If a general contractor uses your estimate in response to an RFP, has the general contractor promised to hire you? A recent Missouri Court of Appeals decision says no because an RFP is not an offer to contract, but an offer to receive proposals for a contract.

In Jamison Electric, LLC v. Dave Orf, Inc.,  Jamison submitted a bid to general contractor Orf in support of an RFP issued by the City of St. Louis. Orf used Jamison’s bid in its submission to the City and was awarded the contract. Orf asked Jamison to revise its bid in response to a change in the scope of work. Jamison submitted another bid, but Orf did not use Jamison as the electrical subcontractor on the project.

Jamison sued Orf claiming breach of contract and that Orf promised to use Jamison on the project and could not back out of that promise after being awarded the contract. Orf asked the trial court to dismiss the claim asserting that it never promised Jamison to use Jamison if awarded the contract. The trial court agreed and dismissed the lawsuit. The trial court’s dismissal was affirmed by Missouri Court of Appeals.

On appeal, Jamison argued that once Orf identified Jamison as its electrical subcontractor under the RFP, Orf, in essence, promised to use Jamison on the project. The court disagreed, noting that under Missouri law, an RFP does not provided a basis for establishing that Orf made or breached any contract with Jamison because the RFP does not constitute a promise. Instead, an RFP is simply an offer to receive proposals for a contract.

This case raises an interesting point—can an estimate ever create a binding contract? There are cases where courts have ruled in favor of the subcontractor, but only when the subcontractor shows that it submitted a bid only after the general contractor specifically agreed to use the subcontractor’s bid.