Subcontractors on a public project for the town of Darien, Connecticut found themselves on the short end of the stick when the prime contractor failed to pay (apparently went out of business) and its surety turned out to be bogus. Subcontractor claims against the town were initially dismissed, but the Superior Court has just reinstated certain claims, at least allowing the subs to seek unpaid amounts the town may still be holding against the prime.

The Superior Court noted that there is Connecticut case law allowing a sub to pursue a claim for unjust enrichment directly against a project owner in limited circumstances, “affording an equitable claim in the absence of a recognized legal claim.” The court also distinguished the extent of available remedies for claims against the state – barred by principles of sovereign immunity except via contract or statute – from the realm of remedies available against municipalities. The municipality not enjoying the same defenses as the state, it may be subject to equitable claims for relief by the sub.

This was not a decision on the merits, but was a decision that allows the sub to attempt to demonstrate that the town gained a benefit (i.e., a finished project) for which it never fully paid, and thus allows the sub the opportunity to try to recoup some of those unpaid funds. It appears from the decision that there is no dispute that the full contract amount was never paid to the now-absent general contractor. The case is M&L Const., Inc. v. Town of Darien, 2015 Conn. Super. LEXIS 497 (March 5, 2015).