Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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In this case, Fred Zackery sought access to confidential settlement agreements between the Water Works and Sewer Board of the City of Gadsden ("the Board") and various carpet and chemical manufacturers. Zackery requested these agreements under the Open Records Act. The Board had sued the manufacturers, alleging they contaminated the Board's raw water intake. The Board settled with all the manufacturers and planned to use the settlement funds to build and maintain a new water-treatment facility.Zackery, a citizen of Gadsden and a local radio station manager, intervened in the lawsuit specifically to request disclosure of the settlement agreements. The trial court granted his intervention but ruled that the Board didn't have to disclose the agreements until it had accepted a bid for the construction of the water-treatment facility. This decision was grounded in Alabama's Competitive Bid Law, which is designed to guard against corruption and favoritism in awarding contracts for public projects.The Supreme Court of Alabama upheld the trial court's decision, affirming that the immediate disclosure of the settlements could interfere with the competitive bid process, potentially driving bids upwards and leaving fewer funds for the long-term operation and maintenance of the new facility. This situation, the court reasoned, could cause rate hikes for the Board's customers. Therefore, the court concluded that an exception to the Open Records Act justified nondisclosure of the settlement agreements until the competitive-bid process was complete. View "Zackery v. Water Works and Sewer Board of the City of Gadsden" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, REV, LLC ("REV"), a veteran-owned small business that provides software consulting services, appealed a decision from the United States Court of Federal Claims regarding a bid process by the Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA").REV participated in the VA's bid process for its Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology-Next Generation (“T4NG”) program, aimed at replenishing the pool of Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) vendors. REV was successful in the first stage of the bid process, but was eliminated in the second stage and was not among the final awardees.REV filed a lawsuit against the VA in the Court of Federal Claims, arguing that the VA's evaluation process was arbitrary and capricious due to alleged flaws in the process, including the VA's evaluation of rival bidders' submissions. The Court of Federal Claims dismissed REV's claims, ruling that REV lacked standing to challenge the VA’s evaluation of rival bidders' submissions and the VA’s establishment of the competitive range. The court found that REV failed to show that it was prejudiced as it could not establish that it had a greater than an insubstantial chance of securing an award had certain awardees been excluded from the bid process.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit disagreed with the lower court's decision, holding that REV had standing to challenge the VA's evaluation of rival bidders' submissions and the VA’s establishment of the competitive range. The court reasoned that REV had shown a substantial chance that it would have been added onto the T4NG contract if not for the alleged errors, thereby satisfying the requirements for standing. The court reversed the lower court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "REV, LLC v. US " on Justia Law

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In April 2008, the Department of the Navy awarded a contract to Strategic Technology Institute, Inc. (STI) to provide various aircraft engineering and support services. The contract incorporated Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 52.216-7, Allowable Cost and Payment, and FAR 52.242-4, Certification of Final Indirect Costs. STI was required to submit its cost rate proposals for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 by certain deadlines. STI did not submit these proposals until 2014, upon request by the government. After receiving these proposals, the government conducted audits and found that STI's proposals included approximately $1 million in unallowable costs. The government issued a final decision, demanding payment of unallowable costs, penalties, and interests.STI appealed to the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, arguing that the government's claim was barred under the six-year statute of limitations under the Contract Disputes Act. The Board rejected STI’s argument and held that the statute of limitations on any government claim for disallowed costs does not begin until the contractor submits the incurred cost proposal and provides sufficient audit records.STI then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The court held that the event that started the clock for the statute of limitations is the submission of STI’s cost rate proposals in September 2014, not STI’s failure to timely submit the proposals. The court held that STI's liability for receiving overpayment was not fixed until STI submitted unallowable costs in the cost proposal. Therefore, the government’s claim could not have accrued until STI submitted its cost rate proposals. The court affirmed the decision of the Board. View "STRATEGIC TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE, INC. v. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE " on Justia Law

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In this case, Nova Group/Tutor-Saliba (“NTS”) was awarded a construction contract by the United States Department of the Navy to build a new aircraft carrier maintenance pier at a naval base. The contract required NTS to demolish an old pier, design and build a replacement pier, and construct a new structure known as the Mole Quaywall, which would be designed by the government. During construction, NTS encountered unexpected subsurface soil conditions that complicated and increased the cost of the project. NTS sought additional compensation from the government alleging differing site conditions.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the United States Court of Federal Claims which had denied NTS's claim for additional compensation. The Court of Federal Claims found that NTS had not established a Type I differing site condition because the contract documents disclosed that NTS would encounter unpredictable subsurface conditions and possible obstructions. It also found that NTS had failed to prove a Type II differing site condition, as it had not demonstrated that any of the potential causes for hard driving were unknown or unusual in the region or materially different from comparable work. The Court of Appeals agreed with these findings and also ruled that the parol evidence rule had not been violated as NTS claimed. The Court of Appeals found that the parol evidence rule does not prevent a party from presenting evidence that a recital of fact in an integrated agreement may be untrue, and the challenged evidence was not introduced to modify any term of the contract. Therefore, the appeal by NTS was denied and the decision of the Court of Federal Claims was affirmed. View "NOVA GROUP/TUTOR-SALIBA v. US " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court judge dismissing the underlying declaratory judgment complaint in this declaratory judgment action regarding the scope of the Department of Housing and Community Development's (DHCD) authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 121B, 7A, holding that dismissal was warranted.Plaintiffs - location housing authorities (LHAs) of various cities and towns, current and former executive directors of LHAs and others - sought a judgment declaring that DHCD exceeded its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 121B, 7A by promulgating guidelines that govern contracts between an LHA and its executive director and making compliance with the guidelines a requirement to obtain contractual approval from DHCD. A superior court judge allowed DHCD's motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that LHAs have authority to hire executive directors and "determine their qualifications, duties, and compensation, under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 121B, 7. View "Fairhaven Housing Authority v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Stronghold and the city entered into a 2015 contract to renovate the Monterey Conference Center. Before filing a lawsuit asserting a claim for money or damages against a public entity, the Government Claims Act (Gov. Code 810) requires that a claim be presented to the entity. Without first presenting a claim to the city, Stronghold filed suit seeking declaratory relief regarding the interpretation of the contract, and asserting that the Act was inapplicable.Stronghold presented three claims to the city in 2017-2019, based on its refusal to approve change orders necessitated by purportedly excusable delays. Stronghold filed a fourth amended complaint, alleging breach of contract. The court granted the city summary judgment, reasoning that the declaratory relief cause of action in the initial complaint was, in essence, a claim for money or damages and that all claims in the operative complaint “lack merit” because Stronghold failed to timely present a claim to the city before filing suit.The court of appeal reversed. The notice requirement does not apply to an action seeking purely declaratory relief. A declaratory relief action seeking interpretation of a contract is not a claim for money or damages, even if the judicial interpretation sought may later be the basis for a separate claim for money or damages which would trigger the claim presentation requirement. View "Stronghold Engineering, Inc. v. City of Monterey" on Justia Law

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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

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Westlands Water District (Westlands) appeals from a judgment of dismissal entered in a validation action filed pursuant to, inter alia, Code of Civil Procedure section 860 et seq. The subject matter was an anticipated contract between Westlands and the United States concerning the ongoing delivery of federal reclamation project water and repayment of certain financial obligations. The superior court declined to grant relief and ultimately dismissed Westlands’ validation action for multiple reasons. Most pertinently, the draft was found to be materially deficient in its failure to specify Westlands’ financial obligations under the anticipated contract.   The Fifth Appellate District affirmed the judgment. The court explained that the “Repayment Obligation” cannot be determined without knowing the “Existing Capital Obligation” and/or the contents of exhibit D. The “Existing Capital Obligation” cannot be determined without knowing the contents of exhibit D. In the absence of exhibit D, both terms are useless for purposes of determining Westlands’ financial obligations, i.e., “the scope of the duty and the limits of performance.” Moreover, as Westlands admitted during the motion proceedings, exhibit D was not merely omitted from the draft attached to the complaint. Despite being expressly incorporated into the contract by reference, exhibit D did not exist when the complaint and the December 2019 motion were filed. Even when the motion was heard, there was only meager parol evidence of estimates ranging from $200 million to $362 million. Given the circumstances, the court agreed the contract presented for validation was missing an essential term and, therefore uncertain, i.e., not sufficiently definite to be binding and enforceable. View "Westlands Water Dist. v. All Persons Interested" on Justia Law

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The City and County of San Francisco (the City) owns and operates San Francisco International Airport (SFO or the Airport). Airlines for America (A4A) represents airlines that contract with the City to use SFO. In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City enacted the Healthy Airport Ordinance (HAO), requiring the airlines that use SFO to provide employees with certain health insurance benefits. A4A filed this action in the Northern District of California, alleging that the City, in enacting the HAO, acted as a government regulator and not a market participant, and therefore the HAO is preempted by multiple federal statutes. The district court agreed to the parties’ suggestion to bifurcate the case to first address the City’s market participation defense. The district court held that the City was a market participant and granted its motion for summary judgment. A4A appealed.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The court concluded that two civil penalty provisions of the HAO carry the force of law and thus render the City a regulator rather than a market participant. The court wrote that because these civil penalty provisions result in the City acting as a regulator, it need not determine whether the City otherwise would be a regulator under the Cardinal Towing two-part test set forth in LAX, 873 F.3d at 1080 View "AIRLINES FOR AMERICA V. CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court judge granting summary judgment in favor of BSC Companies, Inc., BSC Group, Inc., and the companies' president (collectively, BSC) in this action brought by BSC's former employees alleging claims under the Prevailing Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 26-27H, holding that the contracts at issue were not governed by the Act, and BSC was not required to pay its employees a prevailing wage pursuant to the contracts.At issue were two professional engineering services contracts awarded by the Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to BSC. The contracts were not competitively bid and were not awarded to the lowest bidder, unlike contracts for public works construction projects governed by the Act. Further, the contracts did not specify that BSC's employees would be paid at least a prevailing wage determined by the Department of Labor Standards. The superior court judge granted summary judgment to BSC. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs were not entitled to a prevailing wage for their work under the professional services contracts. View "Metcalf v. BSC Group, Inc." on Justia Law