Bridge Rehabilitation Contract

AMCE Construction was awarded a contract by State DOT for a bridge rehabilitation contract.  The contract required a three-phase removal and replacement of an existing concrete bridge deck that carried an interstate highway.  The contract incorporated DOT standard specifications which included a concrete mix for Class AAA concrete.  Specifications also required that Class AAA concrete achieve compressive strengths of 3,600 PSI after 7 days and 4,500 PSI after 28 days. The project proceeded and after 7 days, concrete test cylinders from Phase I failed to meet compressive strength.  The State DOT then ordered the contractor to remove and replace the concrete.  Phases II and III also failed to meet strength requirements; however, the DOT did not assess penalties because it deemed the strength of the concrete high enough to safely support traffic loads.  ACME construction sued State DOT to recover additional costs resulting from the tear-out and replacement of the concrete on the bridge deck. ACME Construction argued that it had followed the mix requirements of the State DOT specifications and cited an earlier state case in addition to the case of United States v. Spearin, a 1918 United States Supreme Court case.  Both of these cases (known as the “Spearin Doctrine”0 stands for the proposition that a contractor will not be responsible for the results if it completely followed the plans and specifications. State DOT specifications also required that the concrete be maintained at a specific temperature during curing and that proper moisture be maintained to allow for continued hydration during the curing process.  ACME Construction elected to comply with the curing requirements by the use of wet burlap wraps.  There was evidence during discovery to indicate that the burlap wraps may have dried out during the curing process. Should ACME Construction be able to recover its additional costs resulting from tear-out and replacement on the bridge deck?

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