As COVID-19 disrupts work and life as we know it, the question many contractors have is what protections are available against the inevitable project impacts and delays? Generally, construction contracts require a contractor to timely perform work until project completion or potentially face damages (liquidated or actual) and possible termination. When events occur, however, that are beyond our control (such as a national pandemic), it is important to review and understand what contract provisions or avenues are available for potential relief.
1. Review Your Contract For A Force Majeure Provision.
A “force majeure” contract provision is commonly included in construction contracts, service agreements, purchase orders, etc. It typically covers events or conditions that can be neither anticipated nor controlled. These provisions, however, will vary greatly from contract to contract and may not include the language “force majeure” but rather may be included in general delay or impact clauses. For example, some common provisions include:
- Washington State Department of Transportation Clause (2018 Standard Specifications for Road, Bridge and Municipal Construction): The Contractor shall rebuild, repair, restore, and make good all damages to any portion of the permanent or temporary Work occurring before the Physical Completion Date and shall bear all the expense to do so, except damage to the permanent Work caused by: (a) acts of God, such as earthquake, floods, or other cataclysmic phenomenon of nature, or (b) acts of the public enemy or of governmental authorities; or (c) slides in cases where Section 2-03.3(11) is applicable; Provided, however, that these exceptions shall not apply should damages result from the Contractor’s failure to take reasonable precautions or to exercise sound engineering and construction practices in conducting the Work.