Difference Between Notice of the Government's Failure to Act and Notice of Money Damages

In Hoel-Steffen Construction Co. v. United States, 456 F.2d 760, 197 Ct. Cl. 561 (Ct. Cl. 1972), the government allowed another contractor to occupy the space reserved for a contractor performing ductwork on the St. Louis Gateway Arch. The contractor sued for delay damages; the government argued the contractor failed to provide timely notification of its claims. Reviewing the applicable notice provisions, the federal claims court distinguished between notice of the government's failure to act and notice of money damages. The former notice provision served to apprise the government of the offending conduct and enable it to collect data on the asserted costs increase. Finding the contractor provided the government with constructive notice of a failure to act, the federal claims court noted the contractor orally complained to the government that other contractors interfered with its work. In addition, the court held the government knew, or should have known, the contractor's complaints triggered its responsibility to remedy the situation. The court, refusing to adopt the government's restrictive interpretation of the notice provisions, explained: To adopt the ... severe and narrow application of the notice requirements ... would be out of tune with the language and purpose of the notice provisions, as well as with this court's wholesome concern that notice provisions in contract-adjustment clauses not be applied too technically and illiberally where the government is quite aware of the operative facts. Id. at 767-68.