Monday, December 22, 2008

Force Majeure and Winter Storms

With the severe winter snow storm that has engulfed much of Washington state, and for that matter the northern part of the nation, it's a good time to think about "Force Majeure" and how that impacts public works construction projects.

"Force Majeure" is a French term, literally meaning "superior force" and is often referred to as "Acts of God."
Depending on your contract provisions, Force Majeure may include the following:
  • Acts of God or the public enemy
  • Acts of omissions of any government entity
  • Fire, earthquake, or other casualty for which the contractor is not responsible
  • Quarantine or epidemic
  • Strike, embargo, or defensive lockout
  • Unusually severe weather conditions, such as storm, flood, or hurrican which could not have been reasonably anticipated
  • Unusual delay in receipt of supplies or products which were ordered and expedited and for which no substitute reasonably acceptable to the owner was available
  • Acts of terrorism
  • Riots, wars, invasions, acts of foreign enemies, civil war
It is the item about "severe weather conditions" that is particularly relevant now. The cold temperatures, and the accompanying snow and ice are clearly beyond what the area normally anticipates, as witnessed by the fact that the weather conditions are viewed by many as the worst in at least a dozen years.

Again, depending on the terms of your contract provisions, a contractor is generally entitled to an extension of time for performance delays directly attributable to Force Majeure, but not entitled to an adjustment in the contract amount. Be sure to read the terms of your contract carefully in evaluating contractor claims for either additional time or money based on Force Majeure.

Please contact me if you have any questions about how to apply the terms of your contract to delays resulting from Force Majeure.

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