Change order provisions, which appear in most constructon contracts and contemplate changes being made to the work, contradict a fundamental premise of contract law. Specifically, in order for there to be a legally enforceable agreement, “there must be mutual assent or a meeting of the minds.” C.A.D.S., LLC v. Sundance Realty, LLC, 2019 Conn. Super. LEXIS 29, *25 (July 2, 2018). A contract is supposed to be “based on an identical understanding of the parties.” Id. at *25-26. Yet, as anyone in construction is aware, the project owner may order changes during the performance of the work that the contractor is contractually bound to perform, subject to appropriate adjustments in monetary compensation and the time to complete the work.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, there are limits in an owner’s ability to order changes in the work, because the owner is not allowed to require a contractor to perform “cardinal changes.” “A ‘cardinal’ change is a change outside the general scope of the contract.” Philip L. Bruner & Patrick J. O’Connor, Jr., Bruner & O’Connor on Construction Law § 4:13. The significance of a cardinal change is that it is not covered by a standard change order provision.