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'Commercial Impossibility' Has No Chance Where Another Contractor Proves Possibility

Tuesday, July 03, 2012 08:46 am


Termination -- Commercial Impossibility

Singleton Enterprises v. Dept. of Agriculture, 2012 CIVBCA Lexis 99 (April 10, 2012)

A contractor and sub appear to have been in over their heads on a project to restore a tidal marsh. But no amount of finger pointing--at the flooding waters or at the project specs--could shift the ultimate blame from the contractor.

Faulty equipment and an inadequate workforce caused significant difficulty for Singleton Enterprises (Singleton), the general contractor on the Department of Agriculture's Hanson Marsh Hydrologic Restoration Project in Louisiana. Singleton was tasked with excavation, dredging, and marsh and dike creation--basically, the goal was to "put the marsh back in time." But the contractor claimed its work was thwarted by both high water and project specifications that presented a commercial impossibility. The agency disagreed and eventually terminated Singleton for default. Singleton appealed.

The agency actually terminated its contract with Singleton twice--for failure to perform in a timely manner, especially with respect to the dredging work. Singleton's dredging subcontractor caused significant delays thanks to the late arrival of necessary equipment. Further, the dredge the sub relied on was not strong enough to cut through debris, the marsh buggy it used required continual repairs, and the discharge pipes were old and rusted and improperly placed. When the sub increased its work force, it did so with inexperienced workers, and part of the crew walked off the job for nonpa [...]

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