Subcontractor Legal Defense Fund Spotlight: A Conversation with Darlene East
The courts are a key battleground in the fight for subcontractor rights. The American Subcontractors Association’s (ASA) Subcontractors Legal Defense Fund (SLDF) supports critical legal activities to protect the interests of all construction subcontractors. The funds invest in precedent-setting litigation to establish subcontractors’ rights across the country. Our ASA members and sponsors provide the generous support that keeps this fund active on the cases carefully selected for representation by our subcontractor community.
How long has your company been supporting the SLDF? Holes Incorporated has been in business for over five decades and has chosen to support SLDF for a majority of those years. Not only has Holes supported the SLDF with financial contributions, but I feel it is important enough to spend my time participating in meetings and helping decide on the cases that matter most to contractors.
What was the primary reason you selected the Fund for support? There is a saying in the industry that contracts only matter when something goes wrong on a project. However, a bad contract or a bad law can make an already bad situation worse. Through the SLDF’s efforts, ASA has been able to work through the court system to limit the overreach in contract language and construction claims.
Are there any particular cases that come to mind that especially demonstrated to you the importance of the SLDF? In May of 2023, the Texas Supreme Court heard a case between Pepper-Lawson and Texas Southern University (TSU), in which TSU used unfair tactics to prevent Pepper-Lawson Houston from being paid promptly for the work they completed. The Texas Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Pepper-Lawson, rejecting the State’s claims in the case, and upholding the prompt payment act for contractors in Texas. The ruling positively impacts all contractors doing work with the State of Texas, whereas State government entities can no longer stonewall contractor claimants. Also, contractors are no longer required to disprove all of the State’s defenses in order to proceed with their case. Effectively, the SLDF has helped remove barriers for contractors seeking rightful payment for services performed. This case ruling will hopefully set a precedent which will inhibit future intuitions from unfair payment tactics.
What would you say to ASA members and other potential SLDF donors who may be asking why it is important to keep these cases funded? Improving the work environment for Subcontractors is a multi-prong approach. An important part of that approach is fighting for our rights in the courts. A bad ruling by a judge can set a precedent that can set back the efforts being made through legislation and previous court cases. SLDF is our defense against bad court decisions. It is also our opportuity to win rulings in the courts that we cannot win with legislation. By pulling the resources of subcontractors across the country we can ensure that when any one of us need our day in court we can have the support to win. In conclusion, a donation to the SLDF is money well spent.