Contract Documents: Lessons from Litigation

by Richard J. Long, Principal, Dispute Services; Kellogg Corp., Littleton, CO,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1988, Vol. 58, Issue 5, Pg. 78-80

Document Type: Feature article


Perfect contract documents and a flawless design are uncommon. Given the complexity of many construction projects and the advances in technology, it is not surprising that contract language, plans and specifications often fail to adequately define the work to be performed. Neither contractors nor the courts expect perfection. They expect and accept a normal number of minor errors, but refuse to accept without equitable reimbursement, contract or design flaws so serious they cause substantial delays and cost increases. Court decisions generally say that a reasonable number of errors is acceptable as long as the documents are prepared with a reasonable standard of care, and are of average quality as judged by industry practice. A reasonable standard of card can be determined from the pattern of court decisions and from experience resolving construction disputes. This article presents conclusions from such experience, and organizes them into four categories: contract writing, bid preparation, construction, and resolving disputes.

Subject Headings: Contracts | Litigation | Dispute resolution | Contractors and subcontractors | Project delay | Industries | Building codes | Writing skills

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