Aspic Eng’g & Constr. Co. v. ECC Centcom Constructors LLC, No. 17-16510, 2019 BL 26363 (9th Cir. Jan. 28, 2019)

Aspic Engineering and Construction Company (“Aspic”), a local Afghan subcontractor, entered into multiple subcontracts with ECC Centcom Constructors and ECC International (“ECC”), the prime contractor, to construct buildings and facilities in Afghanistan.  The subcontracts contained terms and conditions “applicable to all U.S. Government subcontracts,” and mandated that Aspic owed ECC the same obligations that ECC owed to the federal government.  The subcontracts also incorporated multiple Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) clauses, including FAR 49.2 through 49.6, which govern the recovery of expenses in the event a contractor is terminated for convenience, i.e. required documentation and procedures.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Finds Arbitration Award Is ‘Irrational’ Because It Disregards the Contract’s Plain Text Simply to Reach a Just Result

Nova Contr., Inc. v. City of Olympia, No. 48644-0-II, 2017 Wash. App. LEXIS 913 (Ct. App. Apr. 18, 2017)

This case arose out of a public project in which the City of Olympia (“City”) hired Nova Contracting, Inc. (“Nova”) to replace a culvert. A prior City project on which Nova completed work ended with Nova receiving extra compensation due to the City’s design errors and, as a result, a grudge held by some City staff against Nova.  The present contract required Nova to send submittals describing its plans for bypass pumping and excavation to the City’s engineer for approval before it could begin work.  The City’s decision regarding submittals was final and Nova bore the risk and cost of delay due to any non-approval.
The City issued its Notice to Proceed on August 11, 2014, but Nova could not begin construction due to the City’s rejection of its submittals. Nearly one month later, the City declared Nova to be in default because it failed to provide satisfactory submittals and failed to mobilize to the site.  Coincidentally, that same day, Nova had mobilized to the site; the City, however, later ordered Nova to cease work because it had commenced operations before obtaining the requisite approval.  Nova protested the City’s declaration of default, but the City terminated the contract on September 24.

Nova filed suit against the City for breach of contract, claiming that its handling of the submittals imposed requirements that were not part of the project’s specifications, thereby delaying Nova’s performance to a point where the project could not be timely completed. In support thereof, Nova’s witnesses declared that the City had appeared to be reviewing the submittals with the goal of rejecting them as a sort of “gotcha” review employed to prevent Nova’s performance.  The City moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted its motion.  Nova appealed, arguing that there existed genuine issues of fact as to why the project was not completed and that the City had breached its duty of good faith by preventing Nova from attaining its justified contractual expectations.  The City argued that the duty of good faith did not apply because it had unconditional authority to accept or reject Nova’s submittals.


Continue Reading Owners Beware: Washington Appellate Court Holds Playing ‘Gotcha’ With Project Submittal Review Could Breach the Duty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

Gulf Group Gen. Enters. Co. W.L.L. v. United States
2013 U.S. Claims LEXIS 899 (Fed. Cl. July 2, 2013)

This action arose from a contractor’s claim that the U.S. Army (the “Army” or the “Government”) abused its discretion in terminating contracts for its convenience. In September 2004, Gulf Group General Enterprises Co. W.L.L. (“Gulf Group”) entered into four contracts worth approximately $15.8 million with the Army to provide cleanup and sanitation services in Kuwait. Three of the contracts—the camp package master blanket purchase agreement for provisions (the “BPA contract”), the latrine contract, and the dumpster contract—were terminated by the Army for its convenience within a month after they were awarded. The fourth contract, for bottled water distribution (the “bottled water contract”), was not terminated and instead extended into 2005.


Continue Reading Court of Federal Claims Holds Government Abused Discretion in Terminating Contract for Convenience; Also Finds Contractor Liable for Violations of the False Claims Act

SAK Construction of CA, L.P. v. PSC Industrial Outsourcing, L.P.
2012 U.S. Dist LEXIS 123473 (E.D. Mo. 2012)

This action arose out of the Los Coyotes Water Reclamation Plant Interceptor Project in Los Angeles County, California. General Contractor, SAK Construction of CA, L.P. (“SAK”) was retained by the County to perform sewer rehabilitation work. SAK subcontracted with PSC Industrial Outsourcing, L.P. (“PSC”) to perform the inspection, cleaning, waste removal and disposal work on the Project. The Project consisted of rehabilitating 16 stretches or “shots” of pipeline.


Continue Reading U.S. District Court in Missouri Holds Three-Month Suspension of Work Due to Work Safety Concerns Did Not Constitute Unreasonable Delay to Work Permitting Subcontractor to Terminate Subcontract Under AIA-Type Provision

DuBaldo Electric, LLC v. Montagno Construction, Inc.
119 Conn. App. 423; 2010 Conn. App. LEXIS 55 (Conn. App. Feb. 23, 2010)

Subcontractor, DuBaldo Electric contracted with general contractor, Montagno Construction to perform electrical work in connection with the renovation of retail space leased by Burlington Coat Factory.
DuBaldo had estimated that it could complete the work in 3200 man hours over the scheduled ten week period. Issuance of the permit required for DuBaldo to commence its electrical work was delayed three weeks due to deficiencies in Burlington’s architectural design and understaffing at the City electrical inspector’s office. Unable to perform the electrical work without a permit, DuBaldo fell approximately three weeks behind. Nevertheless, Montagno refused to update the schedule. To make up for lost time, DuBaldo agreed to work 7 days a week with overtime. In addition, Montagno hired Globe Electric to work along side DuBaldo, and deducted from DuBaldo’s account the amount it paid to Globe for work performed within DuBaldo’s scope.


Continue Reading Connecticut Court Holds Termination Improper Where Subcontractor Substantially Performed; Also Holds Evidence Supported Subcontractor’s Inefficiency Claim

Current Builders of Florida, Inc. v. First Sealord Surety, Inc.
2008 Fla. App. LEXIS 4698 (April 2, 2008)
The Court of Appeals of Florida held that a jury finding that a contractor which terminated a subcontractor failed to provide notice in accordance with the terms of a performance bond was sustainable, given that the contractor did not tender the remaining contract balance to the surety or give it an opportunity to provide for the completion of the work. Accordingly, the surety’s obligations under the bond were not triggered.
Continue Reading Florida Court Holds That Contractor’s Failure To Provide Notice Of Default In Accordance With Terms Of Performance Bond Discharged Surety From Its Obligations

Donald M. Durkin Contracting, Inc. v. City of Newark
2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 28987 (D. Del. Apr. 9, 2008)
The Delaware District Court held that a contractor who is improperly terminated is entitled to recover its expectation interest or the unpaid contract price less the amount it would have cost the contractor to complete the job. Other damages which are causally connected to the owner’s breach are recoverable as well, but costs of pre-termination performance or post-termination losses which are not causally connected are not recoverable. Further, the Court affirmed that Delaware follows the “American Rule’ which precludes recovery for attorneys fees incurred in consequence of the owner’s breach.
Continue Reading Delaware District Court Reduces Contractor Recovery for Wrongful Termination

Carlson v. SALA Architects, Inc.
2007 Minn. App. LEXIS 74
The of Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed entry of summary judgment in favor of a purchaser of architectural services, holding, among other things, that the relationship between an architect and its client is not per se a fiduciary relationship. Rather, the Court held that whether a fiduciary relationship exists was a question of fact which was unable to be resolved on summary judgment.
Continue Reading Minnesota Court Rules Architect-Client Relationship Is Not Per Se Fiduciary

Charles T. Driscoll Masonry Reconstruction Co., Inc. v. County of Ulster
2007 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 6068 (N.Y. App. Div., May 17, 2007)
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York held that a construction contract must be enforced according to its terms and, therefore, oral modifications of an agreement which specifically calls for modifications to be in writing will be unenforceable. Although recognizing that written modification clauses may be waived based upon the conduct of the parties, the court found that the conduct of the parties in this case did not support a waiver.
Continue Reading NY Court Disallows Recovery For Additional Work Performed Pursuant To Oral Modification Because Contract Required Written Change Orders

Quality Trust Inc. v. Cajun Contractors, Inc.
2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 25431 (D. Kan. 2007)
The District Court granted the prime contractor summary judgment on its right to terminate a subcontractor for failure to provide submittals and sufficient work force, while at the same time holding that the contractor was not entitled to summary judgment on the subcontractor’s claims for delay damages and contract balances.
Prime contractor, Cajun Contractors, Inc. (“Cajun”), entered into a general contract with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (“COE”) for the construction of a wastewater facility at Fort Riley, Kansas. The project entailed the partial demolition of an existing facility and the construction of a new facility. Cajun subcontracted with Quality Trust, Inc. (“QTI”) to erect eight metal buildings as part of the new facility. Under the subcontract, Cajun was to construct the concrete building pads, to procure the buildings through a third party supplier, and to provide the buildings for QTI to erect and finish.
Continue Reading Prime Contractor Wins Summary Judgment Upholding Right to Terminate Subcontractor For Failure To Provide Submittals And Sufficient Work Force