I am a huge fan of clearly written construction contracts. Virginia state and federal courts will interpret contract provisions as written and will seek to enforce all of those terms where possible. Where the contract is ambiguous, we construction attorneys make money and the courts are forced to make decisions that the parties may not like.
A recent case out of the Eastern District of Virginia federal court highlights the ways in which a clear contract affects the claims that can be brought and limits the scope of possible litigation. In First Call Environmental LLC v. Murphy Oil USA LLC, the Court looked at a relatively typical Owner, Contractor, Subcontractor set of agreements. In this matter, Murphy Oil entered a contract with National Rapid Response, Inc. (“NRR”) whereby NRR would provide emergency and environmental management and waste disposal services to Murphy Oil. NRR then subcontracted with the Plaintiff First Call to perform the services for Murphy Oil. First Call filed suit against Murphy Oil alleging two counts: breach of contract (based on a third-party beneficiary theory), and unjust enrichment.