Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
Dep’t of Transp. v. White Oak Corp.
White Oak Corporation and the Department of Transportation entered into a contract for the reconstruction of a bridge and a portion of Interstate 95 in the City of Bridgeport. The project experienced significant delays such that the Department and White Oak reassigned the contract to another contractor for completion. White Oak subsequently filed a notice of claim and demand for arbitration seeking compensation for money wrongfully withheld by the Department, as liquidated damages, for delays in the project. An arbitration panel concluded that the liquidated damages clause in the parties’ contract was unenforceable, and therefore, White Oak was entitled to a return of nearly $5 million withheld by the Department. The trial court granted White Oak’s application to confirm the arbitration award. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that the arbitration panel exceeded its authority in rendering an award on White Oak’s claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Appellate Court incorrectly determined that, in a prior action brought by the Department to enjoin the arbitration, the trial court limited the scope of the arbitrable issues in the present case to a claim of wrongful termination such that the arbitration panel lacked jurisdiction to decide White Oak’s liquidated damages claim. View "Dep’t of Transp. v. White Oak Corp." on Justia Law
Garcia v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec.
In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security issued a final decision removing Garcia from the U.S. Border Patrol for misconduct. Garcia received notice the same day. Under 5 U.S.C. 7121(e)(1), Garcia had the option to appeal his removal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) or to invoke arbitration, under his union’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Article 34 of the CBA states that in cases involving adverse actions, such as removal, requests for arbitration “must be filed . . . not later than thirty (30) calendar days after the effective date of the action.” His union mailed a letter to the Agency requesting arbitration 28 days after the effective date of Garcia’s removal. The Agency did not receive this request until seven days later. After an arbitrator was appointed, the Agency moved to dismiss. The Arbitrator found the plain meaning of “filed” in the CBA requires actual receipt of the request for arbitration, relying on the definition of “file” used in federal court proceedings. The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the request for arbitration need only be mailed within the 30-day time period. View "Garcia v. Dep't of Homeland Sec." on Justia Law
City of Newport v. Village of Derby Center
In 1997, the Village of Derby Center and the City of Newport entered into a contract whereby the Village would supply 10,000 gallons of water per day to the City. The City claimed that the contract did not authorize the Village to adopt a new rate schedule in 2006 that included a ready-to-serve fee on top of actual water usage charges. The Village counterclaimed, alleging that the City connected customers who were not authorized under the contract, and that the City’s water use was chronically underreported due to equipment malfunction. After a trial, the superior court ruled for the City on its contract claim, holding that the ready-to-serve fee was not authorized by either contract or statute. As to the Village’s counterclaims, the court found that there was insufficient evidence to support the unauthorized-connection claim, and referred the water-usage-reconstruction claim to mediation. The Village appealed on all counts. The Supreme Court found: the plain language of the agreement authorized the use of a ready-to-serve fee to support the Village’s maintenance of its facilities. "The court erred in concluding otherwise." With respect to the Village's counterclaims, the Supreme Court found that the trial court indicated that it was clear, based on the billing periods showing a reading of zero usage by the City, that there were some erroneous readings, but it referred the Village’s claims to mediation without further resolution. After the City brought suit, the Village filed a motion to allow its counterclaim as to the underreported usage, which the trial court granted. The trial court’s decision to refer the Village’s counterclaim to mediation in its order, after it had already granted the Village’s motion to allow the counterclaim at trial, served only to create greater delay and expense to the parties, thus undermining the purpose of the alternative dispute resolution clause. "Even if the trial court would ordinarily have discretion over whether to send a counterclaim to mediation, under these circumstances the trial court could not properly rescind its decision, relied on by the parties, to allow the counterclaim after the trial had already taken place. Therefore, we remand the Village’s counterclaim for resolution by the trial court." View "City of Newport v. Village of Derby Center" on Justia Law
Commonwealth of Kentucky v. United States
The Randolph-Sheppard Act, 20 U.S.C. 107–107e, gives blind persons a priority in winning contracts to operate vending facilities on federal properties. Fort Campbell, Kentucky, operates a cafeteria for its soldiers. For about 20 years, Kentucky’s Office for the Blind (OFB) has helped blind vendors apply for and win the base’s contracts for various services. In 2012, the Army, the federal entity that operates Fort Campbell, published a solicitation, asking for bids to provide dining-facility-attendant services. Rather than doing so under the Act, as it had before, the Army issued this solicitation as a set aside for Small Business Administration Historically Underutilized Business Zones. OFB, representing its blind vendor, filed for arbitration under the Act, and, days later, filed suit, seeking to prevent the Army from awarding the contract. The district court held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider a request for a preliminary injunction. The Sixth Circuit vacated. OFB’s failure to seek and complete arbitration does not deprive the federal courts of jurisdiction. View "Commonwealth of Kentucky v. United States" on Justia Law
Elcon Constr., Inc. v. E. Wash. Univ.
At issue in this case was a claim for damages relating to a drilling contract Petitioner Elcon Construction and Respondent Eastern Washington University. Elcon alleged tort and contract claims. The contract claims were resolved by arbitration. In dismissing the tort claims, the trial court applied the independent duty rule formerly known as the "economic loss rule," which the Court of Appeals similarly applied in affirming. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court and Court of Appeals misapplied the independent duty doctrine to bar Elcon's tort claims in this case. The Court found Elcon's claims failed factually. Viewing the facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to Elcon, no genuine issues of material fact existed with respect to Elcon's fraud in the inducement or tortious interference claims. The Court affirmed on different grounds reached by the trial and appeals courts.View "Elcon Constr., Inc. v. E. Wash. Univ." on Justia Law
Posted in: Arbitration & Mediation, Contracts, Government Contracts, Personal Injury