J. W. BATESON CO., INC. V. BOARD OF TRUSTEES, 434 U. S. 586 (1978)

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U.S. Supreme Court

J. W. Bateson Co., Inc. v. Board of Trustees, 434 U.S. 586 (1978)

J. W. Bateson Co., Inc. v. United States ex rel. Board of

Trustees of National Automatic Sprinkler Industry Pension Fund

No. 76-1476.

Argued November 30, 1977

Decided February 22, 1978

434 U.S. 586


Petitioner prime contractor (Bateson) entered into a Government contract for construction of a hospital addition and posted a payment bond as required by the Miller Act to protect those who have a direct contractual relationship with either the prime contractor or a "subcontractor." Bateson then subcontracted a portion of the work to a firm (Pierce) which in turn subcontracted with another firm (Colquitt) for installation of a sprinkler system. When Colquitt failed to pay over amounts withheld from its employees' wages for union dues, vacation savings, and various union trust funds, as required by a collective bargaining agreement with respondent union, the union and respondent trustees filed suit against Bateson in the name of the United States for the amount claimed due under the payment bond. The District Court granted summary judgment for respondents, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, although Colquitt was "technically a sub-subcontractor," nevertheless it should be considered a "subcontractor" for purposes of payment bond recovery by its employees or their representatives, since it was performing "an integral and significant part of [Bateson's] contract" with the Government.

Held: Colquitt's employees were not protected by the Miller Act payment bond, since they did not have a contractual relationship either with Bateson or with Pierce or any other "subcontractor," and since Colquitt cannot be considered a "subcontractor." Clifford F. MacEvoy Co. v. United States ex rel. Calvin Tomkins Co., 322 U. S. 102, and F. D. Rich Co. v. United States ex rel. Industrial Lumber Co., 417 U. S. 116, distinguished. As confirmed by the Miller Act's legislative history, the word "subcontractor" as used in the Act must be construed as being limited to meaning one who contracts with a prime contractor. Pp. 434 U. S. 589-594.

179 U.S.App.D.C. 325, 551 F.2d 1284, reversed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,

Page 434 U. S. 587

and STEWART, WHITE, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 434 U. S. 595. BLACKMUN, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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