Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
McInnis Electric Company v. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC et al.
Construction firm Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, received the prime contract to expand the University of Mississippi Medical Center Children’s Hospital in 2017. Electrical contractor McInnis Electric Company secured the winning bid to install the electrical and low voltage systems package for the project and subsequently signed a subcontract with Brasfield & Gorrie. Terms of the subcontract incorporated the prime contract, which were related to the same project by reference. The contract provided that work was set to begin on the project on February 15, 2018. However, McInnis, was directed not to report on site until June 4, 2018, and, due to delays, was unable to begin until July 23, 2018. As work progressed, the schedule allegedly became delayed as a result of Brasfield & Gorrie’s failure to coordinate the work of the various subcontractors. McInnis averred that Brasfield & Gorrie’s failure to coordinate and facilitate the work of the various subcontractors worsened as the project progressed, and Brasfield & Gorrie experienced turnover in management. This failure allegedly delayed McInnis’s work, which was not on the path toward completion, supposedly through no fault of its own. Construction issues were amplified when on March 11, 2020, Mississippi experienced its first reported case of COVID-19. On April 1, 2020, the Mississippi Governor instituted a shelter in place order in response to the ongoing pandemic, requiring certain nonessential businesses to close and recommending social distancing to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Mississippi. The children’s hospital was not classified as an existing infrastructure as it was a nonoperational work in progress and thus was not subject to the executive order’s exception to the governmental shutdowns. By May 8, 2020, McInnis had suffered an approximately 40 percent loss in its workforce due to employees testing positive for COVID-19. Despite the decrease in the available workforce, Brasfield & Gorrie demanded McInnis perform under its contractual obligation. McInnis took measures to continue the work. Brasfield & Gorrie further declined requests for accommodation and instead terminated McInnis on May 13, 2020. The case before the Mississippi Supreme Court here stemmed from disagreements and a broken contract between the parties, contesting whether arbitration was appropriate to settle their disputes. The trial court compelled arbitration, and the Supreme Court affirmed. View "McInnis Electric Company v. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC et al." on Justia Law
Dorsa v. Miraca Life Sciences, Inc.
Dorsa joined Miraca, which offers pathology services for healthcare providers. His employment agreement contained a binding arbitration clause. Dorsa claims that, during his employment, he observed Miraca giving monetary donations and free services to healthcare providers to induce pathology referrals, in violation of the AntiKickback Statute, the Stark Law, and the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1). Dorsa lodged internal complaints. Dorsa claims that Miraca fabricated a sexual harassment complaint against him. Dorsa filed a qui tam action against Miraca in September 2013. Days later, Miraca fired Dorsa, citing workplace harassment. Dorsa added an FCA retaliation claim.The government investigated the FCA claims and, in 2018, intervened for purposes of settlement, under which Miraca agreed to pay $63.5 million to resolve FCA claims. Miraca moved to dismiss the remaining retaliation claim, citing the arbitration clause, Dorsa argued that the clause did not apply because his claim was independent from the employment agreement. Miraca then asserted that the court did not have the authority to decide a threshold question of arbitrability. The district court ruled in favor of Dorsa. Miraca later moved to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of that motion. Miraca forfeited and waived its arguments about the district court’s authority to decide threshold questions of arbitrability and its ruling on the merits. Filing the motion to dismiss was inconsistent with Miraca’s later attempts to rely on the arbitration agreement. View "Dorsa v. Miraca Life Sciences, Inc." on Justia Law
Magnolia Health Plan, Inc. et al. v. Mississippi’s Community Mental Health Commissions, et al.
Magnolia, a managed care organization that contracted with the State to provide Medicaid services, applied what it saw as a statutory five percent reduction in Medicaid rates to Mississippi’s fourteen regional mental health providers. The regional providers responded by filing a complaint against Magnolia in which they sought injunctive relief and monetary damages. On February 18, 2020, Magnolia Health Plan, Inc., and Cenpatico Behavioral Health, LLC (collectively, “Magnolia”), filed a timely notice of appeal after a circuit court denied Magnolia’s motion to compel arbitration, and granted a preliminary injunction against it in favor of Defendants, Mississippi’s fourteen regional health commissions. The notice of appeal included both orders. As to the first, the order denying Magnolia’s motion to compel arbitration, at oral argument before the Mississippi Supreme Court panel, Magnolia abandoned the issue. As to the second, the order granting Magnolia’s request for a permanent injunction, the order was not a final, appealable judgment. Accordingly, the Supreme Court concluded it did not have jurisdiction for further review. View "Magnolia Health Plan, Inc. et al. v. Mississippi's Community Mental Health Commissions, et al." on Justia Law
Bird v. Oregon Commission for the Blind
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
California ex rel. Aetna Health of California Inc. v. Pain Management Specialist Medical Group
Aetna brought a qui tam action to recover damages and fees occasioned by the surgical center's fraudulent billing practices. The trial court denied the surgical center's petition to compel arbitration of the quit tam action. At issue is Aetna's claims of fraudulent insurance billing practices by the surgical center and its healthcare billing services in violation of the Insurance Fraud Protection Act (IFPA).The Court of Appeal affirmed and concluded that the qui tam action is not subject to arbitration because it is brought on behalf of the state which is not a party to the contract between the insurance company and the surgical center. In this case, California is the real party in interest and it cannot be compelled to arbitrate this qui tam IFPA action because it is not a signatory to the contracts. View "California ex rel. Aetna Health of California Inc. v. Pain Management Specialist Medical Group" on Justia Law
Texas Workforce Commission v. United States Department of Education
The Commission alleged that the Army violated the Randolph-Sheppard Act by failing to give priority to blind vendors in the bidding process for a vending facility services contract at an Army base cafeteria. After the arbitration panel found in favor of the Army, the Commission appealed the panel's decision.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Commission. The court held that the statutory language is ambiguous; applied the presumption against ineffectiveness; supported a broader interpretation of "operate" in the context in which it is used within the Act; and held that the district court did not err in holding that the Act may apply to Dining Facility Attendant (DFA) contracts generally. In this case, the DFA contract at issue is subject to the Act and the Army violated the Act by not giving the Commission priority in the bidding process. View "Texas Workforce Commission v. United States Department of Education" on Justia Law
San Antonio River Authority v. Austin Bridge & Road, L.P.
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
Jackson County, Mississippi v. KPMG, LLP
The Mississippi Supreme Court previously unanimously held that KPMG, LLP could not enforce arbitration agreements attached to five annual engagement letters with Singing River Health System (Singing River), a community hospital, because the terms and condition of the letters were not sufficiently spread upon the hospital board’s minutes to create an enforceable contract. In this appeal, KPMG sought to enforce the very same arbitration agreements attached to the very same engagement letters with Singing River - this time against Jackson County, Mississippi, which acted as Singing River’s bond guarantor. For the same reason the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of KPMG’s motion to compel arbitration in KPMG, LLP v. Singing River Health System, the Court reversed and remanded the trial court’s grant of KPMG’s motion to compel arbitration in this case. View "Jackson County, Mississippi v. KPMG, LLP" on Justia Law
Citizen Potawatomi Nation v. State of Oklahoma
Oklahoma and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation (the “Nation”) entered into a Tribal-State gaming compact; Part 12 of which contained a dispute-resolution procedure that called for arbitration of disagreements “arising under” the Compact’s provisions. The terms of the Compact indicated either party could, “[n]otwithstanding any provision of law,” “bring an action against the other in a federal district court for the de novo review of any arbitration award.” In Hall Street Associates, LLC. v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, (2008), the Supreme Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) precluded parties to an arbitration agreement from contracting for de novo review of the legal determinations in an arbitration award. At issue before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals was how to treat the Compact’s de novo review provision given the Supreme Court’s decision in Hall Street Associates. The Nation argued the appropriate course was to excise from the Compact the de novo review provision, leaving intact the parties’ binding obligation to engage in arbitration, subject only to limited judicial review under 9 U.S.C. sections 9 and 10. Oklahoma argued the de novo review provision was integral to the parties’ agreement to arbitrate disputes arising under the Compact and, therefore, the Tenth Circuit should sever the entire arbitration provision from the Compact. The Tenth Circuit found the language of the Compact demonstrated that the de novo review provision was a material aspect of the parties’ agreement to arbitrate disputes arising thereunder. Because Hall Street Associates clearly indicated the Compact’s de novo review provision was legally invalid, and because the obligation to arbitrate was contingent on the availability of de novo review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the obligation to arbitrate set out in Compact Part 12 was unenforceable. Thus, the matter was remanded to the district court to enter an order vacating the arbitration award. View "Citizen Potawatomi Nation v. State of Oklahoma" on Justia Law
Kansas Department for Children v. SourceAmerica
This interlocutory appeal concerned a contract dispute about the provision of food services at the Fort Riley Army base in Kansas. The Department of the Army (Army) contracts with outside vendors for food preparation and related supporting services for its cafeteria dining facilities at Fort Riley. Since 2006, the State of Kansas, through the Kansas Department for Children and Families (Kansas), successfully bid under the RSA on those food preparation and related services contracts at Fort Riley. Kansas’s most recent contract awarded under the RSA was scheduled to expire in February 2016. As that date approached, the Army determined that its next dining contract at Fort Riley would be for supporting services only. The Army therefore decided that it need not solicit bids under the RSA and it approached another vendor directly, as permitted by the JWOD. Kansas took exception to the Army’s decision because it eliminated Kansas’s ability to bid on the contract. So Kansas initiated arbitration proceedings under the RSA’s dispute resolution provisions. And upon learning that the Army intended to contract with the other vendor despite the commencement of arbitration proceedings, Kansas sued in federal court, seeking to preliminarily enjoin the Army from executing the JWOD contract pending arbitration. The root of the dispute was the intersection of two federal statutes that both address the procurement of food services at federal facilities: (1) the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Act of 1936 (RSA), and (2) the Javits Wagner O’Day Act (JWOD). The parties disagreed as to which of these statutes governed the award of the Fort Riley food services contract. And due to events that have occurred since this action was filed, the parties also disputed whether this appeal was rendered moot. The Tenth Circuit concluded that the issue raised by this appeal fell within an exception to the mootness doctrine for matters capable of repetition yet evading review. Because an arbitration panel has since issued its decision thereby dissolving the injunction at issue in this appeal, the Court declined to address whether the district court correctly granted the injunction. View "Kansas Department for Children v. SourceAmerica" on Justia Law