Case Update: 84 Lumber Co. v. Continental Casualty Co.

By Riess LeMieux | March 26, 2019

In a decision interpreting the notice requirements of the Louisiana Public Works Act (LPWA), the U.S. Fifth Circuit ruled that a sub-subcontractor’s email to a general contractor’s lawyer does not meet the notice requirements of the statute.  F.H. Paschen was the general contractor for two contracts to build publics schools in Louisiana.  F.H. Paschen subcontracted a portion of the work to J&A Construction Management Resource Co. (J&A), who in turn subcontracted a portion of the work to 84 Lumber Company.  84 Lumber filed two liens against F.H. Paschen and J&A for unpaid work, but it did not send written notice by certified or registered mail.  Instead, notice was sent to the general contractor’s lawyer.

Louisiana Revised Statute § 38:2247 requires a subcontractor not in privity with the general contractor (i.e., a sub-subcontractor) to provide notice to the general contractor by certified or registered mail sent to the general contractor’s Louisiana office. The district court found 84 Lumber, who did not have a contract with the general contractor, failed to give proper notice of its claim to F.H. Paschen when it emailed the notice to the contractor’s attorney.  After observing that the Louisiana appellate courts have reached conflicting conclusions, the U.S. Fifth Circuit held that the statute does not say anything about “actual notice” and, therefore, neither sending notice by email nor sending notice to a general contractor’s lawyer is sufficient notice.  Because the LPWA is strictly construed, the sub-subcontractor’s failure to send notice via registered or certified mail was fatal to its claim.