Federal District Court in Virginia Holds That Prime Contractor’s Payment Bond Surety Cannot Rely on No-Damages-For-Delay Clause in Subcontract to Limit Liability to Subcontractor Under Miller Act

United States v. John C. Grimberg Co., Case No. 1:16-cv-991, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 173362 (E.D. Virginia, October 19, 2017)

John C. Grimberg (“Prime Contractor”) was awarded a contract (the “Prime Contract”) to design and complete certain improvements at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia (the “Project”).  Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company (“Surety”) issued payment and performance bonds for the Project pursuant to the Miller Act.  The Prime Contractor thereafter entered into a subcontract (the “Subcontract”) with Kitchens-to-Go (“Subcontractor”) to furnish, install, lease and remove a temporary kitchen facility for the Project.  The Subcontract contained a “no-damages-for-delay” clause, which provided that the Prime Contractor shall not be liable for delays beyond its control and that the Subcontractor is “entitled only to reimbursement for damages for delay actually recovered from the Owner.”  The Subcontract also incorporated the dispute resolution procedures in the Prime Contract, which required that all “disputes arising out of Owner acts, omissions or responsibilities” be submitted through an administrative process with the government’s contracting officer under 41 U.S.C. §§7101 et. seq.

The Subcontract originally contemplated a Project duration of approximately 13 months, ending on April 5, 2014, but was ultimately extended until June 27, 2015.  The Subcontractor submitted its Application for Payment to the Prime Contractor, which included $607,221 for extended rental of the kitchen facilities.  Although the Prime Contractor submitted a payment request to US Department of the Navy (“Owner”), for the extended rental and use of Subcontractor’s temporary kitchen facilities, this request was rejected by the Owner.  The Prime Contractor refused to pay Subcontractor’s Application for Payment and the Subcontractor filed a complaint against the Surety under the Miller Act.  Continue reading

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Federal Court Holds That, Under Louisiana Law, a Contractor Need Not Show a Total Work Stoppage to Recover Extended Home Office Overhead Under Eichleay

Team Contrs., L.L.C. v. Waypoint NOLA, L.L.C., No. 16-1131, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162172 (E.D. La. Oct. 2, 2017).

Waypoint NOLA (“Waypoint”) was the owner of a hotel construction project in New Orleans (the “Project”).  Waypoint contracted with Team Contractors (“Team”) to serve as the Project general contractor and HC Architecture (“HCA”) to serve as the Project architect.  HCA, in turn, subcontracted with KLG to prepare the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (“MEP”) plans.

HCA delivered a complete set of specifications, including KLG’s MEP plans, to Team, and Team began work.  It was later discovered that the MEP plans did not comply with code requirements.  Team was forced to remove and reconstruct the MEP work before proceeding with its work as scheduled.

Team filed suit for breach of contract against Waypoint and for negligence against Waypoint, HCA, and KLG.  Team alleged it experienced delay and incurred damages when it was forced to remove and reconstruct the MEP work.  Its damages included extended home office overhead related to the delay.  Team’s expert used the Eichleay formula to calculate these damages. Continue reading

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Montana Supreme Court Holds That a Waiver of Consequential Damages and a Partial Limitation of Liability in a Design Contract Are Not Contrary to Montana Law

Zirkelbach Constr., Inc. v. DOWL, LLC, 2017 Mont. Lexis 591 (Mont., Sept. 26, 2017)

In interpreting a state statute which makes contractual limitations on a party’s liability unenforceable in certain instances, the Supreme Court of Montana recently upheld the validity of a contract provision in a professional services agreement between a general contractor and a designer in which the parties waived consequential damages against each other and limited the liability of the designer to $50,000.00.

Zirkelbach Constr., Inc. (“Zirkelbach”) and DOWL, LLC (“DOWL”) entered into a professional services agreement (the “Agreement”), whereby DOWL agreed to provide design work to Zirkelbach, a general contractor, for the construction of a FedEx Ground facility in Billings, Montana.  The original contract price was $122,967, but was adjusted to approximately $665,000 after the parties made several addenda to the Agreement to account for additional services. Continue reading

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Federal Court in New Jersey Holds That Failure to Timely File an Affidavit of Merit Dooms Owner’s Claim for Breach of Contract Against GeoTech Companies

Frontier Dev. LLC v. Craig Test Boring Co., 2017 U.S. Dist. Lexis 149950 (D.N.J. Sept. 15, 2017)

On September 15, 2017, the Federal District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed plaintiff’s, Frontier Development LLC’s, complaint for breach of contract against defendants, Craig Test Boring Co., Inc. and Craig Testing Laboratories, Inc., on the grounds that plaintiff failed to timely file an affidavit of merit as required by New Jersey statute.  The case is a reminder that plaintiffs making claims that sound in professional negligence must be aware of state statues requiring the submission of an affidavit of merit.

Plaintiff was the developer of a commercial building in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.  To prepare the site for construction, plaintiff was required to determine the depth of the topsoil it would have to remove and whether the soil beneath the topsoil was stable enough to support the foundations.  To do so, plaintiff engaged the services of defendants to perform geotechnical testing and prepare a soil boring report.  After receiving the report from the defendants and implementing the report’s recommendations, plaintiff claimed that the report’s conclusions were faulty and, as a result, plaintiff removed an excessive amount of topsoil and loose ground underneath the topsoil causing unnecessary delays and construction costs. Continue reading

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A Frustrating Exercise: Federal District Court in Iowa Declines to Grant Summary Judgment on Frustration of Purpose Doctrine in a Breach of Contract Case

Rembrandt Enters., Inc. v. Dahmes Stainless, Inc., No. C15-4248-LTS, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 144636 (N.D. Iowa Sept. 7, 2017)

On September 7, 2017, the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Iowa denied a motion for summary judgment by Rembrandt Enterprises, Inc. (“Rembrandt”).  In the motion, Rembrandt asked the court to grant declaratory relief and excuse the company from its breach of a contract with Dahmes Stainless, Inc. (“Dahmes”) under the doctrine of frustration of purpose.

Beginning in approximately 2014, Rembrandt, a large-scale producer of eggs and egg products, sought to expand its business.  As part of these expansion efforts, Rembrandt planned to construct an entirely new egg processing plant in Thompson, Iowa.  After reaching agreements with multiple contractors to build the new facility, on November 20, 2014, Rembrandt entered into an agreement with Dahmes for the manufacture and installation of an $8.5 million egg dryer at the new processing facility.  During the course of the new facility’s construction, however, the Midwestern United States was impacted by the Avian Flu virus which caused Rembrandt to eliminate over a million of its birds in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, cutting Rembrandt’s production capacity by approximately 50 percent.  As a result of the loss in production capacity, Rembrandt decided to scuttle the construction of the new processing facility and subsequently breached its agreement with Dahmes. Continue reading

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