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ASBCA's Interpretation of Roofing Contract Reversed

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit granted a roofing contractor further relief because the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals incorrectly concluded the contractor's interpretation of the contract's waterproofing requirements was not within the zone of reasonableness. The contractor sought additional compensation after the government required it to use waterproof flashing material, instead of waterproof paint, on a facility's parapet walls. Before the board, the contractor argued it reasonably interpreted the roofing contract as permitting use of paint, and under the rules of interpretation for government contracts, any ambiguity should be resolved in its favor. The board allowed the claim in part and denied it in part, ruling the contract allowed the use of paint on some of the parapet walls, but under a drawing calling for "[w]aterproofing [m]embrane," concluded flashing was required for the other walls (08-2 BCA 33,912).

Zone of Reasonableness

The Federal Circuit reversed the portion of the board's decision denying the claim. For a contractor's interpretation to be reasonable, it need not be "the only possible reasonable interpretation, or even the best one." Instead, its interpretation only needs to be within "the zone of reasonableness." Here, a prior contractor used paint on the parapet walls, the board agreed waterproofing paint was required for some parapet walls, the contract consistently used the term "ply" and other more precise terms to specify flashing material, the government admitted it did not include a relevant specification for three-layer waterproofing membrane, and the experts gave conflicting testimony. Also, the court was required to give "due attention" to the rule of contra proferentem . In light of the evidence and circumstances surrounding the dispute, the contractor's interpretation was within the zone of reasonableness. The claim was remanded for a determination of quantum. (States Roofing Corp. v. Winter, CA-FC, 54 CCF 79,218)




(The news featured above is a selection from the news covered in the Government Contracts Report Letter, which is published weekly and distributed to subscribers of the Government Contracts Reporter. )


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