Johnson Electric Co., Inc. v. Columbia Casualty Co.

Decision Date14 April 1931
Citation133 So. 850,101 Fla. 186
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

Certiorari to Circuit Court, Orange County; Frank A. Smith, Judge.

Action by the Johnson Electric Company, Inc., against the Columbia Casualty Company and others. The circuit court affirmed a judgment of the county court in defendants' favor, and plaintiff petitions for certiorari.

Judgment quashed.

See also, Barry v. Columbia Casualty Co., 133 So. 852.

Syllabus by the Court.


We have no statute authorizing or requiring provision for the protection of third parties in construction contracts other than for public works (section 3533, Revised General Statutes of 1920, section 5397, Compiled General Laws of 1927), but in the absence of such a statute, there can be no valid objection to parties sui juris contracting for the protection of other parties.

Where a construction contract shows clearly that the principals intended that all subcontractors furnishing labor and materials should be protected thereby, such intention will be enforced by the courts. It is not essential that the subcontractors be formal parties to the contract.

The very essence and purpose of the indemnity bond with the construction contract is to save harmless the laborer materialman, and subcontractor, along with the main contractor, and, when so expressed, they should be interpreted to effect this purpose. The early common law denied unequivocally any such right.


G. P. Garrett and Pleus, Williams & Pleus, all of Orlando, for petitioner.

Maguire & Voorhis, of Orlando, for respondents.



This cause is here on certiorari to the circuit court of Orange county to review a judgment of that court affirming a final judgment of the county court of said county.

The final judgment in the county court was the product of an action by petitioner against Columbia Casualty Company as surety on a construction bond executed by Louis Fleisher Construction Company, in favor of the Right Reverend Patrick Barry, Bishop of St. Augustine.

It appears that Louis Fleisher Construction Company entered into contract with the Right Reverend Patrick Barry to construct a school building in Orlando, Fla., and, to guarantee the faithful performance of said contract, an indemnity bond was executed in favor of Bishop Barry with Columbia Casualty Company as surety. Johnson Electric Company was a subcontractor with Louis Fleisher Construction Company, and furnished the electrical fixtures and supplies for the main contract. Johnson Electric Company was not paid, and, relying on the bond as aforesaid, brought suit to recover thereon.

The main question pressed for our determination is whether or not Johnson Electric Company, a subcontractor, is protected by and may sue directly to recover on the bond as thus described.

The contract between Louis Fleisher Construction Company and Bishop Barry carried the following specification:

'The contractor for the work will be required to give an acceptable corporate bond of suretyship in the standard form of the American Institutes of Architects to the amount of one hundred (100%) per cent. of the contract price for the faithful performance of his Agreement, and will be required under this Security, to keep all his work in repair for twelve (12) months after completion, that is: during this time he will be liable for all damages to the building arising from defective workmanship, materials, and setting.
'In addition thereto the said bond shall include provisions for the protection of subcontractors and those furnishing labor and/or materials and/or supplies, to the contractor on this work.'

Pursuant to this specification Louis Fleisher Construction Company posted its bond with Columbia Casualty Company as surety, containing the following provision:

'Now therefore, the condition of this obligation is such that if the principal shall faithfully perform the Contract on his part, and satisfy all claims and demands incurred for the same, and shall fully indemnify and save harmless the Owner from all cost and damage which he may suffer by reason of failure so to do, and shall fully reimburse and repay the Owner all outlay and expense which Owner may incur in making good any such default, and shall pay all persons who have contracts directly with the principal for labor or materials, then this obligation shall be null and void; otherwise, it shall remain in full force and effect.'

The court below held that the bond was solely for the benefit of Bishop Barry, and that Johnson Electric Company could not recover thereon. We think this holding was erroneous. It is true that Johnson Electric Company was not a formal party to the contract, and we have no statute authorizing or requiring provision for the protection of third parties in construction contracts other than for public works (section 3533, Revised General Statutes of 1920, section 5397, Compiled ...

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