Snake Steel, Inc. v. Holladay Construction Group, LLC

Snake Steel, Inc. v. Holladay Construction Group, LLC
M2019-00322-SC-R11-CV

This appeal requires us to interpret provisions in the Prompt Pay Act, Tennessee Code Annotated sections 66-34-101 to -704, regarding retainage withheld on construction projects. The Prompt Pay Act requires the party withholding retainage—a percentage of total payment withheld as incentive for satisfactory completion of work—to deposit the funds into a separate, interest-bearing escrow account. Failure to do so results in a penalty of $300 per day. In this case, both parties agree the subcontractor’s retainage was not placed into an interest-bearing escrow account, and the retainage was not timely remitted to the subcontractor. Three years after completing its work on the contract, the subcontractor sued the contractor for unpaid retainage plus amounts due under the Prompt Pay Act. The contractor soon tendered the retainage; consequently, only the statutory penalty is at issue in this appeal. Tennessee Code Annotated section 66-34-104(c) states that, for persons required to deposit retainage into a separate interest-bearing escrow account, the penalty is assessed “per day for each and every day” retainage is not so deposited. Consonant with the statute’s language, its objective, the wrong the Prompt Pay Act seeks to prevent, and the purpose it seeks to accomplish, we hold that the $300 per day penalty is assessed each day retainage is not deposited in a statutorily-compliant escrow account. Consequently, while the subcontractor’s claim for the statutory penalty is subject to the one-year statute of limitations, if the subcontractor can establish that the contractor was required to deposit the retainage into an escrow account, the subcontractor is not precluded from recovering the penalty assessed each day during the period commencing 365 days before the complaint was filed. Accordingly, we reverse in part the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the contractor and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.

Authoring Judge: 
Justice Holly Kirby
Originating Judge: 
Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle
Date Filed: 
Wednesday, June 30, 2021