Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries
Adam Robinson v. DHS Office of Inspector General
Plaintiff sought judicial review of the Merit Systems Protection Board’s (MSPB) final decision affirming his removal from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) but filed his complaint in the district court one day after the statutory deadline prescribed in 5 U.S.C. Section 7703(b)(2). The district court dismissed his complaint as untimely. The district court held in the alternative that Plaintiff had not presented facts to warrant equitable tolling. The DC Circuit affirmed the dismissal on the alternative ground that Robinson failed to show that he was entitled to equitable tolling. The court explained that in light of the combined weight of intervening United States Supreme Court authority and the decisions of the other circuits interpreting section 7703(b)(2) as a non-jurisdictional claims-processing rule since King, the court now holds that section 7703(b)(2)’s thirty-day filing deadline is a non-jurisdictional claims-processing rule. As such, the record shows that Plaintiff chose to mail his complaint by standard mail four days before the statutory filing deadline and assumed the risk his complaint would arrive late. On these facts, Plaintiff’s decision to use standard mail is a 14 “garden variety claim of excusable neglect” insufficient to warrant equitable tolling. View "Adam Robinson v. DHS Office of Inspector General" on Justia Law
Eagle Rock Timber, Inc. v. Teton County
After submitting the winning bid, Eagle Rock Timber, Inc. (“Eagle Rock”), contracted with Teton County, Idaho to reconstruct a stretch of road known as “Chapin Lane.” During the course of the project, Eagle Rock claimed it discovered unsuitable base material under portions of the road. Eagle Rock maintained that Teton County’s agent, Darryl Johnson, directed Eagle Rock to remove the material and said that the county would “make it right.” However, when Eagle Rock attempted to recover an amount in excess of the original Contract Price, Teton County denied Eagle Rock’s request, stating that it had not authorized any changes to the Contract. When the parties could not resolve this dispute over the amount owed, Eagle Rock filed suit. Teton County twice moved for summary judgment. The district court denied the first motion, concluding that genuine issues of material fact existed concerning whether Johnson orally waived the writing requirement and whether Johnson had authorized Eagle Rock to remove the unsuitable base material, which could support an equitable remedy. In the County's second motion, the district court granted it, ruling that since Teton County’s agent did not have actual or apparent authority to bind Teton County, the claims asserted by Eagle Rock failed as a matter of law. Eagle Rock appealed, asserting that the district court erred because there were still genuine issues of material fact that should be resolved by a jury. Further, Eagle Rock claimed the district court’s refusal to grant leave to amend its complaint to assert a separate cause of action against Johnson personally was an abuse of discretion. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and denial of leave to amend. However, the Court affirmed the district court in not considering the ratification issue because it was beyond the scope of the pleadings at the time it was presented. View "Eagle Rock Timber, Inc. v. Teton County" on Justia Law
City of League City v. Jimmy Changas, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that governmental immunity does not protect a city against a breach of contract claim because the city was acting in its proprietary capacity when it entered into the contract, holding that the court of appeals did not err.In this dispute involving an "Economic Development Incentives Grant Agreement" under Tex. Loc. Gov't Code 373.002(b) Plaintiff alleged that the City of League City breached its agreement to reimburse Plaintiff for certain fees and costs in connection with Plaintiff's construction of a restaurant facility in the City. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction arguing that governmental immunity barred the claim. The trial court denied the plea. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that governmental immunity did not apply to the claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals correctly determined that the City engaged in a proprietary function when it entered into the agreement with Plaintiff. View "City of League City v. Jimmy Changas, Inc." on Justia Law
Huntington Ingalls v. DOWCP
Plaintiff worked at Huntington Ingalls Incorporated as a sheet-metal mechanic. After leaving the company, Plaintiff complained of hearing loss. Plaintiff selected and met with an audiologist. An administrative law judge denied Plaintiff’s Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). Plaintiff appealed this decision to the Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board. The Board reversed its initial decision on whether Plaintiff could choose his own audiologist. The Company timely petitioned for review. The question is whether audiologists are “physicians” under Section 907(b) of LHWCA. The Fifth Circuit denied the Company’s petition for review. The court reasoned that based on the education they receive and the role that they play in identifying and treating hearing disorders, audiologists can fairly be described as “skilled in the art of healing.” However, audiologists are not themselves medical doctors. Their work complements that of a medical doctor. But, the court wrote, Optometrists, despite lacking a medical degree, are able to administer and interpret vision tests. And based on the results of those tests, optometrists can prescribe the appropriate corrective lenses that someone with impaired vision can use to bolster his or her ability to see. Audiologists are similarly able to administer hearing tests, evaluate the resulting audiograms, and then use that information to fit a patient with hearing aids that are appropriately calibrated to the individual’s level of auditory impairment. Because the plain meaning of the regulation includes audiologists, and because that regulation is entitled to Chevron deference, audiologists are included in Section 907(b) of the LHWCA’s use of the word “physician.” View "Huntington Ingalls v. DOWCP" on Justia Law
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
United States ex rel. Schutte v. Supervalu Inc.
Petitioners sued retail pharmacies under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729, which permits private parties to bring lawsuits in the name of the United States against those who they believe have defrauded the federal government and imposes liability on anyone who “knowingly” submits a “false” claim to the government. Petitioners claim that the pharmacies defrauded Medicaid and Medicare by offering pharmacy discount programs to their customers while reporting their higher retail prices, rather than their discounted prices, as their “usual and customary” charge for reimbursement. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the pharmacies could not have acted “knowingly” if their actions were consistent with an objectively reasonable interpretation of the phrase “usual and customary.”The Supreme Court vacated. The FCA’s scienter element refers to a defendant’s knowledge and subjective beliefs—not to what an objectively reasonable person may have known or believed. The FCA’s three-part definition of the term “knowingly” largely tracks the traditional common-law scienter requirement for claims of fraud: Actual knowledge, deliberate ignorance, or recklessness will suffice. Even though the phrase “usual and customary” may be ambiguous on its face, such facial ambiguity alone is not sufficient to preclude a finding that the pharmacies knew their claims were false. View "United States ex rel. Schutte v. Supervalu Inc." on Justia Law
M.R. Pittman Group, LLC v. United States
The Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) solicited a contract for the repair of pumps in Louisiana. The webpage linking to the solicitation noted, “[t]his is a 100% Small Business Set Aside procurement" and cited NAICS Code: 811310--the official standard used to determine whether a business is a “small business concern.” The solicitation itself did not refer to Code 811310 but incorporated by reference Federal Acquisition Regulation 52.219-6, “Notice Of Total Small Business Set-Aside.” Pittman submitted the lowest bid. USACE requested that Pittman update its NAICS code status. Pittman did not qualify as a small business under Code 811310 and was ineligible for the award.Pittman filed a bid protest, arguing that the omission of Code 811310 meant that the solicitation could not be treated as a set-aside for small business concerns. The Government Accountability Office dismissed the protest. At a hearing, the parties discussed the "Blue & Gold" rule: A party who has the opportunity to object to the terms of a government solicitation containing a patent error and fails to do so before the close of the bidding process waives its ability to raise the same objection subsequently in a bid protest action. The court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Blue & Gold. The Federal Circuit affirmed. While waiver under Blue & Gold does not deprive the Claims Court of subject matter jurisdiction, the error was harmless because Pittman waived its objection. View "M.R. Pittman Group, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law
Brown v. Oil City, et al.
By 2011, due to weathering and aging, the condition of the concrete stairs leading to the entrance of the Oil City Library (the “library”) had significantly declined. Oil City contracted with Appellants Harold Best and Struxures, LLC, to develop plans for the reconstruction of the stairs and to oversee the implementation of those design plans. The actual reconstruction work was performed by Appellant Fred Burns, Inc., pursuant to a contract with Oil City (appellants collectively referred to as “Contractors”). Contractors finished performing installation work on the stairs by the end of 2011. In early 2012, Oil City began to receive reports about imperfections in the concrete surface, which also began to degrade. In September 2013, Oil City informed Burns of what it considered to be its defective workmanship in creating the dangerous condition of the stairs. Between February 28, 2012 and November 23, 2015, the condition of the stairs continued to worsen; however, neither Oil City nor Contractors made any efforts to repair the stairs, or to warn the public about their dangerous condition. In 2015, Appellee David Brown (“Brown”) and his wife Kathryn exited the library and began to walk down the concrete stairs. While doing so, Kathryn tripped on one of the deteriorated sections, which caused her to fall and strike her head, suffering a traumatic head injury. Tragically, this injury claimed her life six days later. Brown, in his individual capacity and as the executor of his wife’s estate, commenced a wrongful death suit, asserting negligence claims against Oil City, as owner of the library, as well as Contractors who performed the work on the stairs pursuant to their contract with Oil City. The issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was whether Section 385 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts imposed liability on a contractor to a third party whenever the contractor, during the course of his work for a possessor of land, creates a dangerous condition on the land that injures the third party, even though, at the time of the injury, the contractor was no longer in possession of the land, and the possessor was aware of the dangerous condition. To this, the Court concluded, as did the Commonwealth Court below, that a contractor may be subjected to liability under Section 385 in such circumstances. View "Brown v. Oil City, et al." on Justia Law
Burns Concrete, Inc. v. Teton County
This appeal concerned a district court’s award of attorney fees to Burns Concrete, Inc., and Burns Holdings, LLC (collectively “Burns”). After extensive litigation, Burns prevailed on the merits of its claims and judgment was entered against Teton County, Idaho. The district court awarded Burns attorney fees pursuant to the parties’ development agreement. Both Burns and Teton County appealed, arguing the district court abused its discretion in awarding the fees. Burns argued the district court should have awarded more fees, while Teton County argued it should have denied the fees or awarded less fees. Finding no reversible error in the district court's award, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Burns Concrete, Inc. v. Teton County" 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