Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

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Ron Koenig was the superintendent and principal of the Warner Unified School District (the district). He and the district entered an agreement to terminate his employment one year before his employment agreement was due to expire. Under the termination agreement, Koenig agreed to release any potential claims against the district in exchange for a lump sum payment equivalent to the amount due during the balance of the term of his employment agreement, consistent with Government Code section 53260. The district also agreed to continue to pay health benefits for Koenig and his spouse "until Koenig reaches age 65 or until Medicare or similar government provided insurance coverage takes effect, whichever occurs first." The district stopped paying Koenig's health benefits 22 months later. Koenig then sued to rescind the termination agreement and sought declaratory relief he was entitled to continued benefits pursuant to his underlying employment agreement, which provided that Koenig and his spouse would continue receiving health benefits, even after the term of the agreement expired. After a bench trial, the trial court determined the district's promise in the termination agreement to pay health benefits until Koenig turned 65 violated section 53261, was unenforceable, and rendered the termination agreement void for lack of consideration. Both Koenig and the district appealed the judgment entered after trial. Koenig contended the trial court properly determined the termination agreement was void but should have concluded he was entitled to continued health benefits until the age of 65. The district contended the trial court erred when it concluded the termination agreement was void; rather, the trial court should have severed the termination agreement's unenforceable promise to continue paying benefits, enforced the remainder of the termination agreement, and required Koenig to pay restitution for benefits paid beyond the term of the original agreement. The Court of Appeal concluded the termination agreement's unlawful promise to pay health benefits in excess of the statutory maximum should have been severed to comply with sections 53260 and 53261, Koenig did not establish he was entitled to rescind the termination agreement, and the district was entitled to restitution for health benefits paid beyond the statutory maximum. Judgment was reversed and the trial court directed to enter judgment in favor of the district for $16,607. View "Koenig v. Warner Unified School District" on Justia Law

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In 1983-1984, the Farmers Home Administration issued apartment owners (Appellants) 50-year loans to provide low-income housing under 42 U.S.C. 1485. A promissory note provided that prepayments “may be made at any time at the option of the Borrower.” The mortgage stated that the loan must be used in compliance with the statute and that Appellants must use the property for low-income housing for 20 years before they could prepay and exit the program. The documents were contemporaneously executed and cited each other. The Emergency Low Income Housing Preservation Act of 1987 and Housing and Community Development Act of 1992 provided that borrowers could no longer prepay after the 20-year period but must notify FmHA’s successor, which was to make “reasonable efforts" to extend the low-income use,” 42 U.S.C. 1472(c)(4)(A). If the agreement is not extended, the borrower must attempt to sell the property at fair market value to a nonprofit organization or a public agency. Appellants rejected incentive offers and, in 2009-2010, unsuccessfully marketed their properties for the required period. Facing foreclosure and low occupancy due to high unemployment, Appellants submitted deeds in lieu of foreclosure, then filed suit. The Federal Circuit reinstated certain claims. In transferring deeds to the government, Appellants did not assign away their accrued claims for breach of the prepayment right. The Claims Court properly dismissed a contract-based Fifth Amendment “takings” claim. In entering contracts, the government acts in its commercial capacity and remedies arise from the contracts themselves, rather than from constitutional protections. Appellants can succeed under a theory premised on their property interests in the land and buildings before entering the contracts. View "Callaway Manor Apartments v. United States" on Justia Law

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S. Mark Booth petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the the trial court to dismiss an action filed against him by the City of Guin. In 2008, Booth and the City entered into a contract entitled "Commercial Development Agreement." The agreement provided that the City would sell Booth approximately 40 acres of real property located in Marion County at a price of $5,000 per acre. Booth, in turn, promised to subdivide the property into lots for commercial development. The agreement included a provision granting the City the right to repurchase the property should Booth fail to develop the land within three years following the execution of the agreement. In 2017, the City sued Booth, asserting a claim for specific performance pursuant to the agreement's repurchase option. The City alleged Booth failed to construct at least one commercial facility on the property within three years from the effective date of the agreement. The City alleged that it had "timely tendered the purchase price to [Booth] and requested a conveyance of the real property described in the contract but [that Booth] refused to accept the tender or to make the conveyance." Booth moved to dismiss, arguing that, although he had fulfilled his obligations under the agreement by developing a hotel on the property, the City's complaint seeking to specifically enforce the repurchase of the property pursuant to its option to repurchase in Section 4.4(b) of the agreement was time-barred by the two-year statutory limitations period for such options in 35-4-76(a), Ala. Code 1975. After review, the Supreme Court granted Booth's petition as to the City's claims for specific performance, and its claims alleging fraud and breach of contact; the trial court was ordered to dismiss those claims. The Court denied Booth's petition relating to the City's rescission claim. View "Ex parte S. Mark Booth." on Justia Law

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Section 515 of the Housing Act of 1949, 42 U.S.C. 1485, authorizes the Department of Agriculture, Farmers Home Administration to loan money to nonprofit entities to provide rental housing for elderly and low- and moderate-income individuals and families. Sonoma, a limited partnership contracted with the government to construct low-income housing in exchange for a $1,261,080 Section 515 loan. In 2010, Sonoma submitted a written request to prepay the balance of its loan. The government denied the request. Sonoma sued for breach of contract, including a claim for a “tax neutralization payment” to offset the negative tax consequences of a lumpsum damages award. The Claims Court awarded Sonoma expectancy damages of $4,223,328 and a tax gross-up award of $3,171,990. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Claims Court clearly erred in using the income from a single tax year to predict the future rates at which each partner would pay taxes. While the government’s breach created the circumstances that require consideration of future income and tax rates, Sonoma is not absolved of its burden of showing an income-tax disparity and justifying any adjustment. View "Sonoma Apartment Associates v. United States" on Justia Law

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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center includes 20 hospitals. Its more than 2,700 doctors are employed by Medical Center subsidiaries. Each surgeon had a base salary and an annual Work-Unit quota. Every medical service is worth a certain number of Work Units, which are one component of Relative Value Units (RVUs). RVUs are the units that Medicare uses to measure how much a medical procedure is worth. The surgeons were rewarded or punished based on how many Work Units they generated. The number of Work Units billed by the Neurosurgery Department more than doubled in 2006-2009. The relators accuse the surgeons of artificially boosting their Work Units: The surgeons said they acted as assistants on surgeries and as teaching physicians when they did not and billed for procedures that never happened. They did surgeries that were medically unnecessary or needlessly complex. Most of the surgeons reported total Work Units that put them in the top 10% of neurosurgeons nationwide. Whenever a surgeon did a procedure at one of the hospitals, the Medical Center billed for hospital and ancillary services. The United States intervened in a suit as to the physician services claims, settling those claims for $2.5 million. It declined to intervene in the hospital services claims. The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of those claims. The relators adequately pleaded violations of the Stark Act, 42 U.S.C. 1395nn(b)(4), which forbids hospitals to bill Medicare for certain services when the hospital has a financial relationship with the doctor who requested those services. It is likely that the surgeons' pay is so high that it must take referrals into account. Stark Act exceptions work like affirmative defenses; the burden lies with the defendant, even under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A). View "United States v. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Chang filed a qui tam action against the Center, asserting claims on behalf of the United States and the state under the False Claims Act (FCA). and the Delaware False Claims Act. Chang alleged that the Center had sought and received funding from the state and federal governments by misrepresenting material information. Both governments declined to intervene as plaintiffs. Chang filed an amended complaint and the Center answered. Nearly three years after Chang filed his original complaint, the U.S. and Delaware moved to dismiss the case, asserting that they had investigated Chang’s allegations and discovered them to be “factually incorrect and legally insufficient.” The court granted the motions without conducting an in-person hearing or issuing a supporting opinion. The Third Circuit affirmed. If the government chooses not to intervene, the relator may still “conduct the action” but the government may still “dismiss the action notwithstanding the objections of the person initiating the action if the person has been notified by the Government of the filing of the motion and the court has provided the person with an opportunity for a hearing on the motion,” 31 U.S.C. 3730(c)(2)(A). Chang never requested a hearing; the FCA does not guarantee an automatic in-person hearing to relators before their cases may be dismissed. View "Chang v. Children's Advocacy Center of Delaware" on Justia Law

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After three former AseraCare employees alleged that AseraCare had a practice of knowingly submitting unsubstantiated Medicare claims in violation of the False Claims Act, the Government intervened and filed the operative complaint. The Eleventh Circuit held that a clinical judgment of terminal illness warranting hospice benefits under Medicare cannot be deemed false, for purposes of the False Claims Act, when there is only a reasonable disagreement between medical experts as to the accuracy of that conclusion, with no other evidence to prove the falsity of the assessment. However, the court held that the Government should have been allowed to rely on the entire record, not just the trial record, in making its case that disputed issues of fact, beyond just the difference of opinion between experts, existed sufficient to warrant denial of the district court’s post-verdict sua sponte reconsideration of summary judgment on the falsity question. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and remanded in part. View "United States v. Aseracare, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mississippi requires that a public board speak and act only through its minutes, and Mississippi courts will not give legal effect to a contract with a public board unless the board's approval of the contract is reflected in its minutes. In this case, the Medical Center filed suit against Horne, alleging accounting malpractice. Horne claimed that the action must fail because there can be no accounting malpractice claim without proof of a professional relationship, and there was no record evidence on the minutes that the Medical Center ever entered into a professional relationship with Horne. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Horne, holding that, by virtue of the minutes rule, the Medical Center never formed a contract with Horne to perform the four audits conducted from 2010 to 2013. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that the Medical Center failed to offer any competent evidence that it was in privity with Horne. View "Lefoldt v. Rentfro" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of relator's qui tam action under the False Claims Act (FCA) against KCI, alleging that the company submitted false claims to Medicare. The panel held that relator sufficiently alleged that KCI violated the Act by adequately alleging a fraudulent scheme to submit false claims and reliable data that led to a strong inference that false claims were actually submitted. The panel also held that relator sufficiently alleged that KCI acted with the requisite scienter under the Act, and KCI's false claims were material to the government's payment decision. View "United States ex rel Godecke v. Kinetic Concepts, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Startley General Contractors, Inc. ("Startley"), and Mandy Powrzanas, appealed the denial of their renewed motion to have Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Robert Vance, Jr. recuse himself from the underlying action the plaintiffs filed against the Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham ("BWWB"), Board members, Jones Utility and Contracting Co., Inc., and Richard Jones (collectively, “defendants.”). Plaintiffs alleged the defendants conspired to violate Alabama's competitive-bid law in ways that resulted in financial harm to the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs contended that Judge Vance had received monetary contributions to his 2018 campaign for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court from law firms and attorneys representing the defendants. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the renewed motion to recuse did not fall under the auspices of section 12–24–3, Ala. Code 1975, because it was not based on campaign contributions in "the immediately preceding election." Moreover, “even if [section] 12–24–3 did apply, the plaintiffs failed to establish a rebuttable presumption for recusal because, in order to meet the required threshold, the plaintiffs: (1) included contributions from law firms and individuals who were not ‘parties,’ as that term is defined in 12–24–3(c), to the case; (2) aggregated campaign contributions from multiple parties in contravention to 12–24–3(b) addressing campaign contributions made by ‘a party to the judge or justice’; and (3) incorrectly assumed that ‘total campaign contributions raised during the election cycle’ refers to one-month totals for campaign contributions rather than the ordinary meaning of an ‘election cycle,’ which concerns a longer period.” The Court concluded plaintiffs did not establish that a single, actual "party" to this case gave a "substantial campaign contribution" that would give rise to the conclusion that "[a] reasonable person would perceive that [Judge Vance's] ability to carry out his ... judicial responsibilities with impartiality is impaired." View "Startley General Contractors, Inc. v. Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham et al." on Justia Law