Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

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Southern Power and Cleveland County, North Carolina executed an “Incentive Development Agreement” in July 2007, providing that if Southern built and operated a natural gas plant — a decision left to Southern’s sole discretion — the county would make substantial cash payments to Southern. The North Carolina legislature enacted a new law (Subsection H) 37 days later, imposing more stringent requirements on such agreements, including a mandate that they include a recapture provision allowing a municipality to recover cash incentives already paid if the private entity breaches the agreement. In November-December 2008, Southern secured contracts to supply utility companies with electricity produced at the plant. Southern then asked the county to reaffirm its commitment to the Agreement. Cleveland County adopted a resolution at its January 6, 2009, meeting stating that it was committed to the incentive grants. Southern broke ground on the plant in October 2009 and began commercial operations in December 2012. Cleveland County, however, refused to pay Southern any cash incentives, arguing that the Agreement failed to comply with Subsection H.The district court dismissed the case as barred by North Carolina governmental immunity. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. Cleveland county never waived its governmental immunity from suit. View "Southern Power Co. v. Cleveland County" on Justia Law

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Childs leased military family housing at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, which was owned by SDFH, a public-private venture created by statute, in which the U.S. Navy is a minority LLC member. Lincoln managed the property. Childs reported water and mold problems to SDFH and Lincoln. The problems were not resolved. SDFH and Lincoln moved to dismiss Childs's subsequent lawsuit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing they were government contractors acting at the direction of the federal government, and therefore had derivative sovereign immunity. The district court denied their motion.The Ninth Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The district court’s order was not immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine, under which an order that does not terminate the litigation is nonetheless treated as final if it conclusively determines the disputed question, resolves an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action, and is effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment. While the first two prongs were satisfied, the denial of derivative sovereign immunity was not effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment because denying an immediate appeal would not imperil a substantial public interest. The public interest underlying derivative sovereign immunity is extending the federal government’s immunity from liability, in narrow circumstances, to government agents carrying out the federal government’s directions. That interest could be vindicated after trial. View "Childs v. San Diego Family Housing LLC" on Justia Law

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El-Khalil, a podiatrist, joined the Oakwood Taylor medical staff in 2008. During his time there, El-Khalil alleges that he saw Oakwood employees submit fraudulent Medicare claims, which he reported to the federal government. In 2015, Oakwood Taylor’s Medical Executive Committee (MEC) rejected El-Khalil’s application to renew his staff privileges. El-Khalil alleges that the MEC did so in retaliation for his whistleblowing. Pursuant to Oakwood’s Medical Staff Bylaws, El-Khalil commenced a series of administrative appeals. On September 22, 2016, Oakwood’s Joint Conference Committee, which had the authority to issue a final, non-appealable decision, voted to affirm the denial of El-Khalil’s staff privileges. On September 27, the Committee sent El-Khalil written notice of its decision.On September 27, 2019, El-Khalil sued Oakwood for violating the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3730(h). The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit as untimely under a three-year limitations period, which commenced when Oakwood decided not to renew El-Khalil’s medical-staff privileges, rather than when it notified El-Khalil of that decision five days later. Section 3730(h) contains no notice requirement. As soon as Oakwood “discriminated against” El-Khalil “because of” his FCA-protected conduct, he had a ripe “cause of action triggering the limitations period,” View "El-Khalil v. Oakwood Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bird and other blind vendors filed a formal complaint with Oregon Commission for the Blind (OCB) seeking arbitration, prospective relief, and attorney’s fees as a consequence of OCB’s alleged mishandling of vending contracts and representation of blind vendors’ interests. The arbitration panel denied relief. The district court held that sovereign immunity did not apply to an arbitration panel’s decision under the Randolph-Sheppard Act (RSA), which creates a cooperative federal-state program that gives preference to blind applicants for vending licenses at federal facilities, 20 U.S.C. 107, and that the Eleventh Amendment did not protect OCB from liability for damages. The Ninth Circuit reversed. Neither the RSA nor the parties’ operating agreements unequivocally waived a state’s sovereign immunity from liability for monetary damages, attorney’s fees, or costs. Citing the Supreme Court’s 2011 "Sossamon" decision, the court rejected a “constructive waiver” argument, reasoning that a waiver of sovereign immunity must be explicit. An agreement to arbitrate all disputes simply did not unequivocally waive sovereign immunity from liability for monetary damages. The operating agreements incorporated the text of the RSA and contained no express waiver of immunity from money damages. Because no provision of the RSA or the operating agreements provided for attorney’s fees, Bird was not entitled to attorney’s fees. View "Bird v. Oregon Commission for the Blind" on Justia Law

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Ingham, Jackson, and Calhoun County, Michigan (collectively, the Counties) filed an action alleging that they had a right to receive a decade’s worth of surplus contributions (surplus equity) made to the Michigan County Road Commission Self-Insurance Pool (the Pool). The Counties believed they were the successors in interest to their dissolved road commissions and, as such, were entitled to the surplus equity that the commissions might have received had they not been dissolved and withdrawn from the Pool. Jackson County made one other argument: because its road commission never formally withdrew from the Pool, the county said it had a right to receive surplus equity on the same terms as any current member. The Pool disagreed, contending the Counties had no right to surplus equity because the documents governing the Pool’s operations and its contracts with its various members provided the Pool with discretion in distributing surplus equity. This included, the Pool contended, the power to exclude former members should a distribution be made. The Court of Appeals sided with the Counties, holding that the Counties were the successors in interest to their dissolved road commissions and, as a matter of public policy, the Counties had a right to receive surplus equity for fiscal years in which their road commissions were members of the Pool. The Court of Appeals also determined that the dissolution of the Jackson County Road Commission did not disqualify Jackson County from membership in the Pool, and therefore, the county could receive surplus equity regardless of any public-policy considerations. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed. The Court agreed with the Pool that the Counties did not have a contractual right to receive surplus equity and that such an arrangement was not contrary to public policy. For Jackson County, the Court held that the dissolution of its county road commission did not transfer membership in the Pool from the road commission to the county itself, so the Pool could exclude Jackson County from post-dissolution distributions. View "County Of Ingham v. Michigan County Road Commission Self-Insurance Pool" on Justia Law

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The 1949 Federal Property and Administrative Services Act is intended to facilitate the “economical and efficient” purchase of goods and services on behalf of the federal government, 40 U.S.C. 101. In November 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, under the supposed auspices of the Act, issued a “Guidance” mandating that employees of federal contractors in “covered contract[s]” with the federal government become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee and Ohio sheriffs’ offices sued, alleging that the Property Act does not authorize the mandate, that the mandate violates other federal statutes, and that its intrusion upon traditional state prerogatives raises federalism and Tenth Amendment concerns.The district court enjoined enforcement of the mandate throughout the three states and denied the federal government’s request to stay the injunction pending appeal. The Sixth Circuit denied relief. The government has established none of the showings required to obtain a stay. The government is unlikely to succeed on claims that the plaintiffs lack standing and the plaintiffs likely have a cause of action under the Administrative Procedure Act. The court noted the plaintiff’s concerns about disruptions to the supply chain if workers leave their jobs rather than receiving vaccinations and also stated: Given that expansive scope of the Guidance, the interpretive trouble is not figuring out who’s “covered”; the difficult issue is understanding who, based on the Guidance’s definition of “covered,” could possibly not be covered. View "Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Biden" on Justia Law

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The Army requested bids for helicopter flight training and awarded the contract to L3. In a bid-protest action filed by disappointed bidder S3, the Claims Court set aside the award. After reevaluation of the bids, the Army awarded the contract to CAE. S3 filed another bid protest.The Claims Court rejected most of S3’s arguments but agreed that the assignment by the Army’s source selection authority (SSA) of a certain “strength” to CAE was irrational because that strength, which purported to provide a “significant cost savings benefit,” would result in only small and unpredictable savings, if any. Nevertheless, the Claims Court upheld the award, finding no prejudice to S3 from the identified error. The Claims Court observed that the erroneously found strength had been treated as falling within a non-price-factor category for which CAE’s proposal had been “clearly superior,” an assessment that would not be altered by the loss of a strength for which the only possible benefit could be monetary; when explicitly comparing the added benefits of the CAE proposal with its higher price in the best-value tradeoff analysis, the SSA had not made any adjustment to CAE’s price based on a cost-saving from the strength.The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that there is a presumption of prejudice whenever the Claims Court determines that the agency acted irrationally in making an award decision and finding no clear error in the determination that there was no prejudice. View "System Studies & Simulation, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's breach of contract lawsuit against the City of Santa Isabel, a Puerto Rico municipality, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.This case arose from services that Plaintiff provided to the City of Santa Isabel following Hurricane Maria. When the City failed to pay Plaintiff for its services, Plaintiff brought this breach of contract action seeking almost $368,880. The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss, concluding that Plaintiff failed to show that it met the requirements for forming an enforceable contract with a Puerto Rico municipality such as the City. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) correctly found that the documents Plaintiff filed did not constitute a written contract; and (2) did not err by denying Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. View "Disaster Solutions LLC v. City of Santa Isabel" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of FESB's petition for writ of mandate seeking to invalidate two one-year contracts between the school district and Just Communities. The court concluded that the trial court applied the correct deferential standard of review to the school district's decision to enter a no-bid contract with Just Communities. The court also concluded that there was no error in finding that Just Communities fell within the "professional services" exemption and the "special services" exemption. Consequently, the court need not determine whether the common law exemption applied in this case. View "Fair Education Santa Barbara v. Santa Barbara Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Tolliver had a contract with the United States under which Tolliver was obliged to write technical manuals for government-used equipment. The government was obliged to supply Tolliver information relevant to that task. When the government failed to obtain and therefore failed to supply that information, the parties modified the contract. Tolliver ultimately produced the manuals. After the modification, however, a third party sued Tolliver in the name of the government under the False Claims Act, alleging that Tolliver had made a false certification of compliance with the original contract. The government, rather than intervening in the qui tam case and then dismissing it, allowed it to proceed. With evidentiary help from the government, Tolliver prevailed after incurring substantial legal fees.The contracting officer denied Tolliver's claim under the Contract Disputes Act, 41 U.S.C. 7101, for an “equitable adjustment” for reimbursement of “allowable legal fees.” The Claims Court entered judgment for Tolliver, concluding that the United States had breached an implied warranty of performance. The Federal Circuit vacated. Because Tolliver never submitted a claim of breach of that warranty to the contracting officer, the Claims Court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate such a claim. The claim that Tolliver presented to the contracting officer was, on its face, based on legal fees, not on a breach of the implied warranty of performance. View "Tolliver Group, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law