Construction company and City disputed meaning of contract term in school construction contract. In July 2014, a New Jersey-based construction company Delric Construction contracted with the New York City School Construction Authority to provide labor and materials for an exterior masonry project for the fixed price of $8,481,000 at Public School 183, located at 76 Riverdale Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The project was for the removal and replacement of 40,000 square feet of the school’s exterior brick walls. Delric alleged that after it had started working on the project, the School Construction Authority requested $576,972 of additional work outside the scope of the contract.
Delric sued the City, claiming that the contract only required filling the collar joint with mortar, a process where any intentional gaps between sections of wall are filled with mortar, a workable paste. The School Construction Authority responded that the additional work Delric performed was contemplated by the terms of the contract because the contract contemplates “parging,” the process of covering a building, particularly its external brick walls, with mortar.
Supreme Court Justice Katherine Levine agreed with the School Construction Authority and dismissed Delric’s complaint. Delric appealed to the Appellate Division, Second Department.
On appeal, the Appellate Division reversed the lower court and determined that the additional work Delric performed was not contemplated by the contract. The plain language and the design drawings demonstrated that the School Construction Authority only intended to have Delric fill the collar joints. The Appellate Division pointed to a contract provision that stated, “in solid masonry construction, ensure that entire collar joint is filled between the backup and the face masonry.” The Appellate Division also cited a design drawing which included similar language.
The Appellate Division concluded that the meaning behind the language in the contract demonstrated an intent to fill the collar joint. The Court reinstated Delric’s complaint and remanded the case back to the Supreme Court.
By: Jessica Kovac (Jessica is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)
Delric Construction Co Inc v New York City School Construction Authority, 166 N.Y.S.3d 656 (2nd Dep’t 2022).