Constructive acceleration occurs when a project owner requires the contractor to comply with the original completion deadline, even though the contractor has encountered an excusable delay. (To read about the basics of acceleration claims, click here.)

Some courts have held that there are three “essential elements” of a constructive acceleration claim: (1) the contractor encountered an excusable delay, (2) the owner issued an acceleration order, and (3) the contractor incurred additional costs to accelerate its work.

Sometimes there are disputes about whether the owner or prime contractor issued an acceleration order.

Recently, a federal court considered whether a subcontractor adequately alleged a constructive acceleration claim against a prime contractor, which included a discussion of implied acceleration orders.Continue Reading What Is Constructive Acceleration on a Construction Project?

When a contractor bids a job, it does so based on a planned sequence of work and productivity of job labor. There are many issues that can arise while building a project that affect labor productivity, and many of those issues are not the contractor’s responsibility. The terms of the contract will often dictate whether a loss of productivity is compensable.

A contractor that suffers a loss of productivity may be entitled to additional compensation. Many methods have been used to calculate loss-of-productivity damages.

In JH Kelly, LLC v. AECOM Technical Services, Inc., a federal court recently considered several different methods for calculating a loss of productivity on a project.Continue Reading Three Ways to Potentially Calculate Lost Productivity Damages

To win on a breach-of-contract claim, the party asserting the claim must prove that the other party to the contract caused the non-breaching party to incur damages. In construction disputes, the non-breaching party (e.g., a contractor or subcontractor) will often claim that it incurred lost profits due to the other party’s breach.

For example, if an owner wrongfully terminates a contractor, the contractor may be entitled to the profit that it was going to make on the project but for the owner’s termination of the contract. But to obtain those lost profits, the contractor will have to offer supporting evidence.Continue Reading How to Prove Lost Profits in Construction Disputes

Frequently, the parties involved with building a construction project believe that one of the other parties is acting unreasonably. There are times where one of those parties — the owner, the prime contractor, a subcontractor, or a design professional — act so unreasonably that they may violate the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Under Florida law, every contract contains an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The purpose of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing is to protect the reasonable expectations of the contracting parties in light of their express agreement.

While not a Florida case, a recent federal court case that went to trial in Idaho shows an example of a prime contractor acting unreasonably with its subcontractors on a federal government project.Continue Reading How the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing Can Apply in Construction Disputes

I write a fair amount about construction claims, and I frequently emphasize the importance of properly proving damages in connection with construction claims (e.g., a general contractor only being awarded $22,000 on its $1.3 million claim against a subcontractor, in part, because the general contractor failed to adequately prove its damages).

Under Florida law, the burden is on the party seeking damages to prove its damages with a reasonable degree of certainty. While difficulty proving your damages may not be a bar to recovery, the award of damages cannot be based on mere speculation or guesswork.

A recent federal court trial illustrates the difficulty contractors and subcontractors can have proving claims against each other for breach of a construction contract.Continue Reading The Burden of Proof for Construction Damages

When an owner provides design plans and specifications for building a project, there is an implied warranty that if the contractor follows those plans and specifications, a satisfactory result will be produced. This principle is called the Spearin doctrine, which comes from the United States Supreme Court case United States v. Spearin

Under the Spearin doctrine, if a contractor incurs additional costs due to the defective design of a project, the contractor may assert a defective specification claim, which may also be called a claim for breach of the implied warranty of design.

Generally, proving such a defective specification claim requires the contractor to show that the defective specification:

  1. was a design specification, not a performance specification;
  2. contained a latent (not obvious) error; and
  3. caused the contractor’s damages (e.g., additional construction costs).

Although it can be difficult to satisfy all three requirements, a recent Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals case–Appeal of KiewitPhelps–shows that it can be done. Continue Reading Contractor Wins on $40.7 Million Defective HVAC Design Claim

If a project takes longer than expected due to unforeseeable reasons beyond the contractor’s control, then the contractor may have a delay claim against the owner. Typical delay-claim damages include extended general conditions, home office overhead, and financing costs.

Delay claims are one of the most common issues that arise on construction projects. Typically, the burden is on the contractor to prove a delay claim, and the contractor must prove the following three elements:

  1. the length of the delay;
  2. the causal link between the delay and the owner’s wrongful acts; and
  3. the harm to the contractor due to the delay (i.e., the contractor’s damages).

The second element can be the most difficult to prove. To show a causal link between the owner’s wrongful acts and the delay, the contractor must show that the owner’s actions affected the activities on the critical path of the project.Continue Reading No Critical Path Analysis for a Contractor Delay Claim? Expect Your Claim to Be Denied.

Disputes regarding a contractor’s scope of work are common. Frequently, there are times when a contract or solicitation is unclear as to whether a certain item of work is within a contractor’s scope. (Click here for the six most common contractor claims, which includes change-in-scope claims.)

In federal government contracts, if a contract is ambiguous as to whether a contractor must perform a specific item of work, the issue may turn on whether it was a patent or latent ambiguity. A patent ambiguity is one that is readily apparent or obvious. In contrast, a latent ambiguity is one that is hidden or could not be discovered through the exercise of reasonable care.

The distinction is important because if an ambiguity as to whether a contractor has to perform a specific item of work is patent or obvious, the contractor has an affirmative duty to seek clarification before submitting its proposal. If the contractor fails to seek clarification, the ambiguity must be construed against the contractor.Continue Reading Change-in-Scope Claims: Patent vs. Latent Ambiguities

If a construction contractor working on a federal government project is impacted by a government-caused change, the contractor must take steps to preserve its right to obtain additional compensation or time to complete the project. In particular, a contractor must comply with the contract’s claim process. (Click here for the six most common contractor claims.)

Generally, there are three steps to obtaining additional money or time on a federal government project:

1. Submit a request for equitable adjustment: If the government causes a change to the project, the contractor should submit an REA that explains the change, how that change has impacted the contractor’s work, the amount of additional money and/or time to which the contractor is entitled, and backup for the amounts claimed.

Although a contractor is not required to submit an REA before submitting a formal claim, contractors frequently submit the REA first, because it can serve as a starting point for the contractor and the contracting officer to negotiate. The main downside to submitting an REA rather than a claim is that interest will not to start running until a claim is submitted. Also, there is no deadline for the contracting officer to make a decision on an REA.Continue Reading How to Get More Money and Time on Federal Government Construction Projects

As I have stated before, differing site condition claims remain fairly common. They can also one of the most difficult claims for a contractor to prove at trial. There are two types of differing site condition claims–Type I and Type II.

Generally, a contractor may make a Type I differing site condition claim where the contractor encounters a subsurface or latent physical condition at the project site that differs materially from the conditions indicated in the parties’ contract.

Under a Type II claim, a contractor may assert a differing site condition claim where there are unknown and unusual physical conditions at the project site that differ materially from those ordinarily encountered and generally recognized as inherent in work of the character provided for in the parties’ contract.

The United States Court of Federal Claims recently considered a contractor’s $10.5 million differing site condition claim in Nova Group/Tutor-Saliba, Joint Venture v. United States.Continue Reading Contractor’s $10.5 Million Differing Site Condition Claim Torpedoed