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to prevent a second erroneous payment, except for an alleged telephone call to the Government without taking any further action to enforce its assignment. It therefore appears that the bank has slept on its rights to the detriment of the Government.'
The issue raised by these arguments are proper matters for determination by the Court of claims. We decline to review the actions of the parties subsequent to the assignment as the matter is not before us at this time. In order to remove any doubt concerning the Government's right under the contract to the reclaimed inventory, we cite the principle "which forbids that the public interests should be prejudiced by the negligence of the officers or agents to whose care they are confided. United States v. Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Ry., 118 U.S. 120, , 125 (1886); Acme Process Equipment Co. v. United States (10 CCF § 73.065), 347 F. 2d 538 (ct. ci. 1965) Mod. 351 F. 2d 656 (1965). For the same reason, the equitable principles of laches and estoppel have generally been rejected as defenses to actions by the United States for the recovery of property or funds to which it is legally entitled. Acme Proce88 Equipment Co. v. United States, supra; Claremont Aircraft, Inc. v. United States, 420 F. 2d 896 (9th Cir. 1969). When the facts are more fully developed in the proper forum, it may appear that the Bank's casual efforts to secure its rights under the assignment may constitute sufficient culpability to preclude it from invoking the equitable doctrine of estoppel. Rayonier, Inc. v. Polson, 400 F. 2d 909 (9th Cir. 1968); 28 Am. Jur. 20, Estoppel and Waiver $879, 80, pp. 719, 720.
The judgment of the district court will be affirmed.
Appellant was the successful bidder on a contract rehabilitation and air conditioning of the Medical Food Inspection Offices, Building 5062, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The fixed price contract, as modified, called for payment to appellant of $11,033.46. This appeal results from a dispute about the type of solar screen required by the contract to be installed in ten windows on the Southerly side of Building 5062. The provisions of the drawings and those of the detailed specifications are in direct conflict on this point.
As the appellant correctly points out:
On sheet No. 1 of the drawings in the lower righ thand corner, there is a 'Detail of new solar screen on existing windows' ... this drawing has a note reading "New aluminum solar screens'. The arrow leading from the note to the drawing points both to the screen frame and the screen itself. .
On the other hand, the Government relies on paragraph 0513 of the detailed written specifications, which reads:
"0513 LOUVERS (SOLAR SCREENS):
The invitation for bids was issued June 28, 1963, and Notice to Proceed was acknowledged by appellant on October 1, 1963, but is not clear from the file when either party to the contract became aware of the conflict between drawing and specification. So far as appears, it was brought to light during the work. Ön October 7, 1963 appellant submitted for approval a 10" by 12" sample of aluminum solar screen it proposed to install in accordance with the drawing. On October 16 the contracting officer replied that the solar screen appellant had submitted did 'not meet specifications".
Despite extended negotiations no agreement was reached on this matter and the appellant installed bronze screens, as required by the contracting officer. Appellant seeks reimbursement for additional costs of $294 representing the difference between $396 for bronze screens installed and $102 for aluminum screens installed.
Normally construction contracts contain a provision (Standard Form 23A, General Provision No. 2) that in case of a conflict between the drawings and specifications, the later will govern. For reasons which do not appear, that provision was omitted from this contract.
The Continuation Sheet to the Standard Form 19 (invitation, Bid, and Award), which was used, includes among the listed contents of the invitation: "i. Standard Form 22, INSTRUCTIONS TO BIDDERS (CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT) (Applicable only to the Invitation for Bids), with continuation sheets Pages 1-3." The quoted language is lined out in red, and another paragraph "i" relating to amendments to the invitation substituted. The parties are not agreed about the time, circumstances, or effect of this lining out. Each has a theory which is advanced as being favorable to its cause. However, the Board finds that resolution of this question would not be controlling with respect to the basic dispute.
Neither party has referred us to any authority dealing with a conflict like that presented here. Research has revealed numerous cases of conflict between drawings and specifications, but each has been governed by some special provision of the contract itself. In this case we find no such provision.
It is established that: "... in general the United States as a contractor must be treated as other contractors under analogous situations. When problems of the interpretation of its contracts arise the law of contracts governs. Holler-Bach v. United States, 233 U.S. 165, 171-172; United States v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 315 U.S. 289, 298-299." United States v. Standard Rice Co., Inc., 323 U.S. 106, 111 (1944).
Under the law of contracts, as it relates to conflicting or ambiguous contract provisions, it is settled that ". .a question of doubt in interpreting a written contract is to be construed against the party preparing
Distillers Distributing Corporation v. J. C. Millett Co., 310 F 20 162, 164 (CCA-9) 1962. See also: Alcoa Steamship Co., Inc. v. United States, 338 U.S. 421, 424-5 (1949); Eastmount Construction Company, Et Al v. Transport Manufacturing and Equipment Company, 301 F 2d 34, 41 (CCA-8) 1962; and Harrison Sheet Steel Co. v. Morgan, 268 F 2d 538, 543 (CCA-8) 1959. In Standard Rice Co. v. United States, 101 Ct, Cls. 85, 53 F Supp. 717 (1944), it was held the ambiguities in a contract drawn by the Government should be construed against it. The Supreme Court affirmed in the Standard Rice Co. opinion quoted above.
While stating that the normal provision of Standard Form 23A is not a part of the contract, the Government attempts to lean on it as a precedent. This position is unsound. Exclusion of an item normally included customarily indicates that a different result is intended. Thus, if General Provision No. 2 of Standard Form 23A has any effect in this case, it is negative--at least from the Government viewpoint. Agents of the Government drafted this contract and if they wished the benefit of that standard provision, they should have put it in the contract. Having left it out they cannot now rely on it.