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U.S. Supreme Court

Maryland Dredging & Contracting Co. v. United States, 241 U.S. 184 (1916)

Maryland Dredging & Contracting Company v. United States

No. 310

Argued April 25, 1916

Decided May 8, 1916

241 U.S. 184


A government contract for dredging a channel contained a provision that time was an essential feature, and provided for a specified amount per day as liquidated damages for delay and not as a penalty; it also provided that, unless extraordinary and unforeseen conditions should supervene, the time allowed was sufficient, and extensions could only be granted on recommendation of engineer in charge affirmed by Chief of Engineers; a submerged forest which had not been discovered by the contractor prior to commencement of the work, although the contract placed the burden on him to do so, was encountered and so impeded progress as to cause delay for which the government deducted as liquidated damages the amount specified in the contract. In a suit to recover that amount, held:

The provision in the contract that the time was sufficient unless extraordinary conditions should supervene does not amount to a promise for extension if such conditions do supervene.

The extent of promise for an extension under the contract was confined to what the engineer in charge would grant with the sanction of the Chief Engineer; nor was the Chief Engineer bound, in the absence of fraud, to give his sanction to a recommendation of the engineer in charge for an extension.

For extraordinary conditions to supervene in such a case, they must come into being after commencement of the work, and not merely be thereafter discovered to have existed and still to exist.

The provision in the contract for liquidation of damages at $20 per day contains no element of deception or exorbitance, and the contractor cannot escape the terms agreed upon.

The facts, which involve the construction of a contract with the United States for excavation of a channel, and the liability of the contractor for damages for delay in completion, are stated in the opinion. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 241 U. S. 186

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