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Seaboard Lumber Co. v. United States

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

October 18, 2002, Decided

01-5097, 01-5124

Opinion

 [*1287]  Before NEWMAN, SCHALL, and LINN, Circuit Judges.

LINN, Circuit Judge.

Seaboard Lumber Co. ("Seaboard") and Capital Development Co. ("CDC") jointly appeal from decisions of the United States Court of Federal Claims assessing liability and awarding damages to the government resulting from the respective failures of each of the companies to perform on different timber sales contracts.  Seaboard Lumber Co. v. United States, 48 Fed. Cl. 814 (2001) [**2]  ("Seaboard II"); Capital Dev. Co. v. United States, 49 Fed. Cl. 178 (2001). Seaboard also appeals from the rejection as a matter of law of its non-performance defenses of force majeure, impossibility of performance, commercial impracticability and frustration of purpose. Seaboard Lumber Co. v. United States, 41 Fed. Cl. 401 (1998) ("Seaboard I"). Because the Court of Federal Claims did not err in its conclusions of law, and its findings of fact on damages are not clearly erroneous, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

A. The Timber Contracts

At issue in this appeal are one timber sale contract, designated the "What" contract, between Seaboard and the Forest Service, and six timber sale contracts, designated the "Bride," "Pearl," "Ram," "Cougar," "Short Flat," and "Cow" contracts, between CDC and the Forest Service. Seaboard disputes both liability and damages resulting from its breach of the What contract. CDC disputes both liability and damages resulting from its breach of the Cow contract. CDC concedes liability but disputes damages resulting from its breach of the Bride, Pearl, Ram, Cougar, and Short Flat contracts.

1. The What Contract

In September [**3]  1980, Seaboard entered into the What contract - a fixed price contract to harvest timber. At that time, there was a housing boom and the price of timber was high. The contract required Seaboard, by the contract termination date of March 31, 1983, to cut, remove, and pay for all of the timber on the What parcel.

 [*1288]  Between 1981 and 1983, the government allowed interest rates to rise in order to combat inflation, and at least in part because of the rise in interest rates, the housing and lumber markets softened. Many contractors ran into financial difficulties. The timber in all of the parcels at issue in this appeal was of sufficient quality to harvest, and the contractors had the opportunity to conduct a harvest if they so desired. Some logging contractors performed on their timber contracts during this period. Others did not.

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308 F.3d 1283 *; 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 21718 **

SEABOARD LUMBER COMPANY and CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee.

Prior History:  [**1]  Appealed from: United States Court of Federal Claims. Senior Judge Eric G. Bruggink.

 Seaboard Lumber Co. v. United States, 48 Fed. Cl. 814, 2001 U.S. Claims LEXIS 32 (2001). Capital Dev. Co. v. United States, 49 Fed. Cl. 178, 2001 U.S. Claims LEXIS 66 (2001). Seaboard Lumber Co. v. United States, 41 Fed. Cl. 401, 1998 U.S. Claims LEXIS 144 (1998).

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

resale, timber, contracts, contractor, damages, Forest, original contract, changes, estimated, percent, impracticability, terms of the contract, argues, down payment, terms, volume, force majeure, midpoint, matter of law, Consolidated, effects, burden of proof, non-performance, demanded, excused, excess cost, reprocurement, frustration, termination, breaching

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Clearly Erroneous Review, Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, General Overview, De Novo Review, Standards of Performance, Impossibility of Performance, Abuse of Discretion, Evidence, Admissibility, Expert Witnesses, Testimony, Expert Witnesses, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Public Contracts Law, Contract Provisions, Contract Performance, Impossibility of Performance, Energy & Utilities Law, Leases & Licenses, Force Majeure Clauses, Business & Corporate Compliance, Contracts Law, Impracticability, Breach, Excuse & Repudiation, Acceptance of Goods, Excuse From Performance, Remedies, Reformation, Frustration of Purpose, Commercial Law (UCC), Standards of Performance & Liability, Performance Excused, Environmental Law, Natural Resources & Public Lands, Forest Management, Governments, Public Lands, Forest Lands, Damages, Avoidable Consequences, Substantial Performance, Breach, Sales of Goods, Judicial Officers, Judges, Relevance, Exclusion of Relevant Evidence, Confusion, Prejudice & Waste of Time, Trials, Bench Trials, Scientific Evidence, Standards for Admissibility, Daubert Standard, Types of Damages, Compensatory Damages