Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries
Holloway v. Heartland Hospice, Inc.
Holloway, the qui tam relator, sued Heartland Hospice and related entities under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, for orchestrating a corporate-wide scheme to submit false claims for payments from Medicare and Medicaid to cover hospice care. Heartland allegedly enrolled patients in hospice when they were not terminally ill and kept them there, even when employees like Holloway urged their release and allegedly paid bonuses for the recruitment of hospice patients. Heartland argued that Holloway is not a genuine whistleblower, that her claims are drawn from prior allegations against Heartland so that her qui tam action is prohibited by the FCA’s public-disclosure bar. In the alternative, Heartland argued that Holloway has not satisfied the FCA’s heightened pleading standard for allegations of fraud or the limited exception to that standard. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Holloway’s action as barred in light of prior public disclosures. Even if South Carolina complaints, dismissed in 2008, were focused on a single hospice facility, the allegations against Heartland as a whole were sufficiently general and alike to those alleged here such that the government was put on notice of the corporate-wide conduct alleged in this case. Holloway’s claims are barred by the pre-amendment public-disclosure bar. View "Holloway v. Heartland Hospice, Inc." on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Hanks v. Florida Cancer Specialists
Relator appealed the district court's dismissal of his Fifth Amended Complaint, which asserts claims under the False Claims Act and related state laws against certain healthcare providers, physician oncology practices, and group purchasing organizations. Relator alleged that defendants conspired with Amgen, a pharmaceutical company, to purchase Amgen drugs at discounted rates with knowledge that Amgen would fail to report the discounts to government agencies. Although the Second Circuit held that relator's appeal was timely, the court did not reach the merits of his appeal. Rather, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to determine whether the False Claims Act's public disclosure bar applies to relator's claims--a jurisdictional question the district court elided when it dismissed relator's complaint on other grounds. View "United States ex rel. Hanks v. Florida Cancer Specialists" on Justia Law
Agile Defense, Inc. v. United States
The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) issued a solicitation for the procurement of information technology solutions for various agencies. DISA would award several indefinite-delivery/quantity contracts; task orders issued under the contracts would provide for either cost-reimbursement (CR) or fixed-price (FP) payment. DISA identified 116 labor categories (LCATs) that would likely be required for the work required by the task orders, described the duties associated with each LCAT, and identified the minimum education and experience requirements. DISA would make awards to the lowest-priced, technically acceptable proposals after considering: technical/management approach; past performance; and cost/price. Each bidder was to provide detailed information for all proposed CR labor rates. DISA would perform a cost realism analysis on the proposed CR labor rates and develop an average using the proposed CR rates and calculate the standard deviation for each labor rate. DISA determined that many of Agile’s proposed CR rates fell more than one standard deviation below average rates and that for these rates Agile had based its proposed rates on salaries paid to pools of workers who did not meet minimum requirements. Agile's final proposal yielded a “total evaluated price” that was not among the 20 lowest-priced, technically-acceptable offerors. Agile filed a protest, arguing that DISA violated the solicitation by expanding “its cost realism analysis to all labor rates in Agile’s [FPR], regardless of whether they were more than one standard deviation below the average.” The Claims Court concluded that DISA did not limit itself to only performing cost realism analysis on labor rates that were more than one standard deviation below the average. The Federal Circuit affirmed the rejection of the bid protest. DISA did not contravene the terms of the solicitation when it reviewed the supporting documentation for labor rates. View "Agile Defense, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law
Cooper/Ports America, LLC v. Secretary of Defense
In 2015, CPA’s predecessor was awarded Defense contracts to provide stevedoring and terminal services along the Eastern Seaboard, including Charleston. The contracts incorporated a Federal Acquisition Regulation provision that gave the government options to extend the term of the agreement for up to four one-year periods by giving “preliminary written notice of its intent to extend at least 60 days before the contract expire[d].” Such notice did not obligate the government to exercise the option. After the preliminary notice, the government was required to exercise the option itself within 15 days of the expiration date. On June 15, 2016, the government exercised the first-year option. During the extension period, CPA purchased its predecessor and began seeking revised pricings, asserting that it might default because the contracts were not profitable. On January 31, 2017, the government’s contracting officer sent an email to CPA, stating: The Government intends to exercise options at awarded rates … expects [CPA] to continue performing per the terms. A May 3, 2017, formal letter to CPA, stated the government's intent to extend the contract through 30 June 2018. CPA responded that the notice was untimely. The government pointed to the January 31 email as the preliminary written notice. In July 2017, CPA sought a declaration that the contract had expired and additional money for its performance under protest. A contracting officer denied the claims. The Board of Contracts Appeals and the Federal Circuit affirmed. The government satisfied the preliminary notice requirement; the email unambiguously provided preliminary written notice of the government’s intent to extend at least 60 days before the contract expired on May 1, 2017. View "Cooper/Ports America, LLC v. Secretary of Defense" on Justia Law
California Ridge Wind Energy, LLC v. United States
The plaintiffs each own a wind farm that was put into service in 2012. Each applied for a federal cash grant based on specified energy project costs, under section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009. The Treasury Department awarded each company less than requested, rejecting as unjustified the full amounts of certain development fees included in the submitted cost bases. Each company sued. The government counterclaimed, alleging that it had actually overpaid the companies. The Claims Court and Federal Circuit ruled in favor of the government. Section 1603 provides for government reimbursement to qualified applicants of a portion of the “expense” of putting certain energy-generating property into service as measured by the “basis” of such property; “basis” is defined as “the cost of such property,” 26 U.S.C. 1012(a). To support its claim, each company was required to prove that the dollar amounts of the development fees claimed reliably measured the actual development costs for the windfarms. Findings that the amounts stated in the development agreements did not reliably indicate the development costs were sufficiently supported by the absence in the agreements of any meaningful description of the development services to be provided and the fact that all, or nearly all, of the development services had been completed by the time the agreements were executed. View "California Ridge Wind Energy, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law
Electric Boat Corp. v. Secretary of the Navy
In 2003, Electric Boat (EB) and the Navy entered into a contract for the construction of up to six nuclear-powered submarines. The Contract includes a “Change-of-Law Clause,” which provides for a price adjustment in the event that compliance with a new federal law, or a change to existing federal laws or regulations, directly increases or decreases EB’s costs of performance. In September 2004, OSHA issued a new regulation, "Fire Protection in Shipyard Employment." In February 2005, EB submitted a Notification of Change, stating that it anticipated that compliance would result in a cost increase exceeding $125,000 per ship. In June 2007, EB sought price adjustments across all six submarines. The Navy challenged the calculations. In April 2009, EB submitted a revised cost proposal. In May 2011, the Contracting Officer formally denied an adjustment of the contract price, citing discrepancies between the proposal and documents related to the OSHA change.. The memorandum stated that if EB decided to further pursue the adjustment, it should file “Requests for Equitable Adjustment’” by June 3, 2011. In December 2012, EB filed a certified claim, seeking a price adjustment. The Contracting Officer, the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, and the Federal Circuit concluded that the claim was barred by the six-year limitations period, 41 U.S.C. 7103(a)(4)(A). EB knew of its claim by February 2005 and suffered some injury by August 2005. View "Electric Boat Corp. v. Secretary of the Navy" on Justia Law
Traynor Law Firm v. North Dakota, et al.
Dustin Irwin died in 2014, in the Ward County, North Dakota jail. The circumstances of his death led to an investigation and criminal charges against Ward County Sheriff Steven Kukowski. Initially, Divide County State’s Attorney Seymour Jordan was appointed to handle the criminal proceeding. Jordan determined the circumstances justified a petition for removal of Sheriff Kukowski from office. Governor Jack Dalrymple appointed Jordan as the special prosecutor for the removal. Ultimately, Jordan requested to withdraw and Governor Burgum appointed attorney Daniel Traynor as the special prosecutor. After completion of the removal proceedings, Traynor submitted his bill to the State on May 1, 2017. The State forwarded the bill to Ward County. Ward County refused to pay the bill. Traynor sued the State and Ward County to recover the unpaid fees. The State responded to Traynor’s complaint by filing a motion to dismiss. Ward County answered Traynor’s complaint and cross-claimed against the State. The State moved to dismiss Ward County’s cross-claim. Traynor moved for judgment on the pleadings. The district court entered judgment in Traynor’s favor against the State, and awarded interest at 6% per annum. The State argued Ward County had to pay Traynor’s bill because Chapter 44-11, N.D.C.C., failed to address who should pay for the special prosecutor fees in a county official’s removal proceeding, and therefore the catch-all provision in N.D.C.C. 54-12-03 applied. Ward County argues neither Chapter 44-11, N.D.C.C., nor Chapter 54- 12, N.D.C.C., imposes an obligation upon a county to pay the fees of an attorney appointed by the Governor for proceedings for the removal of a public official. The North Dakota Supreme Court concurred with the district court that Chapter 44-11, N.D.C.C., was silent regarding the payment of special prosecutor fees in a removal proceeding, and it was not necessary or required to import N.D.C.C. 54-12-03 into Chapter 44-11. Based on these facts, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in finding a contract existed for legal services between Traynor and the State. The Court agreed with Traynor that the district court erred by awarding 6% per annum interest instead of the 1.5% monthly interest rate stated on its bill. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Traynor Law Firm v. North Dakota, et al." on Justia Law
Acheron Medical Supply, LLC v. Cook Medical Inc.
In 2014, Cook Medical entered a five-year agreement for Acheron to serve as the distributor of Cook medical devices and products to VA and Department of Defense Medical Centers. Sales to Defense are primarily made through a Distribution and Pricing Agreement (DAPA); sales to the VA require a Federal Supply Schedule (FSS). Cook already had a DAPA, but not an FSS; the agreement required Acheron to obtain an FSS. Cook refused to submit to a required audit of its commercial sales records as required by 48 CFR 515.408(b)(5) to obtain an FSS and refused to deactivate its DAPA, preventing Acheron from selling Cook products to Defense through Acheron’s own DAPA. Cook sent notice that Acheron was in material breach and terminated the agreement 30 days later due to Acheron’s failure to cure. Acheron filed suit. The district court granted Cook summary judgment; Acheron materially breached its obligation to obtain an FSS but owed no damages because the breach was excused by the force majeure clause. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Agreement does not expressly obligate Cook to submit to the VA audit or to deactivate its DAPA. The duty of good faith requires that a party perform its obligations under the contract in good faith but does not require a party to undertake a new, affirmative obligation. Neither party actively sought to sabotage the other party’s performance to escape its own obligations or obtain an unfair advantage. View "Acheron Medical Supply, LLC v. Cook Medical Inc." on Justia Law
Alaska, Dept. of Transportation & Public Facilities v. Osborne Construction Co.
In August 2013 the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT) entered into a contract with Osborne Construction Company to upgrade the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting building at the Fairbanks International Airport to withstand damage in the event of an earthquake. The DOT appealed a superior court decision reversing the agency's decision in an administrative appeal. The agency denied a contractor’s claim for additional compensation because the claim was filed outside the filing period allowed by the contract. After applying its independent judgment to interpret the contract, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the DOT that the contractor failed to file its claim within the period allowed. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the superior court’s decision and reinstated the agency’s. View "Alaska, Dept. of Transportation & Public Facilities v. Osborne Construction Co." on Justia Law
Hitkansut LLC v. United States
Hitkansut owns the patent, entitled “Methods and Apparatus for Stress Relief Using Multiple Energy Sources.” While the application that later issued as that patent was pending, Hitkansut entered into a non-disclosure agreement with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and provided ORNL with a copy of the then-unpublished patent application. ORNL staff prepared research reports, received funding, authored publications, and received awards for research, based upon unauthorized use of the patent. Hitkansut sued ORNL, alleging infringement under 28 U.S.C. 1498. The Claims Court determined that certain claims of the patent were invalid but that other claims were valid and infringed. Although Hitkansut originally sought a royalty between $4.5-$5.6 million, based on a percentage of the research funding obtained by ORNL, the Claims Court awarded $200,000, plus interest, as the hypothetically negotiated cost of an up-front licensing fee. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Hitkansut then sought attorneys’ fees and expenses under 28 U.S.C. 1498(a). The Claims Court awarded $4,387,889.54.The Federal Circuit affirmed. Section 1498(a) provides for the award of attorneys’ fees under certain conditions, unless “the court finds that the position of the United States was substantially justified.” The “position of the United States” in this statutory provision refers to positions taken during litigation and does not encompass pre-litigation conduct by government actors, but the examples of conduct cited by the Claims Court demonstrate that the position of the United States was not substantially justified even under this narrow definition View "Hitkansut LLC v. United States" on Justia Law