I just had to explain the doctrine of "mutual mistake" to a small bidder on a local construction project. It was painful for both of us: painful for me because I didn't like telling him he was stuck between a rock and a hard place, and painful for him because he was stuck. The contractor missed some items that should have been in his bid, so it was almost guaranteed he would lose money on the job. The reason he missed the items was because he failed to read the specifications carefully enough.

Is this fair? That's not the question. The question is whether the property owners can enforce the contract even though the bidder made a mistake. The answer? It depends. Most of the time the property owners can enforce the contract, but there are circumstances where mistakes make contracts unenforceable.

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