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Master Craft Construction, LLC v. Pronoun, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

December 20, 2017

MASTER CRAFT CONSTRUCTION, LLC
v.
PRONOUN, INC.

         APPEAL FROM THE THIRTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF VERNON, NO. 92421C HONORABLE SCOTT WESTERCHIL, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Francis R. White FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Master Craft Construction, LLC

          Elvin C. Fontenot, Jr. FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Master Craft Construction, LLC

          Robert J. Williams FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Pronoun, Inc.

          Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, John D. Saunders and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.

          SYLVIA R. COOKS JUDGE

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In February 2014, the City of Lake Charles contracted with Master Craft Construction, LLC for the construction of water service lines. The contract between the City of Lake Charles and Master Craft required that the work be completed within sixty (60) days and provided for liquidated damages in the event of non-completion within the specified time period.

         In connection with this contract, Master Craft entered into a subcontract with Pronoun, Inc., to install several thousand feet of underground water pipes. Problems arose concerning the performance of Pronoun's duties under the subcontract. According to Master Craft, it took Pronoun fifteen days out of the sixty day project period to man the job. Master Craft also found out later that Pronoun did not have the insurance required by the subcontract, nor did it have the capital to purchase the insurance. Pronoun also did not have the necessary manpower or equipment to perform the contracted work. Master Craft claimed any work done by Pronoun was substandard and untimely. When Master Craft terminated the job, they alleged Pronoun had already pulled off the job to work on another project.

         Pronoun was not paid for any of the work it performed. In response, Pronoun recorded a lien in Calcasieu Parish under the Louisiana Public Works Act, La.R.S. 38:2241 et seq. Suit to enforce the lien was subsequently filed in the Fourteenth Judicial District Court. Upon Master Craft's motion, the suit was stayed in the district court pursuant to the arbitration clause set forth in the contract between Master Craft and Pronoun.

         Pursuant to the terms of the contract, Master Craft initiated the arbitration by making demand on Pronoun by certified mail on August 27, 2015. The contract provided that each party could select an arbitrator; and if both did so, then those two arbitrators would select a third arbitrator to handle the proceeding. If only one party selected an arbitrator, that choice would be the arbitrator. Master Craft selected William Scott Montgomery, a licensed contractor, who had previous experience serving as an arbitrator. Pronoun did not select an arbitrator; thus, Mr. Montgomery became the arbitrator.

         On September 18, 2015, counsel for Master Craft forwarded a copy of the notice of arbitration to Pronoun's counsel. Pronoun made no claim against Master Craft and filed no objections to the proceedings. On October 29, 2015, the arbitrator set the arbitration for November 18, 2015 and sent notice to all parties.

         On November 12, 2015, six days before the hearing, counsel for Pronoun sent a letter requesting the arbitration hearing be reset as his client would be out of town on the date of the hearing. Master Craft did not oppose the request, and the arbitration hearing was reset for December 16, 2015. As Master Craft noted, nothing in the letter sent by Pronoun to the arbitrator referenced any complaint about the procedures employed by the arbitrator, any need for further discovery or any need for additional time to prepare.

         On December 1, 2015, Pronoun propounded written discovery on Master Craft. At the request of the arbitrator, Master Craft expedited its responses, providing answers on December 9 and 10. On December 9, 2015, at Pronoun's request, a telephone conference was held. Pronoun requested the reset date of December 16, 2015 be continued, claiming it had not had ...


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