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In holding that the successor judge in this case had authority to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract and consequential damages and committed no reversible error by doing so, the Supreme Court repudiated any language in its precedent that suggests that a successor judge on a case is bound by nonfinal decisions and rulings made by his predecessor. Plaintiff, who was hired by the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to work on different construction projects, filed various claims against UDOT and other contractors on the projects. UDOT moved for summary judgment on claims for breach of contract on the “Arcadia” project and claims seeking consequential damages. Judge Kennedy, the original judge assigned to the case, denied both motions. Judge Kennedy was then replaced in this case by Judge Harris. Judge Harris ultimately dismissed Plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract and consequential damages. Plaintiff filed this interlocutory appeal, arguing that Judge Harris violated the so-called coordinate judge rule, which Plaintiff alleged limits the discretion of a successor judge to revisit decisions of a predecessor. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) a successor judge has the same power to review nonfatal decisions that a predecessor would have had; and (2) Judge Harris did not commit reversible error by dismissing the claims at issue. View "Build v. Utah Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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In 1942-1943, the Government contracted with the Oil Companies to purchase aviation gasoline, vital to the war effort, permitting a profit margin “between 6% and 7%.” The manufacture of avgas from crude oil uses a 98% purity sulfuric acid as a catalyst in alkylation, a process that dilutes the sulfuric acid such that it turns it into “spent alkylation acid,” which may be used to catalyze the alkylation process again following purification; produce non-avgas petroleum by-products; or be disposed of. If spent alkylation acid is used to produce other petroleum by-products, it becomes "acidic sludge," a secondary waste with a lesser percentage of acid content that can be used to manufacture fertilizer, burned, or disposed of. Unable to reprocess the increased amount of spent alkylation acid given the prioritization of production, the Companies dumped spent alkylation acid and acid sludge in California: 12 percent of the waste was spent alkylation acid, and 82.5% was acid sludge. In 1991, the Government and California sued the Companies under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. 9601, for costs of cleaning up the disposal site. The Companies countersued. After years of litigation, the Claims Court granted the Companies partial summary judgment to prevent discovery into insurance settlements; denied the Government’s motion for leave to assert counterclaims in fraud; held that the Government was liable for clean-up costs for nonbenzol waste--$99,509,847.32, including accrued interest. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the Claims Court failed to allocate between recoverable and nonrecoverable costs, wrongfully admitted stipulations to calculate damages, and wrongly refused to allow proof of double recovery by insurance settlements. View "Shell Oil Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Relator claimed (False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733) that C&D manufactured and shipped 349 defective batteries to the U.S. government for use in intercontinental ballistic missile launch controls. The matter settled for $1.7 million, about six percent of the amount demanded in a Second Amended Complaint, entitling Relator to reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. The parties were unable to agree on attorneys’ fees. The district court concluded that both parties’ counsel were uncooperative and did not act in good faith. Relator eventually increased his fee demand to $3,278,115.99, “almost $1 million more than the fees [he] sought a year ago and almost twice the dollar amount of the settlement [he] reached.” Relator used hourly rates that he “extrapolated” from actual Community Legal Services rates, which were higher than those that he originally used to calculate his demand. The court reduced Relator’s recoverable attorney hours for depositions, document review, summary judgment motions, a motion for reconsideration, Daubert motions, and travel time expenses, and applied a 10 percent reduction for lack of success on the merits. The parties agreed that for the purposes of the fee award, the court could use $1,794,427.27 for fees and $164,585.49 for costs. The Third Circuit remanded for consideration of “fees on fees” but otherwise affirmed. View "Palmer v. C & D Technologies, Inc" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs each entered into agreements to provide services to Voice of America (VOA), a U.S. government-funded broadcast service. The agreements were a series of individual purchase order vendor (POV) contracts that each plaintiff entered into over several years with the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees VOA. In 2014, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of State issued a report that was critical of the BBG’s use of POV contracts, concluding that the BBG was using such contracts in some cases to obtain personal services. Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint alleging that, along with other individuals who have served as independent contractors for VOA, they should have been retained through personal services contracts or appointed to positions in the civil service. If their contracts had been classified as personal services contracts or they had been appointed to civil service positions, they alleged, they would have enjoyed enhanced compensation and benefits. The Claims Court dismissed and denied their request for leave to file a proposed second amended complaint. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting several contract-based claims, seeking damages for the loss of the additional compensation and benefits to which Plaintiffs contend they were entitled. Plaintiffs have set forth no viable theory of recovery. View "Lee v. United States" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the district court correctly dismissed the claim that because of negligent training and handling by private military contractors, a dog that protects soldiers and others by sniffing out enemy improvised explosive devices (IEDs) bit Plaintiff on a United States Army base in Afghanistan. Defendant, which contracted with the Department of Defense to provide teams of working dogs and handlers to the Armed Services, claimed in defense that the incident was caused by the Army’s use and prescribed manner of quartering the dog. Defendant filed a plea to the jurisdiction asserting that Plaintiff’s claims were nonjusticiable under the political question doctrine because they required an assessment of the Army’s involvement in causing her alleged injuries. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the case. The court of appeals reversed, thus rejecting the application of the political question doctrine. the Supreme Court reversed, holding that this case is nonjusticiable due to the presence of an inextricable political question. View "American K-9 Detection Services, LLC v. Freeman" on Justia Law

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The Claims Court entered judgment in favor of Starry on its bid protest claim, concluding that the Department of Health and Human Services acted arbitrarily and capriciously in canceling its solicitation seeking to procure certain business operations services. The Claims Court thereafter awarded Starry attorney fees at the rates actually billed to Starry by its counsel, finding that the “extreme measures that [Starry] was forced to pursue to vindicate its right to a rational and lawful federal procurement process, combined with the shocking disregard of the truth by” HHS, constituted a “special factor” justifying an award of fees above the EAJA’s “default rate” of $125 per hour. EAJA, the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(2)(A), provides that when a trial court finds that a “special factor” exists, it is authorized to increase the statutory attorney fee rate in certain cases brought by or against the government. The Federal Circuit vacated the award, holding that the Claims Court erred as a matter of law in holding that an agency’s improper or dilatory conduct during the administrative process that gave rise to the litigation between the parties can constitute a “special factor.” EAJA does not contain any reference to prelitigation activities. View "Starry Associates, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals declaring the City of Rochester’s competitive bidding process and the resulting contract awarded to First Transit invalid. The City owned a fleet of buses operated by First Transit, Inc. since 2012. Until 2012, those buses were operated by Rochester City Lines Company (RCL). In the instant case, RCL challenged the City’s competitive bidding process, which resulted in the bus operation contract being awarded to First Transit. The City’s appointed moderator rejected RCL’s protest. The court of appeals, however, ruled that the City’s request for proposals (RFP) appeared impermissibly biased against RCL. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that RCL forfeited any appearance-of-bias argument. View "Rochester City Lines Co. v. First Transit, Inc." on Justia Law

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A three-year “risk corridors” program described in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 18001, implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was intended to promote participation in insurance exchanges. Participating insurers, whose costs of providing coverage exceeded the premiums received (using a statutory formula) were to be paid a share of their excess costs while participating plans whose premiums exceeded their costs would pay in a share of their profits. The program “permit[ted] issuers to lower [premiums] by not adding a risk premium" for uncertainties in the 2014-2016 markets. The actual total "payments in"were less than requested "payments out" and Congress prohibited HHS from using its appropriations for the program. Prorated payments were issued. The insurer filed suit. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The statute created an obligation of the government to pay exchange participants the amount indicated by the statutory formula but riders in the FY 2015 and 2016 appropriations bills repealed or suspended the obligation to make payments out in an aggregate amount exceeding payments in. Congress made the policy choice to cap payments. No statement or action by the government evinced an intention to form a contract; the risk corridors program was simply an incentive program. Because there was no contract, the insurer’s “takings” claim also failed. View "Land of Lincoln Mutual Health Insurance Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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A three-year “risk corridors” program described in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 18001, implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was intended to promote participation in insurance exchanges. Participating insurers, whose costs of providing coverage exceeded the premiums received (using a statutory formula) were to be paid a share of their excess costs while participating plans whose premiums exceeded their costs would pay in a share of their profits. The program “permit[ted] issuers to lower [premiums] by not adding a risk premium" for uncertainties in the 2014-2016 markets. The actual total "payments in"were less than requested "payments out" and Congress prohibited HHS from using its appropriations for the program. Prorated payments were issued. Moda filed suit. The Claims Court granted Moda partial summary judgment as to liability, stipulated to be $209,830,445.79. Dozens of other insurers filed actions, with mixed results. The Federal Circuit reversed. The statute created an obligation of the government to pay exchange participants the amount indicated by the statutory formula but riders in the FY 2015 and 2016 appropriations bills repealed or suspended the obligation to make payments out in an aggregate amount exceeding payments in. Congress made the policy choice to cap payments. No statement by the government evinced an intention to form a contract; the statute, its regulations, and HHS’s conduct simply created an incentive program. View "Moda Health Plan, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court entering judgment on the jury’s general verdict in favor of real-estate developers (Developers) and against the City of Rapid City in this suit seeking to recover the prospective cost of repairing roads in a development outside Rapid City. Specifically, the Court held that the circuit court did not err by (1) denying the City’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability; (2) excluding evidence of the Developers’ litigation and settlement with their subcontractors; (3) granting one of the developer’s motion for judgment as a matter of law; (4) instructing the jury on estoppel defenses; and (5) not instructing the jury on the City’s public-nuisance claim. View "City of Rapid City v. Big Sky, LLC" on Justia Law