Those entering into new construction contracts should include custom language addressing the parties' respective rights and responsibilities related to COVID-19. Many articles and webinars have focused on how traditional contract clauses in existing contracts may respond to COVID-19 issues. The fit is not always clear. Some guesswork is involved and creativity is called upon as square pegs are coaxed into round holes. While there is a need to perform that retrospective analysis to assess how COVID-19 issues will play out under existing contracts, there is no need to propagate uncertainty in new contracts. Indeed, such uncertainty can cause parties to shy away from new contracts or include significant contingencies, neither of which supports an industry trying to recover from the pandemic.

This article addresses custom COVID-19 language for new construction contracts. The principles discussed can be applied to any construction contract. This article is based on two construction contracts for which I successfully drafted and negotiated custom COVID-19 language. One is a private project and the other is a public project. Some of the views expressed during those negotiations are weaved into the discussion to provide both sides' perspective.

Contract Clauses and Issues

Definitions  

Just like a building needs a solid foundation, new COVID-19 language in a contract should start with key definitions on which the parties' rights and responsibilities will be built. Four terms to define upfront are COVID-19COVID-19 Proclamations, COVID-19 Condition, and Unknown COVID-19 Condition.

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