Federal Claims Court Holds that Government’s Actual Knowledge of Contractor’s Delay and Acceleration Excuses Technical Non-Compliance with Time Limit for Providing Notice of Constructive Change

Nova Group/Tutor-Saliba v. United States, 125 Fed. Cl. 469 (Fed. Cl. Mar 16, 2016)

The United States Naval Facilities Engineering Command (the “Navy”) contracted with the joint venture of Nova Group and Tutor-Saliva (the “JV”) for construction of a pier at the Puget Sound Navy Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.  The contract assigned selection of pier stability assessment methods to the JV’s discretion.  Exercising that discretion, the JV selected a SAP 2000 model for performance design loads.  Five months after the Navy had approved the JV’s design submittals, the Navy’s construction manager voiced concerns about the design and questioned the JV’s reliance upon the SAP 2000 model. Continue reading

Posted in Notice

Western District of Virginia Confronts Several Legal Issues That Frequently Impact Multi-Party Construction Disputes – Economic Loss, Damage to Other Property, Third Party Beneficiary Status, Warranties, Subrogation, and Third-Party Joinder

Allstate Insurance Company v. Structures Design/Build, LLC, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34349 (WD VA March 17, 2016)

This construction dispute case arises from a failed pipe connector that caused water damage to a facility and insured personal property, which Hillel at Virginia Tech, Inc. (“Hillel”) owned in Blacksburg, Virginia. Hillel contracted Structures Design/Build, LLC (“Structures”) to design and construct the facility. Structures, in turn, subcontracted PJ Little Plumbing, Inc. (“PJ”) for plumbing and mechanical installation. PJ purchased the failed pipe connector from CMC Supply, Inc. (“CMC”). Allstate Insurance Company (“Allstate”) insured Hillel for the damage to the facility and the personal property.

As Hillel’s subrogee, Allstate filed a complaint against Structures and PJ. Allstate sued Structures for various state law claims. It sued PJ for negligence and breach of express and implied warranties. PJ filed a third-party complaint to join CMC on a breach of implied warranty theory. PJ and CMC moved to dismiss the claims against them. Continue reading

Posted in Defective Work, Design/Build, Economic Loss Defense, Subrogation, Warranty

Court of Federal Claims Rules Contracting Officer’s Failure to Exercise Independent Business Judgment Renders Partial Termination for Convenience an Abuse of Discretion and Breach, but Holds Subsequent Termination for Cause of Remainder of Contract to Be Appropriate

Securiforce Int’l America, LLC v. United States, 125 Fed. Cl. 749 (March 21, 2016)

Plaintiff Securiforce International America, LLC (“Securiforce”) was awarded a contract by the Defense Logistics Agency Energy (“DLA Energy” or the “agency”) to deliver diesel fuel and gasoline to eight Department of State sites in Iraq.  But, within three months of the award, the agency partially terminated the contract for the convenience of the government.  The remainder of the contract was terminated for cause shortly thereafter.

As a result of its termination, Securiforce submitted claims to DLA Energy’s contracting officer, seeking, among other things, a declaration from the contracting officer that the termination for convenience was invalid and constituted a breach of contract.  The contracting officer denied the claims. Continue reading

Posted in Breach of Contract, Termination, Termination for Convenience

Federal Court in Maryland Denies Summary Judgment, Holding That Subcontract Provision Placing Responsibility for Property Damage on Subcontractor Would Likely Trump Prime Contract Waiver of Subrogation Incorporated by Reference

Turner Constr. Co. v. BFPE Int’l, Inc., No. JKB-15-368, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39161 (D. Md. Mar. 25, 2016)

The University of Maryland Medical Center (“UMMC”) entered into a contract (the “Prime Contract”) with Turner Construction Company (“Turner”), pursuant to which Turner agreed to renovate UMMC’s hospital offices.  Turner then entered into a subcontract (the “Subcontract”) with BFPE International, Inc. (“BFPE”), pursuant to which BFPE agreed to perform work associated with the fire protection system, including demolishing sprinkler piping and coordinating sprinkler outages to accommodate the renovations.

The Prime Contract included a waiver of subrogation, under which UMMC and Turner waived all rights against each other and any subcontractors for damages covered by property insurance, even if the subcontractor would otherwise have a duty to indemnify.[i]  The Subcontract incorporated the Prime Contract by reference and included flow down provisions, but the Subcontract also stated that if any provision “irreconcilably conflicts” with a provision of the Prime Contract, “the provision imposing the greater duty or obligation on [BFPE] shall govern.”  The Subcontract included an assumption of liability, under which BFPE assumed liability for all property damage in connection with its work and agreed to indemnify Turner from any claims that result.[ii]  This assumption of liability seemed inconsistent with the waiver of subrogation in the Prime Contract. Continue reading

Posted in Flow Down, Insurance, Subrogation

Fifth Circuit Considers Allocation of Risk of Defective Plans and Specifications in Reversing $1.29 Million Judgment Entered in Favor of Contractor

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Board v. INET Airport Systems, Inc., et al., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 6646, 819 F.3d 245 (5th Cir. Apr. 12, 2016)

 This action arose out of a construction project in terminal E of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (“DFW”), in which pre-conditioned air and rooftop air handling units were to provide conditioned air (cooling and heating) to passenger boarding bridges and aircrafts parked at terminal gates (the “Project”).  In August, 2009, following a competitive bidding process, owner Dallas Fort Worth International Airport Board (the “Owner”) entered into a contract with contractor INET Airport Systems, Inc. (the “Contractor”) to construct the Project. The plans and specifications for the contract included detailed drawings, the precise rooftop units and parts to be used, approved manufacturers and performance requirements.  Under the contract and these plans, the Contractor was obligated to install operational rooftop units that were required to use 30 percent ethylene glycol/water supplied through DFW’s existing piping system. The Contractor was not allowed to substitute products or designs for those agreed upon in the contract documents without authorization from the Owner. The contract also required that if anything in the agreed-upon plans needed to be changed, the Contractor would alert the Owner and the parties would collaborate to come up with a workaround that would be incorporated into the contract by written change order issued by the Owner with agreed prices for performing the change order work. Continue reading

Posted in Breach of Contract, Defective Specifications