Sources of Dispute
So typical sources of disputes and claims are worth noting. Theoretically,
any clause in the contract could become the basis of a claim. Indeed, it is
a wonder that contracts have not become much simpler on this account alone.
However, we are governed by explicit law, expressed by a profession whose major
product is more words! Generally, claims may be identified as falling into one
of the following main groups:
- Changed conditions. Conditions different from that represented by
the contract documents, or known at the time of bidding on the work, such as
different soil conditions, or unknown obstructions etc.
- Additional work. Disputes over the pricing and timing of additional
work required, or even whether a piece of identified work is in the contract
or not. Beware particularly of omissions in the design documents, requiring
changes to make a system work, especially if they appear in a subtle way through
the shop-drawing review and approval process. This is always very embarrassing
for the designers, who would like to see them incorporated for free! Beware
also of changes requested by the users (as distinct from the owners) of the
project. While the owner is seeking a Volkswagen, the users are invariably
looking for a Cadillac!
- Delays. These refer to delays strictly beyond the contractor's control.
They may be caused by the owner directly, or by one of his agents. A prime
example is failure to give access to the site of the work in a timely way.
Or equipment promised by the owner is not delivered on time. More frequently,
working drawings are not provided in time to suit the work, or shop drawings
are not reviewed in a timely manner.
- Contract time. Disputes over a contractor's request for time extension
on account of changed conditions, required changes to the contract, or owner
caused delays. Disputes may also arise over instructions to accelerate the
work. Such instructions may not necessarily be explicit. For example, instructions
to incorporate additional work without a corresponding time extension, especially
if the work is on the critical path, is tantamount to an instruction to accelerate
in order to meet the contract completion date.