The recent case of Fulton County v. Soco Contracting Company, Inc. addresses two very interesting questions for local government attorneys. First, can a county ordinance bolster a defense of sovereign immunity against a contractor’s claims? Second, can a county waive sovereign immunity by failing to respond to Requests for Admission?
County hired Contractor to construct a facility near the airport. The contract provided that change orders must satisfy a county ordinance, which required approval by the Board of Commissioners. But in emergency situations, the County Manager could approve change orders, as long as the contractor executes a proposed modification and the purchasing agent approves it.
The project suffered substantial delays, which Contractor attributed to weather, design delays, delays by the County in providing decisions on changes, and delays in obtaining permits during the federal government’s shutdown. As a result of these issues, Contractor comes County changed the scope of the contract. Contractor asserted claims against County for the delays and the changes to the work. The appellate opinion addresses the change order claims.