Federal government construction contracts for fixed-price contracts contain a suspension of work clause found in F.A.R. 52.242-14 (a copy of this clause can be found at the bottom of this posting). This clause allows the government, through the contracting officer, to order the suspension, interruption, or delay of the construction work. This clause further permits the contractor to obtain an equitable adjustment for the increased costs it incurs associated with the delay / suspension of its work for an unreasonable period of time. George Sollitt Const. Co. v. U.S., 64 Fed.Cl. 229, 236-37 (Fed.Cl. 2005). The unreasonableness of the delay / suspension depends on the actual circumstances of the project, but it is this finding of unreasonableness that triggers additional compensation to the contractor. See id. The test applied to determine whether the contractor is entitled to an equitable adjustment for additional compensation pursuant to the suspension of work clause is as follows:
1. The delay must be of an unreasonable length extending the contract’s performance;
2. The delay must be proximately caused by the government;
3. The delay resulted in injury or damage to the contractor; and
4. There is no concurrent delay caused by the contractor.
CEMS, Inc. v. U.S., 59 Fed.Cl. 168, 230 (Fed.Cl. 2003) quoting P.J. Dick, Inc. v. Principi, 324 F.3d 1364, 1375 (Fed.Cir. 2003).
As reflected above by the fourth factor, “even if the government has caused an unreasonable delay to the contract work, that delay will not be compensable if the contractor, or some other factor not chargeable to the government, has caused a delay concurrent with the government caused-delay.” George Sollitt, 64 Fed.Cl. at 237.
This suspension of work clause is designed to make the contractor whole for unreasonable delays, but additional profit would be excluded from any additional compensation owed to the contractor. See F.A.R. 52.242-14(b).
As mentioned in previous postings, contractors need to understand the clauses incorporated into their prime contract so they can appreciate how to best preserve their rights when they encounter a delaying event. Also, understanding the clauses will enable the contractor to best present their request for equitable adjustment or claim in a manner that supports their position for additional compensation.
Suspension of Work (APR 1984)
(a) The Contracting Officer may order the Contractor, in writing, to suspend, delay, or interrupt all or any part of the work of this contract for the period of time that the Contracting Officer determines appropriate for the convenience of the Government.
(b) If the performance of all or any part of the work is, for an unreasonable period of time, suspended, delayed, or interrupted (1) by an act of the Contracting Officer in the administration of this contract, or (2) by the Contracting Officer’s failure to act within the time specified in this contract (or within a reasonable time if not specified), an adjustment shall be made for any increase in the cost of performance of this contract (excluding profit) necessarily caused by the unreasonable suspension, delay, or interruption, and the contract modified in writing accordingly. However, no adjustment shall be made under this clause for any suspension, delay, or interruption to the extent that performance would have been so suspended, delayed, or interrupted by any other cause, including the fault or negligence of the Contractor, or for which an equitable adjustment is provided for or excluded under any other term or condition of this contract.
(c) A claim under this clause shall not be allowed (1) for any costs incurred more than 20 days before the Contractor shall have notified the Contracting Officer in writing of the act or failure to act involved (but this requirement shall not apply as to a claim resulting from a suspension order), and (2) unless the claim, in an amount stated, is asserted in writing as soon as practicable after the termination of the suspension, delay, or interruption, but not later than the date of final payment under the contract.
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