Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

by
KBR contracted with the government to provide trailers to house coalition personnel at military camps in Iraq. KBR claimed that the government breached the contract by failing to provide “force protection” to the trucks delivering the trailers to the military camps. KBR sought to recover payments made to its subcontractor, Kuwaiti, for costs caused by the government’s alleged breach. The administrative contracting officer in large part denied the claim. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals found that KBR was not entitled to any additional recovery. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Board properly determined that KBR’s costs had not been shown to be reasonable. The court did not reach the question of whether the government breached the “force protection” provision of the contract. The burden is on the contractor to establish the reasonableness of its costs; there is no presumption of reasonableness nor any presumption that a contractor is entitled to reimbursement “simply because it incurred . . . costs.” View "Kellogg Brown and Root Services, Inc. v. Secretary of the Army" on Justia Law

by
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

by
Woodrock, Inc. appealed the grant of summary judgment dismissing its negligence and other claims against McKenzie County, North Dakota. In September 2018, Woodrock sued the County for violations of N.D.C.C. ch. 48-01.2 and negligence. Woodrock alleged the County hired Edwards Gravel & Trucking, LLC to supply aggregate to aggregate stockpiles, the County did not obtain a payment bond from Edwards Gravel, Woodrock furnished materials for use in the project, and Edwards Gravel did not pay Woodrock for the materials. Woodrock claimed that the County violated N.D.C.C. section 48-01.2-10 and was negligent by failing to obtain a bond from Edwards Gravel and that the County was liable to the subcontractors and material suppliers who worked on the project. Woodrock requested damages in the amount of $298,629.54. On appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court, Woodrick argued the district court erred in concluding a project to stockpile aggregate materials was not a public improvement and the bond requirement under N.D.C.C. 48-01.2-10 did not apply. The Supreme Court concluded supplying aggregate materials to stockpiles for general use in maintaining and repairing county roads did not constitute “construction of a public improvement.” Therefore, the Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Woodrock, Inc. et al. v. McKenzie Cty." on Justia Law

by
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) issued a solicitation for the "Deweyville" project, consisting of reconstructing approximately 12 miles of road running through Alaska's Tongass National Forest. The FHA provided a Waste Site Report, which identified sites that a contractor could use to dispose of waste materials and provided access to the “Categorical Exclusion,” prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. 4321–70.2, which stated that waste sites are expected to be sourced at existing quarries identified in the Waste Site Report. The solicitation placed responsibility for licenses and permits on the contractor, including Clean Water Act permits, 33 U.S.C. 1344, and purchasing wetland mitigation credits. Kiewit’s successful bid included approximately $1,000,000 for wetland mitigation fees. Kiewit requested an equitable adjustment for the cost of purchasing mitigation credits for the wetlands it encountered at government-designated waste sites. The Claims Court upheld the denial of that request.The Federal Circuit reversed. The contract documents dictate that, unless a contractor decided to expand the government-designated waste sites, “[n]o further analysis of the environmental impacts of” such sites would be necessary. That the FHA, during the NEPA process, had already assessed the project’s effects on wetlands bolstered Kiewit’s reasonable conclusion that it would not need to conduct further wetlands analysis at designated waste disposal areas. Kiewit reasonably interpreted the documents to mean what they say—that no further environmental impacts analysis would be required if a contractor chose to dispose of waste at government-designated sites. The FHA effected a constructive contract change when it required Kiewit to perform wetland delineation at those sites. View "Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court vacating and modifying the orders of the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) reducing standard-offer contract rates and maximum contract lengths for small solar qualifying facilities (QFs), holding that the district court did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err in determining that the PSC's calculation of the avoided-cost rate was arbitrary and unlawful; and (2) the district court did not err in concluding that the PSC arbitrarily and unreasonably calculated QF capacity contribution values and arbitrarily and unreasonably reduced maximum-length QF-1 contracts to fifteen years. View "Vote Solar v. Montana Department of Public Service Regulation" on Justia Law

by
The False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729–3733, authorizes relators to file qui tam suits on behalf of the U.S. government. If such an action is successful, the relator receives part of the recovery. The Act prohibits presenting to a federal healthcare program a claim for payment that violates the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b(b), Venari formed 11 daughter companies, each for the purpose of prosecuting a separate qui tam action, alleging essentially identical violations of the False Claims Act by pharmaceutical companies. CIMZNHCA, a Venari company, filed suit alleging illegal kickbacks to physicians for prescribing Cimzia to treat Crohn’s disease in patients who received federal healthcare benefits. The government did not exercise its right “to intervene and proceed” as the plaintiff but moved to dismiss the action, representing that it had investigated the Venari claims and found them to lack merit. The court denied that motion, finding the government’s general evaluation of the Venari claims insufficient as to CIMZNHCA and that the decision to dismiss was “arbitrary and capricious.”The Seventh Circuit reversed with instructions to dismiss, construing the government’s motion as a motion to both intervene and dismiss. By treating the government as seeking to intervene, a court can apply Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41, which provides: “The Government may dismiss the action” without the relator’s consent if the relator receives notice and opportunity to be heard. View "United States v. UCB, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Congress directed each state to establish an online exchange through which insurers may sell health plans if the plans meet certain requirements. One requirement is that insurers must reduce the “cost-sharing” burdens—such as the burdens of making co-payments and meeting deductibles—of certain customers. When insurers meet that requirement, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall reimburse them for those cost-sharing reductions, 42 U.S.C. 18071(c)(3)(A). In October 2017, the Secretary stopped making reimbursement payments, due to determinations that such payments were not within the congressional appropriation that the Secretary had, until then, invoked to pay the reimbursements. Sanford, a seller of insurance through the North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa exchanges, and Montana Health, a seller through the Montana and Idaho exchanges, sued.The trial courts granted the insurers summary judgment, reasoning that the ACA reimbursement provision is “money-mandating” and that the government is liable for damages for its failure to make reimbursements for the 2017 reductions. The court did not reach the contract claim in either case. The Federal Circuit affirmed, citing the Supreme Court’s 2020 “Maine Community,” addressing a different payment-obligation ACA provision. Maine Community indicates that the cost-sharing-reduction reimbursement provision imposes an unambiguous obligation on the government to pay money; that obligation is enforceable in the Claims Court under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1). View "Sanford Health Plan v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), 124 Stat. 119, directed each state to establish an online exchange through which insurers may sell health plans that meet certain requirements. Insurers must reduce the “cost-sharing” burdens, such as co-payments and deductibles, of certain customers. When insurers meet that requirement, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) shall reimburse them for the required cost-sharing reductions, 42 U.S.C. 18071(c)(3)(A). In October 2017, the Secretary stopped making reimbursement payments, due to determinations that such payments were not within the congressional appropriation that the Secretary had invoked to pay the reimbursements. Insurers sued.The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the insurers on liability, reasoning that the ACA reimbursement provision is “money-mandating” and that the government is liable for damages. The court cited the Supreme Court’s 2020 “Maine Community,” addressing a different ACA payment-obligation as indicating that the cost-sharing-reduction reimbursement provision imposes an unambiguous obligation on the government to pay money; that obligation is enforceable through a damages action under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1). The court remanded the issue of damages. The government is not entitled to a reduction in damages with respect to cost-sharing reductions not paid in 2017. As to 2018, the Claims Court must reduce the insurers’ damages by the amount of additional premium tax credit payments that each insurer received as a result of the government’s termination of cost-sharing reduction payments. View "Community Health Choice, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Agility was awarded a contract for support of staging area operations (PCO Contract). Under the Contract, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) could issue individual task orders to Agility. Funds obligated under the contract were sourced from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI). The CPA controlled the DFI, which consisted of Iraqi money. The Contract provided that “[n]o funds, appropriated or other, of any Coalition country are or will be obligated under this contract” and recognize[d] that a transfer of authority from the CPA to the interim Iraqi Governing Council (IIG) would occur in June 2004. The contracting parties were the CPA and Agility. The Contract expressly preserved the right of the United States to assert claims against Agility. A Contract amendment provided that any claim Agility had after the transfer to IIG could not be brought before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals but could only be brought in an Iraqi court. The U.S. Army was designated as the administrator of the PCO contract.In 2010, following an audit of the PCO Contract, the Army contracting officer sent demand letters for overpayments allegedly made under 12 task orders. The Claims Court upheld the offsets, holding that the United States (rather than Iraq) was owed the alleged overpayment and the United States was authorized to offset the alleged overpayment. The Federal Circuit in part and vacated in part. The Claims Court did not evaluate the merits of the offset determination nor the procedures required by law. View "Agility Public Warehousing Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Boeing permissibly changed cost accounting practices for its Defense contracts simultaneously. Some changes raised the government's costs; others lowered those costs. The Defense Contract Management Agency, invoking Federal Acquisition Regulation 30.606, determined the amount of the cost-increasing changes and demanded that Boeing pay that amount plus interest. Boeing did so, then sued, asserting that the government, in following FAR 30.606, committed a breach of contract and effected an illegal exaction. Boeing argued that FAR 30.606 is contrary to 41 U.S.C. 1503(b), which requires that simultaneously adopted cost-increasing and cost-lowering accounting changes be considered together and that, by following FAR 30.606’s command to disregard the cost-lowering changes, the government unlawfully charged it too much. The trial court held that Boeing had waived its breach of contract claim by failing to object to FAR 30.606 before entering into the contracts and that it lacked jurisdiction to consider Boeing’s illegal exaction claim, which was not based on a “money-mandating” statute.The Federal Circuit reversed. A pre-award objection by Boeing would have been futile, as the government concededly could not lawfully have declared FAR 30.606 inapplicable in entering into the contract. A contractor is not required to pursue judicial relief before the award to avoid waiver. To establish Tucker Act jurisdiction for an illegal exaction claim, a party that has paid money over to the government and seeks its return must make a non-frivolous allegation that the government, in obtaining the money, has violated the Constitution, a statute, or a regulation. View "Boeing Co. v. United States" on Justia Law