Natus Corp. v. United States
United States Court of Claims
371 F.2d 450 (1967)
United States government (defendant) engineers devised a new design for portable steel airplane landing mats. The government awarded the fixed-price contract for making a set number of mats to the Natus Corporation (plaintiff). The engineers assumed that Natus would use the same press brakes used to make the prototype mats. Once production began, Natus realized that press brakes were too slow to meet its production quotas, so it unilaterally decided to switch production to faster and cheaper rolling machines. Those machines could meet contract quotas, but they could meet the engineers’ quality specifications only by making costly workarounds and getting the engineers to relax the original specifications. When the Army Board of Contract Appeals upheld the contract officer’s refusal to reimburse Natus’s extra costs, Natus petitioned the federal Court of Claims for relief under the doctrine of legal impossibility. Witnesses testified in court that it would have been possible, albeit more expensive, for Natus to meet the government’s production and quality expectations by modifying or increasing the number of press brakes used in production.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Collins, J.)
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