Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Contracts
Department of Transportation v. Eagle Peak Rock & Paving, Inc.
The Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) contracted with Eagle for construction work in Yellowstone National Park, to be completed by October 2018. The contract required Eagle to submit a schedule detailing how it would complete the project on time. By late January 2017, FHWA had rejected Eagle’s eight formal schedule submissions as not complying with the contract. In February 2017, the contracting officer terminated the contract for default, concluding that Eagle was insufficiently likely to complete the project on time.Eagle challenged the termination for default under the Contract Disputes Act of 1978 (CDA), 41 U.S.C. 7101–7109, before the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, which ruled that the termination for default was improper. The Board converted the termination to one for the convenience of the government, relying heavily, though not exclusively, on its view of deficiencies in the contracting officer’s reasoning, rather than on de novo findings about whether the record developed before the Board showed that standard for termination for default was met. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded for the Board to adjudicate the case de novo. The Board’s evaluation of the contracting officer’s reasoning exceeded the limited scope of the threshold inquiry. The Board also failed to separate that threshold analysis from its de novo evaluation of the evidence. View "Department of Transportation v. Eagle Peak Rock & Paving, Inc." on Justia Law
Elia Companies, LLC v. University Of Michigan Regents
Elia Companies, LLC, filed suit against the University of Michigan Regents, alleging breach of contract; violations of Michigan’s anti-lockout statute; breach of covenant for quiet possession; constructive eviction; conversion; and unjust enrichment. In 2013, plaintiff entered into a 10-year lease with defendant to obtain space at the Michigan Union for establishing a coffee shop. In March 2017, defendant disclosed its plans to renovate the Union. Plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the parties’ lease required that they negotiate a relocation of the leased premises. However, defendant terminated the lease on April 20, 2018, based on plaintiff’s alleged default and ordered plaintiff to vacate the premises. Plaintiff filed this action in August 2018, and defendant, over plaintiff’s objection, filed a notice of transfer removing the case to the Court of Claims pursuant to MCL 600.6404(3) and MCL 600.6419(1) of the Court of Claims Act (the COCA). Defendant moved for summary disposition, arguing that plaintiff’s action had to be dismissed because plaintiff failed to comply with the notice and verification requirements of MCL 600.6431 of the COCA. The Court of Claims agreed and dismissed plaintiff’s case. Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The panel affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s ancillary claims on governmental-tort-immunity grounds but reversed the dismissal of plaintiff’s contract claim. The Michigan Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals erred when it excused plaintiff’s failure to timely comply with MCL 600.6431. “All parties with claims against the state, except those exempted in MCL 600.6431 itself, must comply with the requirements of MCL 600.6431.” Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded to the Court of Claims for reinstatement of summary judgment granted in defendant’s favor. View "Elia Companies, LLC v. University Of Michigan Regents" on Justia Law
Childhelp, Inc. v. City of L.A.
In 2014 the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution directing various City departments and officials to prepare and execute the necessary approvals and agreements to convey the property to Childhelp in exchange for Childhelp’s agreement to continue using the property to provide services for victims of child abuse. Ultimately, however, the City decided not to transfer the property to Childhelp. Childhelp filed this action against the City for, among other things, declaratory relief, writ of mandate, and promissory estoppel, and the City filed an unlawful detainer action against Childhelp. After the trial court consolidated the two actions, the court granted the City’s motion for summary adjudication on Childhelp’s cause of action for promissory estoppel, sustained without leave to amend the City’s demurrer to Childhelp’s causes of action for declaratory relief and writ of mandate, and granted the City’s motion for summary judgment on its unlawful detainer complaint. Childhelp appealed the ensuing judgment. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that Childhelp had occupied the property for almost 30 years and had an expectation it would eventually own the property. The 2014 resolution certainly suggested the City was seriously considering selling the property to Childhelp. But it was undisputed the parties never completed the transaction in accordance with the City Charter. While Childhelp cites cases reciting general principles of promissory estoppel, it does not cite any cases where the plaintiff successfully invoked promissory estoppel against a municipality in these circumstances. The trial court did not err in granting the City’s motion for summary adjudication on Childhelp’s promissory estoppel cause of action. View "Childhelp, Inc. v. City of L.A." on Justia Law
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. v. Secretary of the Air Force
For pressing projects, the government can issue “Undefinitized Contract Actions” (UCAs) to allow contractors to begin work before the parties have reached a final agreement on contract terms, like price. The Air Force entered into two UCAs with Lockheed for upgrades to F-16 aircraft. Both UCAs include “definitization” clauses that provide that if the parties are unable to reach agreements on price by a certain time, the Contracting Officer (CO) may determine a reasonable price. After years of negotiations, the Air Force and Lockheed were unable to agree on the price terms. The CO assigned to each UCA unilaterally definitized a price of about $1 billion.The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA), acting under the Contract Disputes Act (CDA), dismissed appeals for lack of jurisdiction because Lockheed failed to submit a certified contractor claim to the COs requesting a final decision on its claims as required under the CDA. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting Lockheed’s argument that the COs’ unilateral definitizations qualified as government claims under the CDA, which a contractor can directly appeal to the ASBCA without having to submit its own claim to the COs. The COs’ definitizations of the contract prices were not demands or assertions by the government seeking relief against Lockheed. View "Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. v. Secretary of the Air Force" on Justia Law
SHH Holdings, LLC v. Allied World Specialty Ins. Co.
A False Claims Act qui tam action was filed under seal against SHH and its nursing facilities, alleging that SHH provided unreasonable and unnecessary services to claim the highest possible Medicare reimbursement. Three co-relators also alleged that SHH retaliated against them for internally reporting fraudulent billing practices. SHH received a Department of Justice notification that it was the subject of a fraudulent claims investigation, requesting information about recent terminations of SHH employees, including the relators. It did not explicitly refer to the retaliation allegations.Two years later, SHH obtained liability coverage. Allied's claims-made policy applies only to claims first made during the policy period. SHH's application checked "none" when asked to “provide full details of all inquiries, investigations, administrative charges, claims, and lawsuits filed” within the last three years. SHH checked “no” to whether “[SHH], any Subsidiary, any Executive or other entity proposed for coverage kn[ew] of any act, error or omission which could give rise to a claim, suit or action.” An application exclusion, incorporated into the policy, stated that if such information existed, any inquiry, investigation, administrative charge, claim, or lawsuit arising therefrom or arising from such violation, knowledge, information, or involvement is excluded from coverage.The qui tam action was unsealed. SHH notified Allied and sought coverage for defense costs. Allied denied coverage. SHH sued. SHH later settled the relators' retaliation claim ($2.2 million) and finalized a $10 million settlement for the claims-submissions violations. The district court granted SHH partial summary judgment, awarding $2,336,786.35. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The plain language of SHH’s policy excluded coverage. View "SHH Holdings, LLC v. Allied World Specialty Ins. Co." on Justia Law
USA v. Hirani Engineering & Land
The surety (“Colonial”) for the prime contractor (“Hirani”) challenged the district court’s award of quantum meruit damages on the Miller Act claim of the subcontractor (“ACC”), and the district court’s award as double recovery for the subcontractor. The subcontractor continues to challenge the district court’s denial of recovery under the Miller Act for the reasonable value of its superintendent’s services at the job site. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment except to remand for the district court to expressly address whether there would be impermissible double recovery for the subcontractor. The court wrote that even if D.C. contract law caps the subcontractor’s restitution recovery against the prime contractor to expectation damages and does not permit recovery in quantum meruit where there is an express contract, no such limit applies to the claim against the surety under the Miller Act. Second, the court explained it need not resolve the surety’s contention that the district court awarded the subcontractor double recovery. Further, given that the construction work at issue had to be supervised and inspected for conformance with the subcontract and other requirements, such as government quality control standards, the superintendent’s on-site supervisory work constitutes “labor” within the meaning of the Miller Act. View "USA v. Hirani Engineering & Land" on Justia Law
California-American Water Co. v. Marina Coast Water Districtw
Monterey is an independent public agency responsible for analyzing Monterey County's water resources. Cal-Am is an investor-owned water utility providing water to over 100,000 residents on the Monterey Peninsula. Marina, a public agency, provides water for the City of Marina and neighboring Monterey Peninsula communities. In 1995 the State Water Resources Control Board ordered Cal-Am to stop drawing water from the Carmel River and develop an alternate water supply. In 2009 Marina, Monterey, and Cal-Am agreed to develop and construct a regional desalinization project to extract brackish water from beneath Monterey Bay, purify it, and deliver it to consumers. In 2010-2011, the parties entered into several agreements. The project was never built. The parties engaged in negotiation and mediation, ending in January 2012 without resolution.In September 2012, Cal-Am submitted a claim under the California Government Claims Act. Litigation followed. In 2019, the trial court entered summary adjudication against Monterey, finding that a negligence cause of action was barred by the two-year statute of limitations and against Cal-Am under the Government Claims Act. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court erred in finding that the “harm” accrued in 2010. There were triable issues of fact as to express waiver and as to the applicability of alternatives to the Claims Act. View "California-American Water Co. v. Marina Coast Water Districtw" on Justia Law
Supreme Foodservice GmbH v. Director of the Defense Logistics Agency
In 2005, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) awarded Supreme a contract to provide food to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. During negotiations concerning deliveries to forward operating bases, Supreme submitted inflated cost proposals. Supreme threatened to withhold payments to subcontractors (potentially cutting off supplies to troops), The parties executed a Modification, including Supreme’s proposed rates, subject to verification. The Defense Contract Audit Agency concluded that Supreme’s documentation was not adequate and questioned more than $375 million of claimed costs. The contracting officer, in 2011, determined that DLA had overpaid Supreme by $567,267,940. DLA withheld $540 million from Supreme’s monthly payments. Supreme submitted unsuccessful “reverse image” claims. In 2014, Supreme pled guilty to fraud and entered into a civil settlement in a False Claims Act suit. During the investigations, with Supreme’s contract expiring, the parties entered into two extensions. In 2015, based on Supreme’s guilty plea, DLA demanded the return of all money paid under the contract. In 2020, the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals concluded that Supreme’s contract claims against the government were barred by Supreme’s prior material breach.The Federal Circuit affirmed. The government did not waive its prior material breach defense. While DLA had some notice of Supreme’s fraudulent behavior in 2009, it had no “known right” until Supreme’s guilty plea, after which DLA never extended Supreme’s contract. Supreme cannot treat the bridge contracts as separate only to evade the government’s affirmative defenses. The parties treated the original contract and the extensions as inextricably intertwined; DLA’s prior material breach defense applies to those contracts. View "Supreme Foodservice GmbH v. Director of the Defense Logistics Agency" on Justia Law
Black v. Bureau of Parks & Lands
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the business and consumer docket entered in favor of Plaintiffs vacating the Bureau of Parks and Lands' lease of public reserved land to NECEC Transmission LLC and Central Maine Power Co. (CMP) for construction of a high-capacity transmission line, holding that the Bureau acted within its constitutional and statutory authority in granting the lease.CMP appealed and Plaintiffs cross-appealed the trial court's decision not to address the substantive question of whether the Bureau had the constitutional authority to lease to the public reserved land. Plaintiffs later moved to dismiss the appeals on the ground that a citizen's initiative rendered the appeals moot. The Supreme Judicial Court denied the motion to dismiss and vacated the judgment below, holding (1) retroactive application of section 1 of the Initiative did not violate the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution, and therefore, the lease was not voided by the initiative; and (2) the record established that the Bureau acted within its constitutional and statutory authority in granting the lease. View "Black v. Bureau of Parks & Lands" on Justia Law
White v. Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, PLLC
Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, PLLC (JCA), a law firm practicing out of Ridgeland, Mississippi, filed suit against Shad White, in his official capacity as auditor for the state of Mississippi, seeking to recover damages for services rendered and for the reimbursement of costs and expenses owed to a public relations firm. A circuit court found that, because discovery had not been completed in the case, genuine issues of material fact remained. Thus, it denied the office of the state auditor’s (OSA) motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment. Because JCA failed to submit evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact that the employment contract complied with statutory requirements, and because JCA’s alternative claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment. View "White v. Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, PLLC" on Justia Law