DIFFICULT TASK FOR COURT TO ANALYZE DELAY AND DISORDER ON CONSTRUCTION PROJECT

One of my favorites quotes from a case, and I am sure others in the construction industry feel the same way or can relate, is from the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in Blake Construction Co., Inc. v. C.J. Coakley Co., Inc., 431 A.2d 569, 575 (D.C. 1981):

We note parenthetically and at the outset that, except in the middle of a battlefield, nowhere must men coordinate the movement of other men and all materials in the midst of such chaos and with such limited certainty of present facts and future occurrences as in a huge construction project such as the building of this 100 million dollar hospital. Even the most painstaking planning frequently turns out to be mere conjecture and accommodation to changes must necessarily be of the rough, quick and ad hoc sort, analogous to ever-changing commands on the battlefield. Further, it is a difficult task for a court to be able to examine testimony and evidence in the quiet of a courtroom several years later concerning such confusion and then extract from them a determination of precisely when the disorder and constant readjustment, which is to be expected by any subcontractor on a job site, become so extreme, so debilitating and so unreasonable as to constitute a breach of contract between a contractor and a subcontractor. 

Do you agree with this sentiment?  The reality is that retrospectively analyzing delay on a complicated construction project with numerous moving parts on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour, basis is no easy feat.  It is not easy for the parties and certainly not easy for courts to unravel. With every party claiming delay based on a retrospective analysis there will be another party with either a different delay analysis or providing credible cross examination as to flaws with the delay analysis.  The same bodes true with loss of productivity / inefficiency claims and the particular case-specific facts are important, preferably with evidence such as photos, videos, notifications, daily reports, manpower reports, etc., supporting the facts. But the facts are complicated, and the delay analysis is complicated, and it is a difficult task for a trier of fact to unravel these facts.

This case dealt with a dispute between a prime contractor and a fireproofing subcontractor. The subcontractor claimed its work was hindered for a variety of reasons.  In other words, the subcontractor was impeded from working efficiently and it was incurring unanticipated costs – the hallmark of a lost productivity or inefficiency claim.  The subcontractor sent notice to the prime contractor that it would be suspending its operations and did exactly that resulting in the prime contractor completing the subcontractor’s scope of fireproofing work.  A lawsuit arose and the trial court found the prime contractor liable to the subcontractor.   The trial court found the prime contractor breached implicit obligations in the subcontract as it (i) did not provide the subcontractor a clear and convenient work area that impeded the subcontractor’s work causing the subcontractor to incur additional sums, (ii) failed to reasonably sequence the work, and (iii) provided bad supervision as other trades damaged in-place fireproofing due to poor scheduling and certain space heaters belonging to the subcontractor were stolen.  See Blake Construction, supra, at 576-77 (“We are persuaded therefore that the trial judge properly concluded upon this record that these acts collectively and individually constituted a breach of implicit conditions for performance by [the prime contractor] under the subcontract.”).

The appellate court also agreed with the trial court as to the inapplicability of the no-damage-for-delay provision in the subcontract finding delays resulted from active interference “largely due to [the prime contractor’s] improper work sequencing.”  Blake Construction, supra, at 579.

The appellate court also found that the measure of damages to be awarded to the subcontractor from the prime contractor “is properly calculated by taking the cost of partial performance incurred [by the subcontractor], which was $598,666.75, and subcontracting therefrom the payment received to date by [the subcontractor] from [the prime contractor], which totaled $242,100. The difference between these two figures is $356,566.75, and constitutes the damages for which [the prime contractor is] liable to [the subcontractor].”  Blake Construction, supra, at 579.

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

Spread the love
Posted in Delay Damages and tagged , , , , , .