Two of the cases in this issue involve disputes over the contractual scope of work. It is useful to restate a couple fundamental principles of contract interpretation:
- A contract must be read as a whole, with its various provisions harmonized to the greatest extent possible. A contract should not be read in a manner that ignores or effectively nullifies material provisions.
- The specific governs the general. A broad statement regarding rights or obligations may be modified by a more specific provision addressing a particular matter.
In the first case, a contractor argued that one drawing note misled its understanding of the required scope of work. It was ruled that the contract documents as a whole were not ambiguous. The contractor could not rely on one arguably misleading drawing note in the face of multiple clear and affirmative indications elsewhere in the contract.
The second case involved a statement regarding the project’s conformity with environmental regulations and the need for further action by the contractor. A reference to one statute could not be extrapolated to apply to a second statute that was expressly referenced in the contract. The contract required contractor compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.
The third case in this issue addressed a bid dispute. A posting of contract award on a state agency database was not binding on the procuring agency and did not establish a contract. The agency personnel that maintained the database had no authority to alter the formal process for contract formation.