Public Contractors Who Follow Plans and Specifications of Another Are Generally Shielded from Liability for Defects by Contract Specifications Defense

Puget Sound Nat’l Bank v. C. B. Lauch Constr. Co., 73 Idaho 68, 245 P.2d 800 (1952)

Saxon Painting entered into a contract with Lauch Construction to do all of the painting for a government housing project.  The contract required Saxon to apply two coats of a certain type of paint, which was provided by Lauch.  Saxon followed the specifications in the contract and completed the painting in a timely manner without any objections to the work from Lauch.  Saxon alleged that he was still owed $19,958 from the contract and three months after completing the work, a lawsuit was commenced.

In Lauch’s answer, he alleged that the painting work was unsatisfactory and the outside of the houses required a third coat of paint because the exposure to the sunny conditions faded the paint faster than originally anticipated.  The answer asked for the cost of applying a third coat of paint to be offset against the remaining balance on the contract.  At trial the jury found that Saxon had complied with the terms and conditions of the contract and was not responsible for the cost of applying the third coat of paint. 

On appeal the Supreme Court held that “a contractor is required to follow the plans and specifications and when he does so, he cannot be held to guarantee that the work performed as required by his contract will be free from defects, or withstand the action of the elements, or that the completed job will accomplish the purpose intended.”  The contractor is only responsible for defects or faults stemming from his unsatisfactory workmanship. 

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