What is a Cardinal Change in Construction?
In a perfect world, construction projects would be planned flawlessly. The weather would be perfect every day and project owners would be completely satisfied with the project from start to finish. Of course, we live in the real world where project delays are nearly inevitable as are changes in a project scope. However, some owners request project changes that are so significant that it alters the product that the contractor is attempting to produce. They may do this in the form of a construction change directive and place the financial burden of the change on the contractor. When this happens, it’s important to contact a Lakeland construction lawyer right away to determine your options.
What Is A Cardinal Change?
As previously mentioned, nearly every construction project endures some change from its initial plan. Even if it’s as simple a timeline change due to unexpected inclement weather. However, a cardinal change is defined as a change in which “the purpose of the original agreement has been frustrated or made impossible by the extent of the requested change.” Cardinal changes can leave a contractor unprotected and in a dangerous financial situation because they are being directed to perform a significant task that was not a part of the original agreement without any assurance that they will be compensated. There is, however, a specific relief in place for contractors in this situation.
Cardinal Change Doctrine
The cardinal change doctrine is a response to an owner’s ability to make significant changes to a construction project’s scope of work. This doctrine gives contractors the right to walk away from a contract if they feel that an owner is attempting to enact a cardinal change to the scope of the project. If proven, the contractor would not be in breach of the contract and can file a claim for damages. It’s the responsibility of the contractor to prove that a cardinal change was requested, which can be risky because if they aren’t successful, they may be in breach of contract themselves. When courts are determining the validity of cardinal change claims, they are typically looking for three items:
- A significant increase in the amount of work that needs to be completed
- A significant alteration to the type of work that that needs to be completed
- A significant change in project costs
These items can all be difficult to prove so our Lakeland construction attorneys advise that you document everything that happens on your job site and consider your dispute resolution options.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.