Public Owners Cannot Arbitrarily Award Contracts

Successfully protesting the award of a public construction contract is a very difficult.  Under the public bidding laws, an unsuccessful bidder cannot obtain a monetary award against a public owner and its only recourse is to seek stop the public owner from awarding the contract to another bidder.  The courts, however, will not stop a public owner from rejecting an apparent low bid and awarding the contract to another bidder unless the public owner engaged in fraud, favoritism or corruption.

For years, the public bidding laws protected the public owner’s ability to make any decision it deemed to be in its best interest provided it acted in good faith.  As indicated in another post, that protection ended when the Connecticut Supreme Court held that it was possible for an unsuccessful bidder to obtain a monetary judgment against a public owner if the claim was based upon a cause of action that did not rely upon the public bidding laws. 

More recently, a Connecticut Superior Court determined that a public owner can be held liable for money damages if it completely circumvents the public bidding laws.  In CTTFB, Inc. v. City of Bridgeport, the court refused to overturn a jury verdict that awarded the plaintiff damages after determining that the City violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. 

Notice Requirements For Construction Claims Against The State Of Connecticut

General speaking, you cannot sue the state unless the state gives you permission. The legal concept that prevents you from being able to sue the state is known as “sovereign immunity,” and comes from the English common law where the commoners were not allowed to sue the King without his permission. The State of Connecticut has decided; however, that it is in its interest to allow itself to be sued when it enters contracts pertaining to the construction of public works projects. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 4-61 expressly provides that anyone that enters a contract with the state for the construction of a highway, bridge, building or other public work may bring an action against the state as long as it complies with the statutory requirements. One such requirement is that the contractor gives notice of its claim to the agency head within 2 years of the project’s acceptance. On December 7, 2010, the Connecticut Supreme Court released a decision that clarifies the § 4-61 notice requirements.

In C. R. Klewin Northeast, LLC v. State of Connecticut, the Supreme Court overturned a trial court decision that dismissed the contractor’s complaint because the contractor’s notice purportedly did not comply with § 4-61.