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Massachusetts Court of Appeals Rules on Asbestos Removal Issues

According to a recent news article form The National Law Review, Massachusetts Court of Appeals has recently made a significant ruling on a case involving non-payment of a subcontractor for issues involving asbestos abatement (removal) responsibilities.

gavel21In this case, Acme Abatement Contractor, Inc. v. S&R Corporation, a general contractor was working on a public demolition and hired a subcontractor to perform most of the work. However, after subcontractor performed most of the work, contractor refused to pay subcontractor for any of the work. At this point, subcontractor filed a civil contracts lawsuit against general contractor in the Massachusetts Superior Court. In this case, after discovery and hearing cross motions for summary judgment, the superior court granted summary judgment in favor of contractor. In other words, the court was convinced it was acceptable for contractor to withhold payment to subcontractor based upon the alleged deficiencies in performance.

When the contract was awarded to general contractor, the town of Weymouth, Massachusetts required contractor demolish concrete bleachers at an athletic field in addition to the other responsibilities. At this point, general contractor hired subcontractor to handle all asbestos abatement involving the bleachers demolition project. This included removing the asbestos-containing paint prior to demolition.

Once subcontractor started working, it informed general contractor that it would only remove paint from the side concrete walls of the bleachers, but that it would not remove any paint on the risers prior to demolition. The reason for this was because subcontractor said they did not believe there was any asbestos-containing paint on the risers of the bleachers. The subcontractor felt so strongly about this that they had a materials testing lab test a sample of the paint form the risers and determined there was no asbestos present. However, general contractor refused to pay subcontractor for any work, because the contract between them clearly stated that subcontractor was agreeing to remove all paint as part of the asbestos abatement process.   Subcontractor then abandoned the job without removing the paint, and general contractor was forced to hire another subcontractor to complete the job.   The reason for this is because the town was threatening to sue general contractor if the job was not complete on time, including the removal of all paint from the bleachers.

The subcontractor appealed the dismissal of their lawsuit to the Massachusetts Court of Appeals, and, after hearing arguments from both parties, the appeals court affirmed the lower court’s ruling. It did not matter whether the asbestos abatement work was necessary or not, because subcontractor had specifically agreed to perform the work on the subcontract and was therefore in full breach.

As both the town and general contractor displayed in their respective actions, nobody was willing to take a chance on not performing asbestos abatement. As our Boston asbestos injury attorneys have seen on far too many occasions, failing to properly perform an asbestos abatement job only leads to risk for workers and members of the community, and that is never acceptable.   Once inhaled, these deadly asbestos fibers can metastasize into mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other forms of serious respiratory illness.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Massachusetts, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional resources:

Massachusetts Appeals Court Ruling: Contractor Justified Not Paying Subcontractor That Refused To Perform Work, October 25, 2015, National Law Review

More Blog Entries:

Asbestos In City Buildings Poses Risk, August 12, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Layers Blog