Nation Electrical Contracting, LLC v. St. Dimitrie Romanian Orthodox Church
The proper inquiry in determining whether interest may be awarded pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §37-3a, is whether the claim at issue involves a wrongful detention of money after it becomes due and payable. St. Dimitrie Romanian Orthodox Church contracted with Primrose Construction Company, Inc. to construct a church in Easton. Primrose, as general contractor, retained Nation Electrical Contracting, LLC, and paid Nation's invoices until Primrose left the job prior to completing the church. Nation's final progress billing submitted to the church went unpaid. Nation commenced this action with counts against the church. Following a bench trial, the court, relevantly, found the church liable to the plaintiff for unjust enrichment in the amount of $34,900 plus prejudgment interest of $11,621.70 and costs. The church appealed contending that the court improperly rendered judgment against it on a theory of unjust enrichment despite evidence that it had paid all sums due and owing under its construction contract with Primrose, which necessarily included payment for work done by the plaintiff as subcontractor. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The defendant correctly noted that where a property owner hires a general contractor to oversee a construction project and receives the benefit of labor or material supplied by a subcontractor hired by that general contractor, any enrichment of the property owner from the work of the subcontractor is not unjust absent fraud and provided that the property owner pays the general contractor in full for the subcontractor's services. Here, the trial court, in finding that there was no lienable fund, did not find that the defendant had paid for the plaintiff's work, as claimed. Sufficient evidence supported the trial court's factual finding that the defendant unjustly did not pay for the benefit of the plaintiff's work. Based on the limited record provided, no error was found in the court's legal decision to award interest pursuant to C.G.S. §37-3a or in its exercise of discretion in doing so. The panel declined the defendant's invitation to create a rule disallowing prejudgment interest under C.G.S. §37-3a in an action seeking damages for unjust enrichment. The trial court found that the defendant never paid Primrose or the plaintiff pursuant to its invoice and that the defendant, therefore, wrongfully retained the benefit of $34,900.