements which must be met in order to timely make a proper claim against the payment bond. Thus, after we reviewed all of the pertinent contracts and the language contained in the payment bond itself, we prepared the payment bond claim and sent it to the surety, the prime contractor, and to Chatham County via certified mail before the expiration of the 90-day window.
Payment: Because our client supplies construction materials in all 50 states, they are accustomed to keeping proper records in order to comply with each states’ lien and bond laws; thus, they had, among other things, (i) preserved their right to make a claim against the payment bond by sending a notice of furnishing, (ii) properly kept separate accounts according to the job sites, (iii) contacted us within the time frame to make a proper bond claim, (iv) produced copies of invoices, purchase orders, delivery tickets, and similar documents to substantiate its claim. Thus, within three weeks of making the payment bond claim on the Savannah project, the surety agreed to pay our client the full-balance they were owed.
Lessons: Georgia’s lien and bond laws are very strict and every subcontractor and every material supplier must comply with each and every requirement; however, when every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed, payment is frequently quickly forthcoming with little hassle, without resorting to litigation of the bond claim, and with affordable legal costs. In addition, and although we did not really go into it for this case study, had our construction lawyers litigated this payment bond claim, there would have been jurisdictional issues as the subcontractor was an out-of-state contractor which did not maintain a registered office in Georgia nor was it registered to transact business in Georgia through the Secretary of State’s office. Thus, it was to our client’s benefit to made sure that everything had been done properly from the day they began supplying to the project.
Listed below is contact information for the Chatham County Clerk of Court in Savannah for any questions you may have prior to contacting a lawyer (please note this information may change without notice):
Clerk of Court’s Physical Address:
Chatham County Superior Court Clerk
ATTN: Materialmen’s Lien Filing Desk
133 Montgomery Street, Room 304
Savannah, GA 31401
Clerk of Court’s Mailing Address:
Chatham County Superior Court Clerk
ATTN: Materialmen’s Lien Filing Desk
P.O. BOX 10227
Savannah, Georgia 31412
Clerk of Court’s Telephone Number:
Mechanic’s Lien Filing Fees:
$5.00 for the first page and $2.00 for each additional page
The information contained on this website is for information purposes only; you are directed to consult with your attorney regarding the risks involved in filing mechanics and materialmen’s liens as well as all other aspects of lien filing including, but not limited to proper forms, conditions precedent, legal descriptions, notice requirements, and the statutes of limitations. Nothing contained herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Cobb Law Group and you. Furthermore, no warranties, expressed or implied, are provided for the data herein, its use or interpretation. Please contact us for further information.