Federal Court Holds "No Damage for Delay" Clauses Are Per Se Enforceable on Federal Public Works Projects in California


Harper/Neilsen-Dillingham, Builders, Inc. v. United States, 81 Fed. Cl. 667 (2008)

California has long followed a public policy which limits the enforcement of so-called "no damage for delay" clauses in construction contracts on public projects. The policy is embodied in part by section 7102 of the Public Contract Code, which limits the enforcement of such clauses contained in both public contracts between contractors and public entities, and in subcontracts between private parties relating to public projects. The rule against "no damage for delay" clauses is based on the common law principle that courts should strictly construe clauses which work a forfeiture, a policy which arguably applies with equal force to both public and private contracts. In this regard California Civil Code section 1635 provides that public and private contracts are to be interpreted by the same rules. Thus, many California practitioners believe that the rule does or should extend generally to all construction contracts, both public and private.

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