General Contractor Loses Winter Conditions Equitable Adjustment Claim
A recent Massachusetts State Court decision denied a General Contractor’s claim for an equitable contract adjustment due to extreme winter conditions. See Cumberland Farms, Inc. v. Tenacity Construction, Inc., C.A. No. 2015-CV-01589-BLS2 (Mass. Super. Nov. 16, 2016)(Sanders, J.). The General Contractor alleged that harsh weather conditions during the Winter of 2014 delayed two construction projects. The Contractor claimed an “equitable adjustment” of the Master Contract, to receive additional payments from the Owner for diminished productivity and decreased efficiency.
The Court rejected the General Contractor’s claim because the Master Contract did not allow for the adjustment. Specifically, the Master Contract included a “no damages for delay” clause, a provision that only allowed the General Contractor an extension of time if it was delayed for any reason outside of its control, and an agreement that the General Contractor may not recover damages for work inefficiency or loss of productivity. Additionally, the Master Contract provided that work relating to winter conditions would be paid on a time and material basis, a condition with which the Owner complied.
This decision is a reminder that construction contracts must be carefully drafted and will be strictly construed. Any adjustments based on adverse weather conditions must be considered and fully addressed during the contract drafting phase, before a project begins.