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United States v. Joseph A. Holpuch Co., 328 U.S. 234 (1946)

United States v. Joseph A. Holpuch Co.,

Nos. 696 and 697

Argued May 3, 1946

Decided May 20, 1946

328 U.S. 234


Respondent had two construction contracts with the United States, each of which provided that

"disputes concerning questions arising under this contract shall be decided by the contracting officer . . . subject to written appeal . . . to the head of the department."


1. Disputes as to extra pay for footing excavations and for increased wages paid to bricklayers were "questions arising under this contract" within the meaning of the quoted provision. Pp. 328 U. S. 238-239.

2. Respondent's failure to exhaust the administrative appeal provisions of the contracts barred recovery in the Court of Claims in respect of such disputes. P. 328 U. S. 239.

3. In the absence of clear evidence that the appeal procedure prescribed is inadequate or unavailable, that procedure must be pursued and exhausted before respondent may be heard to complain in a court. P. 328 U. S. 240.

4. The designation on the covers of the contracts of the disbursing officer who would make payment on the contracts was not a part of the contracts, and cannot be used in any way to alter or amend any actual provisions thereof. P. 328 U. S. 240.

Page 328 U. S. 235

5. Even if it be assumed that the dispute as to extra pay for footing excavations concerned only the amount of payment under the contract, such an issue is a question "arising under" the contract, and therefore expressly subject to the administrative appeal provision. P. 328 U. S. 241.

6. There being no evidence that the wage increase to bricklayers was established by the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, which, under the contracts, was the only agency that had authority to do so, a provision for an automatic adjustment of the amount due the contractor in that event did not become operative. P. 328 U. S. 242.

104 Ct.Cls. 254, reversed.

The respondent brought two suits in the Court of Claims on two contracts with the United States, and was adjudged entitled to recover on both. This Court granted certiorari. 327 U.S. 772. Reversed, p. 328 U. S. 243.

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