What is the cardinal change rule in construction?

Contractors in the Boise, Idaho, area may sometimes find that changes to their contracts may be necessary. However, sometimes, changes are beyond what’s appropriate and may not benefit the contractor. If the contractor isn’t protected by certain changes, they might be able to rely on the cardinal change rule.

What is the cardinal change rule?

Per construction law, the cardinal change rule is a doctrine that allows major changes to be made to a contract for a construction project. It allows the contractor the right to ignore any changes that are significantly different from what appeared in the original contract. It puts a limit on the owner’s ability to change the work that the contractor originally agreed to perform.

If the owner makes a complaint about the contractor not abiding by the changes in the contract, the contractor has the protection of the cardinal rule. As a result, if there is a major dispute such as the owner claiming the contractor breached the contract, the contractor could file a claim for damages.

Where does the cardinal change rule come from?

The cardinal change rule came from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The term came about after a case that saw major changes made to the original contract that the contractor found to be in breach of that contract. Changes that are drastically different from what appeared in the original contract sometimes carry risks due to the final outcome of the project potentially being much different itself. This puts the contractor at risk as well.

The cardinal change rule is meant to protect contractors in a construction law dispute, but it’s possible for a situation to go to court. When the cardinal change rule applies, the court considers factors such as how significant a change needs to be made to a project, how much more work needs to be done and the financial cost of the changes.

If there is a dispute involving a contract, the contractor is the party who has to bear the burden proof.