Construction Law

Editor:
Kenneth A. Slavens, Esquire

In a suit by a contractor to recover an unpaid contract balance on a construction contract, the Supreme Court held that the award of attorney's fees under the Private Prompt Pay Act (PPPA), if requested in the prayer, is appropriate as long as the pleading sets out the necessary elements and that specific reference in the pleading to the PPPA is not necessary.  Stucco & EIFS Design, LLC v. Landau, No. 90771 (Mo. banc, October 26, 2010), Russell, J.
The contractor's suit sought recovery of the contract balance of $4,900.0 in a suit against the owner of project.  At trial, the contractor asked the court to award attorney's fees pursuant to the PPPA.  The trial court awarded $10,567.04 in fees.
The owner appealed and argued that the petition made no mention of PPPA and did not set forth any basis for the recovery of attorney's fees.
The Supreme Court held that there are only two requirements for pleading a violation of the PPPA: (1) the parties entered into a private construction contract, and (2) one or more payments were not made pursuant to the contract.  The Court found that both elements were pleaded in the contractor's petition.  The prayers for relief associated with each count requested a judgment for the contract balance with interest and attorney's fees.
The PPPA does not require specific reference to the statute in the pleading, the Court decided.  A court may award any relief the PPPA provides, including attorney's fees, as long as the party has pleaded the necessary elements of the act and has requested that relief in the prayer.

The Missouri Bar Courts Bulletin, 11-Jun