Subcontractor in France (Cass. 3e civ. 23-11-2023 n° 22-17.027 FS-B, Sté Alf productions c/ Sté Spie Batignolles Grand-Ouest)
In the realm of subcontracting within the French legal system, the intricacies of payment delegations often lead to complex legal scenarios. The ruling of the Cassation Court on 23 November 2023 provides a crucial precedent in understanding these complexities.
In this particular case, a primary contractor subcontracted part of its construction work to a secondary contractor, who further subcontracted for the provision of joineries. The first-tier subcontractor delegated the payment responsibility to the primary contractor. Following the bankruptcy of the first-tier subcontractor, the second-tier subcontractor demanded payment from the primary contractor. However, the primary contractor refused, citing non-validation of the invoices by the first-tier subcontractor and issues with the delivered joineries.
Legal Analysis (Loi 75-1334 du 31 décembre 1975)
The Court of Cassation’s decision hinges on the interpretation of the 1975 law regarding subcontracting. According to this law, the project owner is the party that contracts with the primary contractor, not the subcontractors, regardless of their tier (Cass. 3e civ. 15-1-2003 n° 01-02.967 FS-PB : RJDA 7/03 n° 718).
The court held that the payment delegation in this case did not fall under the 1975 law but was governed by the general provisions of the Civil Code. This allowed the primary contractor to raise objections based on its relationship with the first-tier subcontractor against the second-tier subcontractor.
Implications of the Ruling
This ruling underscores the importance of clear contractual arrangements in subcontracting chains. It clarifies that unless the project owner directly delegates payment, the primary contractor can set terms for paying subcontractors, including approval of invoices. This decision aligns with prior rulings, indicating a consistent approach by the French judiciary in subcontracting payment issues.
The Court of Cassation’s ruling in this case reaffirms the nuanced approach of French law towards subcontracting arrangements. It emphasizes the need for explicit contractual terms and underscores the limited applicability of the 1975 subcontracting law in cases where the project owner is not directly involved in the payment delegation.
This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice addressed to particular circumstances. You should not take or refrain from taking any legal action based upon the information contained herein without first seeking professional, individualized counsel based upon your own circumstances. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.
Information by ALARIS AVOCATS, English speaking lawyers in France (Paris)