Construction firm’s failings amounted to breach of contract

A construction firm’s repeated delays when building a road amounted to breach of contract and entitled the customer to withdraw from the deal, a court has ruled.

The firm was employed to design and build a road outside an airport. Construction work was slow and repeatedly delayed because of bad weather and unexpected issues.

The main interruption was because of soil and groundwater contamination on site. When already two years behind schedule, the construction firm stopped working on the road in December 2010 so that further tests on the ground could be carried out.

At this point, the client issued a notice terminating the contract. It claimed that the delay to construction amounted to a breach of contract.

It said that reports indicating the potential issues with the soil were available at the time the contract was awarded. Therefore the construction firm should have been prepared for such issues and had plans in place to rectify them.

The construction firm claimed the issues were “unforeseeable” and they were justified in delaying the work. They were not in breach of contract and simply reacting in the manner that could be expected of any other company in the industry.

The court ruled in favour of the client. It said that reports on potential soil contamination were available when the contract was awarded and so the problems were foreseeable. It was reasonable to expect that any professional builders would be prepared for such issues and make their plans accordingly.

The firm’s failure to have alternative action plans in place amounted to a breach of contract.

Also, the fact that work on the road had been completely halted by the construction firm while more tests were done on the soil was in itself a valid reason for termination of the contract.

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