Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff Thomas Lowell provided piano tuning services to defendant Medford School District and assisted in producing concerts performed in defendant’s facilities. While providing production assistance for a particular concert, plain- tiff noticed an echo near the stage. He complained to the school theater technician, Stephanie Malone, and, later, feeling that Malone had not adequately responded, he followed up with her. Malone reported to her supervisor that plaintiff appeared to be intoxicated, that he “smelled of alcohol,” and that “this was not the first time.” The supervisor repeated Malone’s statements to a district support services assistant. The assistant sent emails summarizing Malone’s statements to three other district employees, including the supervisor of purchasing. The assistant expressed concerns that appearing on district property under the influence of alcohol violated district policy and the terms of plaintiff’s piano tuning contract. Plaintiff brought this defamation action against Malone, the supervisor and assistant, later substituting the School district for the individual defendants. Defendant answered, asserting multiple affirmative defenses, including the one at issue here: that public employees are entitled to an absolute privilege for defamatory statements made in the course and scope of their employment. The trial court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment on that basis. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed, finding that defendant as a public employer, did not have an affirmative defense of absolute privilege that entitled it to summary judgment. View "Lowell v. Medford School Dist. 549C" on Justia Law

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Lanahan was a longtime employee of Cook County’s Department of Public Health responsible for managing federal grants. After her retirement, Lanham filed a qui tam suit, alleging various violations of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1), arising out of the use of federal grants. Lanaham claimed she repeatedly warned Cook County it was seeking federal reimbursement for unincurred expenses, for example by estimating the time dedicated to federal service after the fact and pinning the salary allocations submitted for reimbursement to the CDC to pre-performance budget estimates and failing to segregate federal reimbursement funds from unaffiliated Cook County revenue.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The court noted the lack of specificity about false claims and statements and the complaint’s use of conclusory statements. The complaint alleged, for example, that Cook County failed to segregate government funds but did not allege that the county was not entitled to those funds. View "Lanahan v. County of Cook" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Zafer entered a $40 million contract to build water systems on the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Zafer completed the project and submitted a request for equitable adjustment in September 2013, which it timely amended in December 2014. Zafer alleged that the government increased the cost of the project by causing delays and modifying the contract. Zafer’s detailed request sought $6.7 million and provided a breakdown of the reasons for the claimed amounts. Zafer certified its request under 41 U.S.C. 7103(b)(1), beyond what is required by 48 C.F.R. 252.243-7002(b) to certify mere requests for equitable adjustment. The parties negotiated for four-and-a-half years but did not fully resolve Zafer’s request.In February 2018, Zafer asked to convert its request for equitable adjustment into a claim. The contracting officer determined that most of the claim was time-barred because the government’s alleged conduct had transpired more than six years before Zafer had converted its request into a claim. The Claims Court found that Zafer’s claim had “accrued no later than August 1, 2011,” meaning Zafer had to have submitted a claim by August 1, 2017, for the claim to be timely, reasoning that Zafer’s request for equitable adjustment “lacks a request for a final decision” and “asks for negotiations.” The Federal Circuit reversed. Zafer’s December 2014 request for equitable adjustment implicitly requests a final decision and therefore is a claim. View "Zafer Construction Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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A general contractor hired a subcontractor to provide material for a project at a state park. After the project was completed, the general contractor sent the subcontractor a check described as “final payment.” The subcontractor, believing it was owed more, initially refused to accept the check. Months later, the subcontractor cashed the check but then attempted to repay the amount to the general contractor. The general contractor refused repayment, claiming that the subcontractor’s cashing the check constituted satisfaction of its claim of payment. The superior court granted summary judgment to the general contractor, ruling that the evidence established an accord and satisfaction. The Alaska Supreme Court held there was a genuine dispute of material fact about two requirements for an accord and satisfaction: whether the payment was tendered in good faith, and whether there was a bona fide dispute about the amount owed. The superior court's judgment was therefore vacated, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Smallwood Creek, Inc. v. Build Alaska, LLC" on Justia Law

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Lanclos was born in 1982 at the Keesler Air Force Base Medical Center. During childbirth, she was seriously injured and as a result, suffers from Athetoid cerebral palsy. The settlement agreement for Lanclos’s medical malpractice suit required the government to make lump sum payments to Lanclos’s parents and their attorney; Lanclos would receive a single lump sum payment followed by specific monthly payments for the longer of 30 years or the remainder of her life. The government would purchase an annuity policy to provide the monthly payments. The government selected Executive Insurance to provide the monthly annuity payments. Executive encountered financial difficulties and, in 2014, reduced the amount of the monthly payments by 42%. Lanclos estimates that the reduction will result in a shortfall of $731,288.81 from the amount described in the settlement agreement.The Court of Federal Claims reasoned that the “guarantee” language in the Lanclos agreement applies to the scheduled monthly structure of the payments but not the actual payment of the listed amounts and that the government was not liable for the shortfall. The Federal Circuit reversed. Under the ordinary meaning of the term “guarantee” and consistent with the agreement as a whole, the government agreed to assure fulfillment of the listed monthly payments; there is no reasonable basis to conclude that the parties sought to define “guarantee” or to give the term an alternative meaning. View "Lanclos v. United States" on Justia Law

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In February 2021, the Vermont State Auditor of Accounts, Douglas Hoffer, filed a complaint alleging that defendant OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, had breached various provisions in its contract with the Department for Vermont Health Access (DVHA) by denying the Auditor’s requests for OneCare’s employee payroll and benefits records for fiscal years (FY) 2019 and 2020. The civil division granted OneCare’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the Auditor lacked contractual or statutory authority to demand the records, and the Auditor appealed. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Hoffer v. OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, d/b/a OneCare Vermont" on Justia Law

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Crowley Government Services, Inc. sued the General Services Administration and its Administrator (collectively, GSA), seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to halt the GSA’s purported practice of interfering with payments owed to Crowley under its contract with the United States Transportation Command (TRANSCOM). Crowley argued the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the general federal question statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, conferred subject matter jurisdiction on the district court to review the GSA’s alleged violation of the Contract Disputes Act of 1978, and the Transportation Act of 1940. The question this case presented for the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia's review was whether Crowley’s suit against the GSA, whichwasis not a party to Crowley’s contract with TRANSCOM, was “at its essence” contractual, including whether Crowley “in essence” sought more than $10,000 in monetary relief from the federal government such that it was subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States Court of Federal Claims (Claims Court) pursuant to the Tucker Act. The district court answered affirmatively and dismissed Crowley’s complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals disagreed: Crowley’s action against the GSA in district court was not “at its essence” contractual because Crowley did not seek to enforce or recover on the contract with TRANSCOM. Nor did Crowley “in essence” seek monetary relief from the federal government in district court. Rather, it requested declaratory and injunctive relief that, if granted, would have considerable value independent of (and not negligible in comparison to) any monetary recovery Crowley may ultimately attain in other proceedings. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Crowley Government Services, Inc. v. GSA" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the cities of Pella and Oskaloosa regarding the validity of an agreement between the cities and Mahaska County to establish a regional airport authority, holding that Landowners had standing to challenge the agreement.Landowners brought this action seeking a judgment that the agreement at issue was illegal and an injunction to prevent the transaction. The district court held that Landowners lacked standing to bring the suit and granted summary judgment in favor of the Cities. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) by entering into the agreement, the County's Board of Supervisors bound future board to a particular course of legislative action, in violation of the Iowa Constitution; (2) the agreement violated precedent regarding delegation of a municipality's legislative power; and (3) therefore, the district court erred in declaring the agreement to be valid and ordering specific performance by the County of its obligations under the agreement. View "Site A Landowners v. South Central Regional Airport Agency" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding the decision of the Utah Procurement Policy Board to dismiss ICS Corrections, Inc.'s appeal of the decision of the Utah Division of Purchasing and General Services to award a multi-year telecommunications contract to another bidder, holding that the Board neither clearly erred nor acted arbitrarily or capriciously in dismissing ICS's appeal on the basis that it failed to attach a copy of the protest decision to its notice of appeal within the appeal deadline.In declining to disturb the Board's decision, the court of appeals held that the statutory requirements outlined in the pertinent provision of the Utah Procurement Code compelled strict compliance with their terms. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Legislature has unequivocally required the Board to dismiss an appeal where the appellant has failed to attach a copy of the protest decision to its notice of appeal within the appeal deadline; and (2) therefore, ICS's appeal must be dismissed. View "ICS Corrections, Inc. v. Procurement Policy Board" on Justia Law

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In 2015, defendants AWi Builders, Inc. (AWi), Construction Contractors Corporation, Zhirayr Robert Mekikyan, Anna Mekikyan, and Tigran Oganesian (collectively, the AWI defendants) were under criminal investigation by the Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) and the Riverside County District Attorney's Office (RCDA) in connection with AWi's involvement in certain public works projects. Pursuant to search warrants jointly obtained by OCDA and RCDA, a large amount of AWI' s property was taken into OCDA's custody. In 2017, OCDA decided not to pursue criminal charges against the AWI defendants and reassigned the matter to Orange County Deputy District Attorney Kelly Ernby for civil prosecution. In 2018, Ernby filed a civil complaint, on behalf of the State and against the AWI defendants, for violations of the unfair competition law. The AWI defendants were provided with a copy of OCDA's full investigative file, minus privileged documents, and returned documents seized during the criminal investigation to the AWI defendants. In 2020, the AWI defendants filed a motion seeking an order recusing and disqualifying from this case Ernby and the entire OCDA, arguing OCDA had engaged in misconduct by, amongst other things, improperly handling property seized during the criminal investigation that was protected by the attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine. The AWI defendants also argued that in the UCL action, Ernby had wrongfully threatened one of the AWI defendants, their counsel, and a paralegal with criminal prosecution, a claim Ernby categorically denied. The motion to recuse was denied, and the Court of Appeal affirmed denial: he AWI defendants did not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court's findings. The Court found the trial court did not err by denying the motion to recuse because the evidence showed that no conflict of interest existed that would render it unlikely that the AWI defendants would receive a fair trial. View "California v. AWI Builders, Inc." on Justia Law