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You'll Need Precise Specs To Cry 'The Govt. Made Me Do It'

Monday, November 01, 2010 04:38 am


In 1988, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government contractor immunity (GCI) defense preempts state law to shield contractors from liability. However, that defense is not failsafe where the contractor has significant discretion to complete its work as it sees fit. In other words, if you relied on your own expertise to perform, that expertise must answer for any defects.

You can't hide behind general instructions

In Boyle v. United Technologies Corp., 487 U.S. 500, 108 S. Ct. 2510, 101 L. Ed. 2d 442 (1988), the Court established a three-part test of the CGI defense (which originally applied only to military equipment): A contractor cannot be held liable for design defects in equipment supplied where (1) the government approved "reasonably precise" specifications, (2) the equipment conformed to those specs and (3) the supplier warned the government about potential dangers in equipment use.

The first point took center stage in a recent case: In Re: Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation v. Washington Group International, Inc., 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 19145 (5th Cir. Sept. 14, 2010). The court found that the government had provided the contractor with specs that were impreci [...]

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