In a recent ruling by the Nebraska Supreme Court, the answer was YES. Nebraska’s prejudgment interest statute provides that parties are entitled to twelve percent (12%) interest per annum on money due on any instrument in writing (such as a contract), unless the parties agree on another amount or to waive contractual interest. The statute provides that the account bears interest from the date of billing unless paid within thirty days from that date.
In the recent case of BCL Properties v. Boyle, our firm represented a contractor seeking payment from a property owner following a dispute over the amount of a final payment. A Douglas County jury returned a verdict in favor of the contractor, but the property owner argued that prejudgment interest should not be applied because she was disputing that the amount was “due” at the time of billing. The owner argued that she did not agree with the amount, and therefore, the money was not “due” under the prejudgment interest statute. The Nebraska Supreme Court disagreed and ruled in favor of the contractor, finding that it did not matter whether the owner disputed whether she should have to pay the billed amount, because the Nebraska prejudgment interest statute does not require that claims be “liquidated” to support an order for prejudgment interest. Ultimately, a jury determined that the owner should have paid the contractor within thirty days of the date the contractor submitted its bill. The money was “due” at that time. The contractor was entitled to prejudgment interest from that date.
It is important to note that Nebraska recognizes the rights of parties to agree to different interest rates than the 12% per annum found in the Nebraska prejudgment interest statute or to agree to waive contractual interest within written agreements. However, if a contractor has an amount that it is owed pursuant to a written contract, the contractor should be entitled to claim interest in the event it prevails at trial. It is important for contractors to review, or to retain an attorney to review, their contracts to determine the role that contractual or prejudgment interest may have in resolving any disputes for payments that may be due. Nebraska Courts have determined that they are likely to enforce prejudgment interest in these scenarios.
If you would like help with your construction projects, we recommend you contact an experienced Construction Attorney.