The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hired a contractor to build a marina in North Dakota. Engineering calculation errors led to a serious of problems, eventually resulting in a lawsuit brought against the government by the contractor. The court was not amused by the government’s response.
The court quickly and with evident disgust, rejected the government’s arguments and found that the defective design had been the main cause of the delay. Troubling in this case is the fact that the Corps adamantly refused to accept any responsibility for its defective design, even while the contractor made every effort to comply with it. The crux of the problem, according to the court, was the government’s unwillingness to acknowledge the design error and take responsibility for it. Had the government stopped the work and investigated as soon as the contractor’s difficulty with the dewatering became apparent, the government probably would have discovered the mistake in specifying No. 7 aggregate and been able to do something simpler, quicker, and less expensive than the clay wedge fix that made the problems worse. Instead, the government blamed the contractor for everything, hindered instead of helped, and ended up with consequences not of the design error, but also of its own unreasonableness and intransigency.