A Contractor May Still Recover Monies Due For Work Performed Pursuant to an Unenforceable Contract

Despite what might appear to be the parties’ intentions, courts sometimes find contracts unenforceable.  Courts may find contracts unenforceable for any number of reasons including, but not limited to, the contract omitting a material term; the contract having vague or indeterminate terms; the contract violating the statute of frauds; the contract lacking consideration; and/or the contract not reflecting the understanding of both parties.  In those situations, a party that provides labor, materials, and/or services may still be entitled to receive payment for its work under the legal theories of unjust enrichment or quantum meruit.

“[U]njust enrichment and quantum meruit are alternative theories of restitution.”  Nation Elec. Contracting, LLC v. St. Dimitrie Romanian Orthodox Church, 144 Conn.App. 808, 814, 74 A.3d 474, 478 (Conn.App., 2013).  “Unjust enrichment applies whenever justice requires compensation to be given for property or services rendered under a contract, and no remedy is available by an action on the contract.”  Gagne v. Vaccaro, 255 Conn. 390, 401, 766 A.2d 416, 424 (Conn.,2001).  “Quantum meruit is the remedy available to a party when the trier of fact determines that an implied contract for services existed between the parties, and that,

Beware of No Damages for Delay Clauses

It is common for construction contracts to state that, if the project is delayed by the owner, the contractor shall be entitled to an extension of contract time but will not be entitled to any addition compensation.  Such a contract provision is known as a “no damages for delay” clause.  The Connecticut Supreme Court has held that “‘no damages for delay’ clauses are generally valid and enforceable and are not contrary to public policy. [unless]: (1) [the] delays [are] caused by the [owner’s] bad faith or its willful, malicious, or grossly negligent conduct, (2) [the delays] uncontemplated …, (3) [the] delays so unreasonable that they constitute an intentional abandonment of the contract …, and (4) [the] delays [result] from the [owner’s] breach of a fundamental obligation of the contract.  White Oak Corp. v. Department of Transp., 217 Conn. 281, 288-89, 585 A.2d 1199, 1203 (Conn.,1991).  The list of exceptions; however, may not actually be that broad.  In a recent decision, the Superior Court analyzed the applicability of the aforesaid exceptions to a typical “no damages for delay” clause.

In C & H Elec., Inc. v. Town of Bethel, an electrical contractor was substantially delayed because of the additional asbestos abatement work that was required.