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paragraph 12, for liquidated damages for delay, as follows:
“12. Damages for delay.-In case the work is not completed within the time specified in the contract, or the time allowed by the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks under paragraph 11 of this specification, it is distinctly understood and agreed that deductions at the rate of $25 per day shall be made from the contract price for each and every calendar day after and exclusive of the date within which completion was required up to and including the date of completion and acceptance of the work, said sum being specifically agreed upon as the measure of damage to the United States by reason of delay in the completion of the work; and the contractor shall agree and consent that the contract price, reduced by the aggregate of damages so deducted, shall be accepted in full satisfaction for all work done under the contract."
Under the provisions of this paragraph, if there had been nothing subsequently changing the rights of the parties, and the delay had resulted from the failure of the claimant to complete the work within the time specified, the deduction at the rate of $25 per day might have been made by the United States as liquidated damages. This was the sum estimated and agreed upon between the parties as the damages which might be regarded as sustained by the Government in event of the breach of the claimant's obligation to complete the work within the stipulated time. Such contracts for liquidated damages when reasonable in their character are not to be regarded as penalties and may be enforced between the parties. See Sun Printing & Publishing Ass'n v. Moore, 183 U. S. 642, in which the matter is fully discussed.
The precise question here is whether, when the work was delayed solely because of the Government's fault beyond the time fixed for its completion and afterwards the work was completed without any definite time being fixed in
Opinion of the Court.
which it was to be done, the claimant can be charged for the subsequent delays for which he was at fault by the rule of the original contract stipulating liquidated damages, or was that stipulation waived by the conduct of the Government and was it obligatory upon it in order to recover for the subsequent delays to show the actual damages sustained? We think the better rule is that when the contractor has agreed to do a piece of work within a given time and the parties have stipulated a fixed sum as liquidated damages not wholly disproportionate to the loss for each day's delay, in order to enforce such payment the other party must not prevent the performance of the contract within the stipulated time, and that where such is the case, and thereafter the work is completed, though delayed by the fault of the contractor, the rule of the original contract cannot be insisted upon, and liquidated damages measured thereby are waived. Under the original and first supplemental agreements, the claimant knew definitely that he was required to complete the work by a fixed date. Presumably the claimant had made its arrangements for completion within the time named. Certainly the other contracting party ought not to be permitted to insist upon liquidated damages when it is responsible for the failure to complete by the stipulated date, to do this would permit it to recover damages for delay caused by its own conduct.
It may be that damages were sustained by the failure to carry out the subsequent agreement. But the Government, as well as the claimant, saw fit to go on with the work with no fixed rule for the time of its completion, so that it be reasonable, and the Government required no stipulation in the second and third supplemental contracts as to damages in a fixed and definite sum for failure to complete the work as required. Under such circumstances we think it must be content to recover such damages as it is able to prove were actually suffered.
This conclusion is in accord with the rule of the English cases. In Dodd v. Churton, L. R., 1 Q. B. 1897, 562, 568, Chitty, L. J., said:
“The law on the subject is well settled. The case of Holme v. Guppy, (3 M. & W. 387), and the subsequent cases in which that decision has been followed are merely examples of the well known principle stated in Comyns' Digest, Condition L (6), that, where performance of a condition has been rendered impossible by the act of the grantee himself, the grantor is exonerated from performance of it. The law on the subject was very neatly put by Byles, J., in Russell v. Bandeira, (13 C. B. (N. S.) 149.). This principle is applicable not to building contracts only, but to all contracts. If a man agrees to do something by a particular day or in default to pay a sum of money as liquidated damages, the other party to the contract must not do anything to prevent him from doing the thing contracted for within the specified time."
The same rule was followed with approval by the New York Court of Appeals in a well considered case, Mosler Safe Co. v. Maiden Lane S. D. Co., 199 N. Y. 479, in which it was held that, even where both parties are responsible for the delays beyond the fixed time, the obligation for liquidated damages is annulled, and in the absence of a provision substituting another date it cannot be revived, and the recovery for subsequent delays must be for actual loss proved to have been sustained.
This principle is applicable here, the conduct of the Government's agents had caused the delays up to May 1, 1903, and the subsequent delays though chargeable to the claimant would only give rise to a claim for damages measured by the actual loss sustained. Mosler Safe Co. v. Maiden Lane S. D. Co., supra. We think the application of this rule is no changed by the difficulty suggested that it might be impracticable to prove actual damages. This fact, if such it be, would not permit the Government
by its own fault to prevent the performance of the contract and to do that which amounts to a waiver of the stipulation and then insist upon it as a rule of damages. We think the Court of Claims was right upon this principal branch of the case.
There are certain minor assignments of error to the conclusions and judgment of the Court of Claims. The Government was held responsible for the extra cost of enclosing certain machinery in casing necessitated by its building a plank walk across the top of the pipe in the pumping plant to protect its workmen from high speed gearing. The Court of Claims found that this expense was made necessary by the Government and allowed for it. We find no error in this. Also, as to the assignment of error to the judgment of the Court of Claims under Finding XI, awarding damages for repairs made necessary by the breakage of certain pipes caused by sudden increase in the pressure in the salt and fresh water systems in the Navy Yard, the Court of Claims found that these breaks were caused by the Government without notice to the claimant and without its fault. We find no error in the judgment of the Court of Claims awarding damages under this finding. It follows that the judgment of the Court of Claims is
UNITED STATES v. FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF
UNITED STATES v. NICHOLS-CHISHOLM LUM
UNITED STATES v. NICHOLS-CHISHOLM LUM
APPEALS FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE
Nos. 873, 874, 875. Argued April 7, 1914.-Decided June 8, 1914.
The natural and usual signification of plain terms is to be adopted as
the legislative meaning in the absence of clear showing that some
thing else was meant. The rule that words in treaties with, and statutes affecting, Indians,
must be interpreted as the Indians understood them is not applicable where the statute is not in the nature of a contract and does
not require the consent of the Indians to make it effectual. The after facts have but little weight in determining the meaning of
legislation and cannot overcome the meaning of plain words used in a statute; nor can the courts be influenced in administering a law by the fact that its true interpretation may result in harsh conse
quences. The responsibility for the justice and wisdom of legislation rests with
Congress and it is the province of the courts to enforce, not to make,
the laws. The policy of the Government in enacting legislation is often an un
certain thing as to which opinions may vary and it affords an un
stable ground of statutory construction. Congress has on several occasions put full blood Indians in one class
and all others in another class. If a given construction was intended by Congress, which it would have
been easy to have expressed in apt terms, other terms actually used
will not be given a forced interpretation to reach that result. While the early administration of a statute showing the departmental