Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court held that Lockheed Martin Corporation's receipts from the sales of F-16 fighter jets to the U.S. government were improperly sourced to Texas for purposes of calculating its Texas franchise tax, holding that Lockheed Martin demonstrated its entitlement to a refund of franchise taxes. The fighter jets at issue were manufactured in Fort Worth and destined for foreign-government buyers. In accordance with federal law, the foreign buyers contracted with the U.S. government to purchase the jets, and the U.S. government contracted with Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin filed for a refund of the portion of its franchise taxes for the tax years 2005 through 2007 attributable to the sales of the F-16 aircraft. The Comptroller denied the claim, and Lockheed Martin brought this suit. The trial court rendered judgment for the Comptroller, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Lockheed Martin's "sale" of each F-16 was to the respective foreign-government "buyer" for whom the aircraft was manufactured, and the government's involvement had no bearing on whether to apportion the receipts from that sale to Texas; and (2) the F-16s were delivered to the "buyers" outside of Texas, and therefore, the receipts from the sales of those aircraft were not properly sourced to Texas. View "Lockheed Martin Corp. v. Hegar" on Justia Law

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In this construction contract dispute, the Supreme Court held that the San Antonio River Authority possessed the authority to agree to arbitrate claims under Texas Local Government Code Chapter 271 and exercised that authority in the contract and that the judiciary, rather than an arbitrator, retains the duty to decide whether a local government has waived its governmental immunity. The River Authority hired Austin Bridge and Road L.P. for a construction project. The parties agreed to submit any disputes about the contract to arbitration. Austin Bridge invoked the contract's arbitration provisions when disagreements about the scope of work and payment arose. After the arbitrator denied the River Authority's plea of governmental immunity, the River Authority sued Austin Bridge, arguing that it lacked the authority to agree to the contract's arbitration provisions. The trial court concluded that the arbitration provisions in the contract were enforceable. The court of appeals agreed that the River Authority had the authority to agree to arbitrate but concluded that a court, rather than an arbitrator, must decide whether the River Authority was immune from the claims against it. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that chapter 271 waived the River Authority's immunity from suit for Austin Bridge's breach of contract claim. View "San Antonio River Authority v. Austin Bridge & Road, L.P." on Justia Law