Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

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GSA leased a building from NOAA’s predecessor; the annual rent includes agreed “[b]ase year taxes.” GSA must compensate NOAA for “any increase in real estate taxes during the lease term over the amount established as the base year taxes” and defines “real estate taxes” as “only those taxes, which are assessed against the building and/or the land upon which the building is located, without regard to benefit to the property, for the purpose of funding general Government services. Real estate taxes shall not include, without limitation, general and/or special assessments, business improvement district assessments, or any other present or future taxes or governmental charges that are imposed upon the Lessor or assessed against the building and/or the land upon which the building is located.In 2016, NOAA asked GSA to reimburse it for the Stormwater/Chesapeake Bay Water Quality tax, the Washington Suburban Transit Commission tax, the Clean Water Act Fee, and a Supplemental Education Tax. All four appear on the consolidated tax bill. The clean water tax, effective in 2013, is collected for the Watershed Protection and Restoration Fund, “in the same manner as County real property taxes and [has] the same priority, rights, and bear[s] the same interest and penalties, and [is] enforced in the same manner as County real property taxes.”GSA denied the claim. The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals held that the lease provision excludes all taxes enacted after the date of the lease, even if those taxes meet expressly stated criteria for being a real estate tax. The Federal Circuit reversed. Under ordinary interpretive principles, a real estate tax qualifies under the Lease provision whenever it satisfies the three criteria of the first sentence. View "NOAA Maryland, LLC v. General Services Administration" on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute between Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (Liberty Mutual), Hill Brothers Construction Company (Hill Brothers) and the Mississippi Transportation Commission (the Commission) regarding a fuel-adjustment clause (the FAC) in a highway-construction contract. In 2019, the Commission successfully moved to alter or amend the circuit court's judgment. The circuit court vacated its prior entry of partial summary judgment in favor of Liberty Mutual on the issue of liability, effectively denying Liberty Mutual's motion for summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Liberty Mutual's petition for interlocutory appeal. The company argued the 2019 order was entered in violation of the Supreme Court's mandate in Hill Brothers I. The Supreme Court determined the circuit court erred in denying Liberty Mutual's motion on liability. The circuit court's judgement was thus reversed and summary judgment reinstated in favor of the insurance company on the issue of liability. View "Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Mississippi Transportation Commission" on Justia Law

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The employee of a subcontractor on a state public works project sued the prime contractor’s surety bond for unpaid labor under Alaska’s Little Miller Act. The trial court ruled the employee failed to give notice to the contractor within the statutorily required 90 days of his last date of labor on the project. The trial court entered a directed verdict against the employee. The employee appealed to the superior court, which denied the appeal, and then petitioned the Alaska Supreme Court for hearing. This case presented two issues of first impression: (1) how to define “labor;” and (2) whether “notice” was effective on the date of mailing or the date of receipt. Under the Little Miller Act, the Supreme Court defined “labor” as work that was “necessary to and forwards” the project secured by the payment bond, and held the effective date of “notice” to be the date notice is sent via registered mail. The superior court judgment denying the employee's appeal was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Dat Luong DBA LVDH Construction v. Western Surety Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court granting the City of Topeka's motion to dismiss this breach of contract suit, holding that dismissal was proper.The City entered into an agreement with Plaintiffs, private owners, to assume full ownership of a motor speedway. The rights to the speedway were to be paid through sales tax and revenue (STAR) bonds. When the City decided not to fulfill the agreement Plaintiffs brought this action claiming that the City breached the parties' contract. The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss, concluding that the agreement was an exercise of a governmental or legislative function and binding on successive City Councils. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the government act was proprietary. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the City Council's decision to enter into the contract and move forward on issuing STAR bonds was a governmental decision, and the newly elected City Council was under no obligation to carry out the policies of its predecessor. View "Jayhawk Racing Properties v. City of Topeka" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the court of appeals denying a writ of mandamus sought by Steven Armatas, holding that Armatas was entitled to a writ of mandamus but that the court of appeals correctly denied attorneys fees.Armatas sought a writ of mandamus to order Plain Township Board of Trustees to produce an invoice for legal services performed on the township's behalf. The township declined to produce the invoice, arguing that it did not possess the invoice and had no duty to provide it. The court of appeals denied the writ, along with Armatas's related claims for statutory damages, attorney fees, and court costs, concluding that the requested records were not public records. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Armatas was entitled to a writ of mandamus under the quasi-agency test; (2) Armatas was entitled to statutory damages and an award of court costs; and (3) Armatas was not entitled to attorney fees. View "State ex rel. Armatas v. Plain Township Board of Trustees" on Justia Law

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Built Pacific, Inc. (BPI) appealed a judgment entered against it and in favor of the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). The DLSE issued a Civil Wage Penalty Assessment (CWPA) against BPI for labor law violations on a public works project. BPI entered into a settlement agreement with the DLSE but failed to timely pay the settlement amount. As a result, BPI was not released from liability, the DLSE sought judgment based on the final CWPA, and the superior court entered judgment on the CWPA pursuant to Labor Code section 1742 (d). BPI appealed, arguing that the judgment was based on an unreasonable and unenforceable liquidated damages clause of the settlement agreement under Civil Code section 1671 (b), and should be reversed. The Court of Appeal concluded Civil Code section 1671 did not apply because judgment was entered pursuant to the Labor Code and not a “contract.” Even if section 1671 were to apply, the Court concluded the disputed provision in the settlement agreement was both reasonable and enforceable. View "Department of Industrial Relations, etc. v. Built Pacific, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2010, Felten filed a qui tam complaint alleging that his then-employer, Beaumont Hospital, was violating the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3730(h), and the Michigan Medicaid False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to physicians and physicians’ groups in exchange for referrals of Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE patients. Felten also alleged that Beaumont had retaliated against him by threatening and “marginaliz[ing]” him for insisting on compliance with the law. After the government intervened and settled the case against Beaumont, the district court dismissed the remaining claims, except those for retaliation and attorneys’ fees and costs.Felten amended his complaint to add allegations of retaliation that took place after he filed his initial complaint: he was terminated after Beaumont falsely represented to him that an internal report suggested that he be replaced and that his position was subject to mandatory retirement. Felten further alleged that he had been unable to obtain a comparable position in academic medicine because Beaumont “intentionally maligned [him].”The district court dismissed the allegations of retaliatory conduct occurring after Felten’s termination. The Sixth Circuit vacated. The FCA’s anti-retaliation provision protects a relator from a defendant’s retaliation after the relator’s termination. View "Felten v. William Beaumont Hospital" on Justia Law

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A project developer that used state-allocated federal tax credits for a low-income housing project sued the state housing authority, asserting an option to eliminate a contractual obligation to maintain the project as low-income housing for 15 years beyond the initial 15-year qualifying period. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the housing authority, and the developer appealed several aspects of the court’s ruling. After review of the superior court record, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded that court correctly interpreted the relevant statutes and contract documents, and correctly determined there were no material disputed facts about the formation of the parties’ agreements. View "Creekside Limited Partnership, et al. v. Alaska Housing Finance Corporation" on Justia Law

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The City of Biloxi (City), the Secretary of State on behalf of the State of Mississippi (State), and the Board of Trustees of the State Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) settled an ownership dispute over coastal property leased to a casino, and agreed how to divide the annual casino rent. Seventeen years later, the City asked the chancery court to declare that it could adjust for inflation its base amount of rent received before divvying up its rent with the State and the IHL. But the City’s only support of its new inflation-adjustment claim was the three public entities’ lease with the casino. While the casino lease required the minimum amount of rent owed be adjusted for inflation every five years, the casino lease did not govern how the City, the State, and the IHL were to divide the rent. Instead, the manner in which rent was divided is governed solely by the settlement agreement. And the settlement agreement was silent with respect to an inflation adjustment. The Mississippi Supreme Court found, however, the agreement was clear: the City received a specific sum, and any rent in excess of that exact amount had to be shared with the State and the IHL. View "In the Matter of The Stewardship of the Public Trust Tidelands" on Justia Law

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In 2008, severe storms hit Indiana. Columbus Hospital sustained significant damage. President Bush authorized FEMA assistance through disaster grants under the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121–5206. The state agreed to be the grantee for all grant assistance, with the exception of assistance to individuals and households. FEMA reserved the right to recover assistance funds if they were spent inappropriately or distributed through error, misrepresentation, or fraud. Columbus apparently submitted its request directly to FEMA, instead of through the state. FEMA approved Columbus projects, totaling approximately $94 million. Funds were transmitted to Columbus through the state. In 2013, the DHS Inspector General issued an audit report finding that Columbus had committed procurement violations and recommended that FEMA recover $10.9 million. FEMA reduced that amount to $9,612,831.19 and denied Columbus’s appeal. Columbus did not seek judicial review. FEMA recovered the disputed costs from Columbus in 2014.In 2018, Columbus filed suit, alleging four counts of contract breach and illegal exaction. The Claims Court dismissed Columbus’s illegal exaction claim, holding that Columbus did not have a property interest in the disputed funds and that FEMA’s appeal process protected Columbus’s rights to due process, and dismissed Columbus’s contract-based claims, finding that Columbus had no rights against FEMA under that contract or otherwise. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the illegal exaction and express and implied contract claims. The court vacated the dismissal of the third-party beneficiary contract claim. View "Columbus Regional Hospital v. United States" on Justia Law