BACON CONSTRUCTION CO., INC. v. COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC WORKS, SC 18198

Judicial District of Hartford

 

Arbitration; Public Works Contracts; Statute of Limitations; Whether Contractor's Demand for Arbitration was Filed more than Three Years after the Termination of a Public Works Contract in Contravention of the Limitation Period Contained in General Statutes 4-61. In 1992, Bacon Construction Co., Inc., and the department of public works entered into a contract in which Bacon agreed to perform masonry and plank work in connection with the construction of a correctional facility in Niantic. After the parties became involved in a dispute, Bacon filed a demand for arbitration pursuant to General Statutes 4-61, which authorizes a party who has entered into a public works contract with the state to submit a demand for arbitration to resolve any disputes arising under the contract. The arbitrator rendered an award in favor of Bacon, which subsequently filed an application to confirm the award. In response, the department filed an application to vacate the award as well as a motion to dismiss the application to confirm in which it argued, among other things, that Bacon's claims were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity because its demand for arbitration was filed more than three years after the termination of the contract in contravention of the limitation period contained in 4-61. It maintained that the phrase "the termination of the contract" refers to the completion of the contract performance, which it claimed had occurred when Bacon completed its work over ten years before it filed its demand for arbitration. In addressing this contention, the trial court first noted that the department had advanced the same argument before the arbitrator, who had decided that Bacon's claims were timely under 4-61 and were therefore arbitrable. It then determined that in light of this fact and the fact that the submission to the arbitrator was unrestricted, the department was not entitled to a de novo review of the arbitrator's decision concerning the question of arbitrability, and, therefore, that decision was final and binding. Nevertheless, the court went on to conclude that even if the department was entitled to a de novo review, its claim would still fail on the ground that the arbitrator's decision was correct. It opined that the limitation period set forth in 4-61 had not yet been triggered because the contract was never terminated. As support for this conclusion, the court emphasized that the department had retained a portion of the monies it owed to Bacon, which, under the terms of the contract, meant that the contract had not yet been completed in an acceptable matter. Accordingly, the court granted Bacon's application to confirm and denied the department's motion to dismiss and its application to vacate. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the trial court's decision was proper.