There are a number of horizontal construction projects where a contractor’s sequence of work and schedule is predicated on avoiding the rainy season (or certain force majeure events). The reason is that the rainy season will result in delays due to the inability to work (and work efficiently) during the adverse weather (including flooding caused by the weather). If the work is pushed into the rainy season, is such delay compensable if the government (or owner) delayed the project that pushed work out into the rainy season? It very well can be.
For example, in Meridian Engineering Co. v. U.S., 2019 WL 4594233 (Fed. Cl. 2019), a contractor was hired by the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a flood control project for a channel in Arizona. Due to delays, including those caused by the government, the project was pushed into the monsoon season, which caused additional delays largely due to flooding caused by the heavy rain. One issue was whether such delays were compensable to the contractor – the government raised the argument that the contractor assumed the risk of potential flooding from the rainy season. The Court found this argument unconvincing:
[The contractor’s] initial construction schedule planned for a completion of the channel invert work, a necessary step in protecting the site from flooding, to be completed by late June 2008…[M]any issues arose in the project’s early stages that led to cumulative substantial delay, including those caused by the government’s failure….The government cannot now claim that [the contractor] assumed the risk of flooding from monsoon season when the government was largely responsible for [the contractor’s] inability to complete the project prior to the beginning of the monsoon season. Simply put, the government cannot escape liability for flood damages when the government is responsible for causing the contractor to be working during the flood-prone season.
Meridian Engineering, 2019 WL at *7 (internal citations omitted)
In other words, but for delays caused by the government, the contractor’s work would not have been pushed into the monsoon season. The Court’s outcome, perhaps, would have been different if the contractor was the sole cause of delays that pushed the project into the monsoon season or the contractor’s original schedule was unrealistic to begin with.
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