Can an employer recover liquidated damages (LDs) from a contractor if the contract terminates before the contractor completes the work?
Surprisingly, heretofore, English law provided no clear answer to this seemingly straightforward question, and inconsistent case law over the past century has left a trail of confusion. Given the widespread use of English law in international construction contracts, this uncertainty had gone on far too long.
The good news is that drafters of construction contracts throughout the world can now have a well-deserved good night’s sleep courtesy of the English Court of Appeal’s March 2019 decision in Triple Point Technology, Inc. v PTT Public Company Ltd  EWCA Civ 230.
The Triple Point case concerned the delayed supply by Triple Point (the “Contractor”) of a new software system to employer PTT. The contract provided for payments upon achievement of milestones, however order forms incorporated into the contract set out the calendar dates on which fixed amounts were payable by PTT, resulting in an apparently contradictory requirements on when payment was due. Triple Point achieved completion (149 days late) of a portion of the work milestones, and were paid for that work. Triple Point then sought payment for the work which was not yet completed, relying on the calendar dates in the order forms rather than achievement of milestone payments. Things got progressively worse as PTT refused payment, Triple Point suspended the work for PTT’s failure to pay, PTT terminated the contract and then appointed a new contractor to complete the work.
Reprinted courtesy of Vincent C. Zabielski, Pillsbury and Julia Kalinina Belcher, Pillsbury
Mr. Zabielski may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Belcher may be contacted at email@example.com