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Wheatland Contracting, LLC v. Jaco General Contractor, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Kansas

September 20, 2019

Wheatland Contracting, LLC, Appellee,
v.
Jaco General Contractor, Inc., and Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America, Appellants.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         The Kansas Fairness in Private Construction Contract Act, K.S.A. 16-1801 et seq., provides in K.S.A. 16-1806 that the venue for any action to enforce the Act shall be in the county where the real property is located. Parties to any construction contract covered by the Act cannot agree to a different venue.

          Appeal from Johnson District Court; Rhonda K. Mason, judge.

          Neil C. Gosch and Lisa L. Martin, of Triplett Woolf Garretson, LLC, of Wichita, for appellants.

          Jody R. Gondring, of Hennessy & Gondring, P.A., of Kansas City, Missouri, and S. Owen Griffin, of Troppito Miller Griffin, LLC, of Kansas City, Missouri, for appellee.

          Before Hill, P.J., Leben, J., and Walker, S.J.

          HILL, J.

         This is an interlocutory appeal of an order denying a change of venue in a lawsuit arising out of a construction contract for a project in Johnson County. The subcontractor, Wheatland Contracting, LLC, sued the contractor, Jaco General Contractor, Inc., in Johnson County. In response, Jaco moved to transfer venue to Sedgwick County based on the forum selection clause in their contract. The district court denied Jaco's motion because the Kansas Fairness in Private Construction Contract Act states that venue for any action to enforce the Act shall be in the county where the real property is located. The sole question of law for us then, is, does the Act nullify this contract's choice-of-venue provision? It does.

         Details provide a context for our decision.

         Jaco and Wheatland agreed that Wheatland would perform plumbing and associated trade work on a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Johnson County. The contract contained a forum and venue selection clause that stated: "[T]o the fullest extent permitted by law, the parties agree and stipulate that the Eighteenth Judicial District, District Court, Sedgwick County, Kansas, is the court of exclusive jurisdiction and venue to determine any dispute between Contractor and Subcontractor arising out of or relating to this Subcontract."

         Wheatland filed a mechanic's lien on the project in Johnson County. Jaco later substituted a bond for the mechanic's lien, which the court approved, and the court then discharged the lien. Wheatland proceeded to make a claim on that bond.

         Wheatland sued in Johnson County District Court, claiming breach of contract, action on bond, violations of the Act, and quantum meruit. Jaco moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer venue to Sedgwick County. The district court denied the motion, ruling that despite the venue clause in the contract, the plain language of K.S.A.16-1806 required the venue of the suit to be in the county where the project was located-Johnson County.

         We granted Jaco's application for interlocutory review.

         We ...


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