In a recent Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA) decision, Nelson, Inc., a Small Business Administration (SBA) certified HUBZone construction company based in Memphis, Tennessee, succeeded in reversing the termination for default of its $9.2 million contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The decision highlights how important it is for contractors to maintain careful records of delays caused by factors outside of their control, not just to prove entitlement to additional time or damages, but also to protect against improper default terminations.
Nelson had a contract with Corps to build stone dikes on the Mississippi River. The project involved four sites, Loosahatchie, Robinson Crusoe, Friars Point and Cow Island, and spanned across three states, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas. Nelson's progress was significantly delayed at one of the sites, due to low water levels that precluded Nelson floating its equipment, then high water levels that prevented the contractor from working, as well as delayed guidance from the Corps regarding differing site conditions. When Nelson exceeded the 165 days allotted for the entire project, the Corps terminated the contract for default despite having not yet issued notices to proceed at two of the sites. Although extra days were supposed to be added to the schedule when river levels were too high or low for construction, the Corps ignored these days when calculating its timeline.
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