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UNITED STATES v. UNITED ENGINEERING AND CONTRACTING COMPANY

June 8, 1914

UNITED STATES
v.
UNITED ENGINEERING AND CONTRACTING COMPANY



APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF CLAIMS

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Lurton, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney

Author: Day

[ 234 U.S. Page 237]

 MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.

Suit was brought in the Court of Claims by the United Engineering and Contracting Company to recover of the United States upon a contract, dated the fifteenth of September 1900, for the construction within seven calendar months from the date of the contract, namely by April 15, 1901, of a pumping plant for Dry Dock No. 3 at the New York Navy Yard, the work to be done in accordance with certain plans and specifications annexed to and forming a part of the contract. The claimant recovered a judgment (47 Ct. Cl. 489), and the United States brings this appeal.

The principal question in the case involves the correctness of that part of the judgment of the Court of Claims which permitted the claimant to recover $6,000, which the Government had deducted as liquidated damages for 240 days' delay in the completion of the work, at the rate of $25 per day. To understand this question the terms of the contract and certain facts found by the Court of Claims, upon which the case is to be considered here, must be had in view.

The claimant commenced the construction of the work in accordance with the contract, and after a portion thereof had been done the Navy Department concluded to connect Dry Dock No. 2 with Dry Dock No. 3 and to build a single pumping plant for both docks. To that end on July 21,

[ 234 U.S. Page 2381901]

     , a supplemental contract was entered into with the United States, whereby the claimant agreed, for an additional sum, to furnish all the material and labor necessary to carry out the changes in and additions to the plant originally contracted for and to complete the work on or before October 15, 1901, to which date the original contract was extended.

While the work was progressing under the original and supplemental contracts, a controversy arose between the claimant and the civil engineer in charge as to the proper method of designing and constructing the floor of the pump well and as to the correct interpretation of the requirements of the specifications concerning other matters, which resulted in considerable delay and the cessation of work without the fault of the claimant. On January 13, 1903, the chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks appointed a board to consider changes in the bottom of the pump well and the compensation to be paid therefor, of which the claimant was advised by letter and it was informed that it would be expected to immediately resume work under its contract and push the same to completion with utmost dispatch, otherwise the Bureau would annul the contract and take over the entire work. The claimant thereupon promised to push the work to completion as rapidly as possible, with which promise the Bureau appears to have been satisfied.

On February 15, 1903, after the date fixed for the completion of the work under the original and supplemental contracts, a second supplemental contract was entered into, whereby the claimant agreed to construct three hatches in the roof of the pump well for additional compensation. Nothing was said in this contract as to the time of completion or as to delays under prior contracts.

The board of officers appointed to consider the design of the floor of the pump well and other matters in controversy reported February 16, 1903, that there were, as

[ 234 U.S. Page 239]

     conceded by the Bureau, errors in the design of the pump well floor; that the work done and materials furnished by the claimant complied with the specifications, and that it was not chargeable with improper work or procedure, and the board estimated the increased compensation for the new work and made certain allowances to the claimant. On March 7, 1903, a third supplemental contract was entered into, which embodied the changes found necessary in the original plan for the construction of the floor of the pump well and the increased compensation to ...


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