A bedrock principle under contract law is that one party cannot actively hinder, interfere, obstruct, or delay another’s party’s performance. Doing so can give rise to a breach of contract.
It is one of the most basic premises of contract law that where a party contracts for another to do a certain thing, he thereby impliedly promises that he will himself do nothing which will hinder or obstruct that other in doing the agreed thing. Indeed, if the situation is such that the co-operation of one party is a prerequisite to performance by the other, there is not only a condition implied in fact qualifying the promise of the latter, but also an implied promise by the former to give the necessary co-operation.
Harry Pepper & Associates, Inc. v. Hardrives Co., Inc., 528 So.2d 72, 74 (Fla. 4th DCA 1988) (citation omitted).
The ruling in Harry Pepper & Associates demonstrates what can happen if a contracting party actively hinders, interferes, obstructs, or delays the other party’s performance. Here, a paving subcontractor walked off the project prior to performance. At the time it walked off the job its work could not commence due to prior delays with predecessor activities, revised drawings had not been approved by the governing building department, change orders had not been issued to deal with different site conditions, and the subcontractor was not offered an increase in its original contract price. For these reasons, it called it quits. The general contractor claimed the subcontractor did not have the contractual right to walk off the project. There was a no-damage-for-delay provision in the subcontract and the subcontractor’s only remedy for delays was extensions of time for delayed performance. The general contractor, therefore, sued the subcontractor for the additional costs incurred in hiring a replacement paving subcontractor. Conversely, the subcontractor was not seeking additional costs due to the delays but simply the right to cancel the contract.
The appellate court, affirming the trial court, held that regardless of the no-damage-for-delay provision, it was rendered unenforceable by the active interference of the general contractor: “There is competent and substantial evidence in the record that the general contractor did not cooperate with the subcontractor and engaged in conduct which hindered or obstructed the performance of the contract.” Harry Pepper & Associates, 528 So.2d at 74.
Remember, regardless of whether your contract addresses delays or production, a party that actively interferes, hinders, obstructs, or delays another’s performance can give rise to a breach of contract.
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