Cities must be cautious when drafting contracts or risk adverse rulings if the contract is found to


In J.H. Berra Construction Co., Inc., v. City of Washington, (Mo. App. E.D., Feb. 14, 2017) the Missouri Court of Appeals recently ruled against a city trying to recover penalties from a construction company after it exceeded its construction deadline in a contract. The contract allowed a penalty for each “working day” after the deadline. In assessing the penalty, the City counted each non-holiday day, Monday through Friday, as a “working day.” The company sued, arguing “working day” only included days that weather conditions allowed construction work to be done. The court held that the term was ambiguous and because the City had drafted the contract, it must be construed against the City. Accordingly, the court agreed with the construction company and ordered the penalty reduced. This case provides good justification to carefully review your form contracts to make sure they were actually drafted for the benefit of your specific city before adopting the contract as your city form for bidding.



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