United States v. Western Electric Co., No. 19024.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtCHAMBERS and KOELSCH, Circuit , and JAMESON
Citation337 F.2d 568
Decision Date05 October 1964
Docket NumberNo. 19024.
PartiesThe UNITED STATES of America, for the Use and Benefit of Barney AUSTIN, an individual, and Great American Insurance Company, Appellants, v. WESTERN ELECTRIC CO., Inc., and Merchants Fire Assurance Corporation of New York, Appellees.

337 F.2d 568 (1964)

The UNITED STATES of America, for the Use and Benefit of Barney AUSTIN, an individual, and Great American Insurance Company, Appellants,
v.
WESTERN ELECTRIC CO., Inc., and Merchants Fire Assurance Corporation of New York, Appellees.

No. 19024.

United States Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit.

October 5, 1964.


337 F.2d 569

Wm. J. Conners, Anderson, McPharlin & Conners, Los Angeles, Cal., for appellants.

Marvin A. Freeman, Ivon B. Blum, Beverly Hills, Cal., for appellees.

Before CHAMBERS and KOELSCH, Circuit Judges, and JAMESON, District Judge.

JAMESON, District Judge:

In this Miller Act1 case, use plaintiff, Barney Austin, a subcontractor, and his surety, Great American Insurance Company, have appealed from a summary judgment in favor of the defendants Western Electric Co., Inc., a prime contractor, and its surety, Merchants Fire Assurance Corporation of New York.

337 F.2d 570

Western Electric entered into a contract with the United States to construct Project Mercury, including tracking station 13 at Point Arguello, California. It entered into a subcontract with Burns & Roe, Inc., for engineering and construction work. In turn Burns & Roe issued to plaintiff Austin, and Austin accepted, a so-called purchase order whereby Austin agreed to do the architectural, structural and mechanical phases of the work to be done at station 13 by Burns & Roe under its subcontract.

Austin completed the work under his subcontract with Burns & Roe, but was unable to pay for all the labor and material furnished by others in the performance of this contract. Austin's surety, Great American, paid labor and material claims totalling $22,279.96. Plaintiffs' complaint claims a balance due from defendants in the sum of $111,465.11.2

Plaintiffs' complaint was filed on December 7, 1961, although plaintiffs contend that it was delivered to the clerk of the district court on December 6 and should have been filed as of that date.3

On December 8, 1962, defendants filed their motion for summary judgment on the grounds (1) that the suit was not instituted within one year from the date on which the last of the labor was performed or material supplied4; and (2) that the plaintiff Austin's notice of claim was insufficient for the reason that it did not state "with substantial accuracy the amount claimed" by plaintiff.5

On January 10, 1963, plaintiffs filed a notice of motion for an order correcting the filing date on the complaint to December 6, 1961, the date on which the complaint was delivered to the clerk.

The two motions were heard by the district court on February 4, 1963. The case had also been calendared for a pretrial conference on the same date. Counsel for plaintiff indicated that he was not ready for pretrial and that further discovery was necessary.6 The pretrial

337 F.2d 571
conference was continued to March 11, 1963. No conference was held

An order was entered February 11, 1963, granting defendants' motion for summary judgment, and findings of fact, conclusions of law and judgment were entered February 21, 1963. An order was entered March 11, 1963, denying plaintiffs' motion to correct the filing date of the complaint.

Appellants appealed from the judgment and the order denying their motion to correct the filing date. On September 10, 1963, an order was entered in this court dismissing the appeal for the reason that neither the summary judgment nor the order was appealable, but suggesting that if the district court should see fit to make the determination and give the direction specified in Rule 54 (b)7 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and enter judgment in conformity therewith, an appeal therefrom could be heard upon the briefs and record of the proceedings in the district court.

On October 16, 1963, the district court entered an order amending its order of February 11, 1963, to provide that the judgment entered in favor of the defendants should be a final judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b). On October 21, 1963, amended findings of fact, conclusions of law, and judgment were entered in conformity with the amended order and the provisions of Rule 54(b).

The summary judgment was granted on the first ground of defendants' motion, i. e., that plaintiffs' action was filed more than one year from the date on which the last labor was performed and material supplied by the plaintiff Austin. The district court did not pass upon the question of the sufficiency of the notice of the claim filed by Austin.8

The court found that plaintiff Austin "substantially completed the work and the furnishing of material * * * on or about October 25, 1960"; that the labor and material furnished subsequent to that date "were of a minor nature, such as cleanup, repair, correction or installing overlooked items as noted by Burns & Roe, Inc., in its punch list"; and that "written notice of nonpayment was given by plaintiff Austin to Western Electric on December 14, 1960, stating that the work of the subcontract * * * was completed on or about October 25, 1960".

Appellants contend, inter alia, that the "district court erred in weighing the evidence and resolving issues rather than determining that there were issues to be resolved in a regular trial". The record suggests that this may be true. There is no recital in the court order, findings of fact, or judgment that the pleadings, depositions, admissions, and affidavits "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact."9 Rule 56(c).

337 F.2d 572

The findings of fact recite that "having considered all of the evidence and having examined all of the proofs offered by the respective parties", the court makes its findings of fact — a form customarily followed where the court has weighed the evidence and resolved the issues. Rule 52(a), by amendment effective March 19, 1948, specifically provides that, "Findings of fact and conclusions of law are unnecessary on decisions of motions" for summary judgment under Rule 56. We recognize, however, that findings of fact and conclusions of law are frequently used in granting motions for summary judgment.10 As suggested in Trowler v. Phillips, 9 Cir. 1958, 260 F.2d 924, 926, findings of fact, "while unnecessary", sometimes "provide a handy summary". On the other hand, "all too often a set of unnecessary findings of fact is the telltale flag that points the way to a discovery that summary judgment should not have been granted".

If the district court were permitted to weigh the evidence and resolve issues in making its findings of fact and conclusions of law, we could properly find from the evidence here that the findings and conclusions should be sustained. It is necessary to determine, however, whether viewing the evidence as a whole and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff it may be said that there is no genuine issue of fact,11 mindful also of the fact that there is no express finding to that effect by the district court.

A determination as to whether there is a genuine issue of fact involves three related questions: (1) is "substantial completion" the proper test as to when the last of the labor is performed or materials supplied; (2) were any of the so-called "punch list" items performed and furnished on or after December 7, 1960, and if so, were they required to complete the subcontract of the plaintiff Austin; and (3) are plaintiffs bound by the notice given by the plaintiff Austin on December 14, 1960?

The Miller Act "is entitled to a liberal construction and application in order properly to effectuate the Congressional intent to protect those whose labor and materials go into public projects. * * * But such a salutary policy does not justify ignoring plain words of limitation and imposing wholesale liability on payment bonds". Clifford F. MacEvoy Co. v. U. S., 1944, 322 U.S. 102, 107, 64 S.Ct. 890, 88 L.Ed. 1163; United States v. Carter, 1956, 353 U.S. 210, 77 S.Ct. 793, 1 L.Ed.2d 776; Apache Powder Co. v. Ashton Co., 9 Cir. 1959, 264 F.2d 417, 421.

As noted supra, a subcontractor is required to give notice of his claim within 90 days from the date on which he performed the last labor or furnished or supplied the last material for which claim is made. He must file suit within one year from the same date. Appellees contend that the critical date is when the contract was "substantially performed". Apparently, the district court adopted this test and found that the work was "substantially completed" on October 25, 1960.

We do not find the phrases "substantially performed" or "substantially completed" used in any of the decided cases. A more accurate statement of the test to be applied is whether the work was performed and the material supplied as a "part of the original contract" or for the "purpose of correcting defects, or making repairs following inspection

337 F.2d 573
of the project". See United States v....

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102 practice notes
  • Reiffin v. Microsoft Corp., No. C 98-266.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • March 31, 2003
    ...Cir.1993) (citing Scharf v. United States Attorney General, 597 F.2d 1240, 1243 (9th Cir.1979); United States v. Western Elec. Co., Inc, 337 F.2d 568, 575 (9th Cir. 1964); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). "However, discretionary leniency d......
  • People ex rel. Dept. Pub. Wks. v. Hunt
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 28, 1969
    ...an examination of the copy which was served (cf. United States for the use and benefit of Austin v. Western Electric Co. (9th Cir. 1964) 337 F.2d 568, 575), or because the defect might have been discovered by a contemporaneous search of the court records. The declaration has been deemed to ......
  • Peralta v. Martinez, No. 2786
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • April 12, 1977
    ...To support the trial court's order, we may closely scrutinize the papers supporting the movant. United States v. Western Electric Co., 337 F.2d 568 (9th Cir. 1964). This was a trial by B. Facts Presented by Dr. Martinez Dr. Martinez, a neurosurgeon, first saw Peralta in January, 1971, at wh......
  • Florez v. Sargeant, Nos. CV-94-0454-P
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • May 16, 1996
    ...the opportunity to cure the alleged defects. Johnson, 157 Ariz. at 335, 757 P.2d at 611; see also United States v. Western Electric Co., 337 F.2d 568, 575 (9th Cir.1964). However, neither defendant here raised the evidentiary sufficiency of the affidavits in the summary judgment proceedings......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
102 cases
  • Reiffin v. Microsoft Corp., No. C 98-266.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • March 31, 2003
    ...Cir.1993) (citing Scharf v. United States Attorney General, 597 F.2d 1240, 1243 (9th Cir.1979); United States v. Western Elec. Co., Inc, 337 F.2d 568, 575 (9th Cir. 1964); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). "However, discretionary lenie......
  • People ex rel. Dept. Pub. Wks. v. Hunt
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 28, 1969
    ...an examination of the copy which was served (cf. United States for the use and benefit of Austin v. Western Electric Co. (9th Cir. 1964) 337 F.2d 568, 575), or because the defect might have been discovered by a contemporaneous search of the court records. The declaration has been deemed to ......
  • Peralta v. Martinez, No. 2786
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • April 12, 1977
    ...To support the trial court's order, we may closely scrutinize the papers supporting the movant. United States v. Western Electric Co., 337 F.2d 568 (9th Cir. 1964). This was a trial by B. Facts Presented by Dr. Martinez Dr. Martinez, a neurosurgeon, first saw Peralta in January, 1971, at wh......
  • Florez v. Sargeant, Nos. CV-94-0454-P
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • May 16, 1996
    ...the opportunity to cure the alleged defects. Johnson, 157 Ariz. at 335, 757 P.2d at 611; see also United States v. Western Electric Co., 337 F.2d 568, 575 (9th Cir.1964). However, neither defendant here raised the evidentiary sufficiency of the affidavits in the summary judgment proceedings......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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