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UNITED STATES v. BEUTTAS ET AL.

decided: April 23, 1945.

UNITED STATES
v.
BEUTTAS ET AL., TRADING AS B-W CONSTRUCTION CO.



CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CLAIMS.

Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge

Author: Roberts

[ 324 U.S. Page 769]

 MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The respondents executed a contract with the petitioner whereby they agreed to construct the foundations for a public housing project. By Article 19 they agreed that workmen of designated classes should be paid specified minimum wages, and if, during the progress of the work, the petitioner should find it desirable that wages higher than those specified should be paid, it might establish different rates, and in such case the contract price should be adjusted accordingly.

The respondents paid wages higher than those named in the contract, and brought this action, inter alia, to recover the difference. They introduced evidence to prove that commencement of the work was suspended by delays on the part of petitioner's officers and by other conditions for which the respondents were not responsible; that during the period of suspension the petitioner asked bids for erection of the superstructure, and by its advertisement required bidders to pay higher rates to the same classes of workmen than the minima specified in the respondents' contract; that when respondents' employees learned of this they demanded wages equal to those that were to be paid for work on the superstructure; and that to obtain workers and to settle a strike the respondents had to pay such increased wages.

It appears that respondents submitted a claim for reimbursement for the increase in wages to the contracting officer who disallowed it, and then appealed to the Assistant Administrator of Public Works who filed a written decision

[ 324 U.S. Page 770]

     sustaining the contracting officer's ruling. The Administrator, in turn, rejected the claim. It is urged that the last-named official was in error as to certain of the facts, but there is no suggestion that he acted arbitrarily or in bad faith.

The petitioner's defense is grounded in certain provisions of the contract and the specifications forming a part of it, and facts found by the court below.

Article 3 provided that the contracting officer might make changes in the drawings and specifications within the general scope thereof; that an equitable adjustment as to any increase or decrease of cost due to such changes by the contracting officer or, in specified cases, his superior, should be made; and that if the contractor was dissatisfied with the decision, the dispute should "be determined as provided in article 15 hereof."

Article 15 is:

"Disputes: All labor issues arising under this contract which cannot be satisfactorily adjusted by the Contracting Officer shall be submitted to the Head of the Department. Except as otherwise specifically provided in this contract, all other disputes concerning questions arising under this contract shall be decided by the Contracting Officer or his duly authorized representative, subject to written appeal by the Contractor within 30 days to the head of the department concerned or his duly authorized representative, whose decision shall be final and conclusive upon ...


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