The government often blames construction contractors for shortcomings in its own design and unanticipated difficulties encountered at the site. “You’re supposed to be the expert!”  “You should have known what to expect because of the magic language on page 97 of the geotechnical report.” “You’re the design-builder!”

Alaskan RoadAt first glance, these arguments seem persuasive. But when they are presented to a judge at the Court of Federal Claims or a Board of Contract Appeals, their limitations become apparent. Contractors are not ordinarily expected to have the expertise of a designer or geotechnical engineer. And even when contractors have design-build responsibilities, they are entitled to rely on the design components that the government has furnished to them. And that single reference on page 97 of the geotechnical report?  It doesn’t override the interpretation that a reasonable contractor may draw from the boring logs and the geotechnical report as a whole.

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