Contractor Without California Contractor’s License Can Pursue Miller Act Claim for Unpaid Fees on Federal Project

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held on April 29, 2014, that a contractor need not hold a valid California contractor’s license to pursue a Miller Act claim for unpaid fees on a federal project.

In Technica LLC v. Carolina Casualty and Candelaria Corp., the court held that state laws that restrict the rights of noncomplying parties would not be enforced by federal courts in Miller Act cases.  This carve-out for payment bond claims on federal projects represents one of the few exceptions to the otherwise broad prohibition on unlicensed contractors using the courts to seek unpaid contract balances.

As many federal projects involve work in more than one state, some of which may not require a contractor’s license at all, this should permit more uniform application of the Miller Act nationally.