Contractor wins $1.7 million in damages

BERTHOLD – A Berthold contractor has been awarded almost $1.7 million in damages in a breach of contract case against McKenzie County.

An arbitrator awarded the damages to Gratech Company on May 29, according to Gratech’s attorneys Thomas Olson and Anna Richie of Olson Construction Law.

In May 2017, Gratech filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association, claiming McKenzie County breached the terms of a 2016 contract by failing to grant an extension of the contract time. Gratech argued several utilities failed to timely relocate their facilities, and the contract had provided that Gratech was entitled to additional contract time for such delays. The county’s engineer denied the request for additional time, forcing Gratech to bring in additional labor and equipment at an increased cost to the work.

The county argued Gratech failed to meet certain procedural requirements and should have planned for utility delays. The arbitrator ruled that Gratech had proved the existence of an “excusable delay” and provided timely notice of its claim.

The arbitrator’s decision is final and binding.

“The arbitrator’s decision is a huge victory for Gratech and other contractors working throughout North Dakota,” Thomas Olson said. “It sends the message that public owners must work with contractors when they encounter unforeseen utility delays and not simply demand that the contractor ‘figure it out.’ We hope this decision will not only result in improved utility coordination efforts on future construction projects, but also remind contractors that they can and should stand up to owners and engineers who disregard the contractual rights of those performing the work.”

The McKenzie County State’s Attorney’s Office declined any comment.