Federal construction contracts law generally recognizes four basic methods for pricing damages: (1) Actual Cost Method (ACM); (2) Total Cost Method (TCM); (3) Modified Total Cost Method (MTCM); and (4) Jury Verdict Recovery Method (JVRM). In practice, it is difficult to obtain significant recoveries on TCM and JVRM claims, and only marginally easier on MTCM claims. That is because the courts and boards that hear federal government contracts cases have developed a clear preference for the ACM. Despite this preference, many contractors do not have systems in place to maximize their opportunity to recover damages under the ACM. This article introduces various strategies for tracking and allocating damages during project performance in a manner that will support an ACM analysis if a federal construction claim is litigated.
Background: Four Basic Methods for Pricing Damages
The four methods for pricing damages are described, below:
1. Actual Cost Method
The actual cost method claims damages based on records of “actual costs” that were documented during the performance of the contract. All additional costs must be separately recorded from the costs incurred in the normal course of contract performance. Because contractors provide the court or board with documented underlying expenses under the actual cost method, courts and boards prefer this method. However, the actual cost method may not always be feasible where a contractor is confronted with drastic changes early and often in a project.