ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 151 - 03/23/2012

Is Working Without Written Change Orders Sometimes Justified?

By Steve Rizer


Construction contracts almost invariably state that changed or additional work can be authorized only by a written change order signed by the project owner’s designated representative. Contractors know they act at their peril if they perform extra work without written change orders. Yet it happens all the time. Sometimes there are logical explanations.


In a recent Michigan case, the project was very time sensitive, and the contract called for liquidated damages of $10,000 per day for late completion. The contractor was on schedule when, three weeks before the deadline, changes were made by the project owner’s landlord. There was conflicting testimony as to the owner’s cooperation in negotiating change orders and the contractor’s efforts to obtain change orders. In any event, the contractor expedited the work and performed without written change orders in order to avoid the liquidated-damage assessment. The contractor was never paid for the extra work.


Do you always insist on written authorization for changed or additional work? Or do circumstances on the job sometimes justify or even compel expediting work without a written directive? If so, what situations force you to incur this risk? I welcome your comments.


Featured in Next Week’s Construction Claims Advisor:

  • Arbitrator Had No Evident or Impartial Bias
  • Failure to Itemize Damages Waived Contractor’s Claim
  • Government’s “Sovereign Act” Defense Not Limited to Military Exercises




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