Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government Contracts
Westlands Water Dist. v. All Persons Interested
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
ECC International Constructors, LLC v. Secretary of the Army
In 2010, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded ECCI a contract to design and build a military compound in Afghanistan. In 2014, ECCI sought compensation for construction delays allegedly attributable to the government. After six years of unsuccessful settlement discussions, followed by a nine-day hearing before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, the government—three months after the hearing—successfully moved to dismiss ECCI’s claim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction for failure to state a “sum certain.”The Federal Circuit reversed. The requirement, established by the Federal Acquisition Regulation, that claims submitted under the Contract Disputes Act (CDA), 41 U.S.C. 7101–7109, state a “sum certain”—i.e., specify the precise dollar amount sought as relief—is not jurisdictional and is subject to forfeiture. The court noted the Supreme Court’s direction to “police this jurisdictional line.” Congress did not clearly state that a claim submitted under the CDA must include a sum certain: the sum-certain requirement is not even in the CDA itself. A claim that does not state a sum certain has not sufficiently pleaded the elements of a claim under the CDA and may be denied by the contracting officer and dismissed on appeal for failure to state a claim. If a party challenges a deficient sum certain after litigation has far progressed, however, that defense may be deemed forfeited. View "ECC International Constructors, LLC v. Secretary of the Army" on Justia Law
R&D Master Enterprises, Inc. v. Financial Oversight & Management Bd. for P.R.
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing this lawsuit against the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico (FOMB) and its executive director challenging the FOMB's alleged failure to review a sale agreement on untimeliness grounds, holding that the dismissal was proper, albeit on standing grounds.Appellants - several Puerto Rico corporations and individuals - brought this action claiming that the FOMB's alleged failure to review a $384 million loan sale agreement between the Economic Development Bank for Puerto Rico (BDE) and a private investment company violated their constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, and a statutory violation under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability act . The district court granted the FOMB's motion to dismiss, concluding that the claims were time-barred. The First Circuit affirmed but on different grounds, holding that Appellants lacked standing because their complaint failed to allege that the FOMB's inaction caused their claimed injury. View "R&D Master Enterprises, Inc. v. Financial Oversight & Management Bd. for P.R." on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Polansky v. Executive Health Resources, Inc.
The False Claims Act (FCA) imposes civil liability on those who present false or fraudulent claims for payment to the federal government, 31 U.S.C. 3729–3733, and authorizes private parties (relators) to bring “qui tam actions” in the name of the government. A relator may receive up to 30% of any recovery. The relator must file his complaint under seal and serve a copy and supporting evidence on the government, which has 60 days to decide whether to intervene. As a “real party in interest,” the government can intervene after the seal period ends, if it shows good cause.Polansky filed an FCA action alleging Medicare fraud. The government declined to intervene during the seal period. After years of discovery, the government decided that the burdens of the suit outweighed its potential value, and moved under section 3730(c)(2)(A) (Subparagraph (2)(A)), which provides that the government may dismiss the action notwithstanding the objections of the relator if the relator received notice and an opportunity for a hearing.The Third Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The government may move to dismiss an FCA action whenever it has intervened, whether during the seal period or later. It may not move to dismiss if it has never intervened. A successful motion to intervene turns the movant into a party; it can assume primary responsibility for the case’s prosecution, which triggers the Subparagraph (2)(A) right to dismiss, consistent with the FCA’s government-centered purposes. The government’s motion to dismiss will satisfy FRCP 41 in all but exceptional cases. The government gave good grounds for believing that this suit would not vindicate its interests. Absent extraordinary circumstances, that showing suffices for the government to prevail. View "United States ex rel. Polansky v. Executive Health Resources, Inc." on Justia Law
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
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
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
CACI, Inc.-Federal v. United States
The Army issued a solicitation for a Next Generation Load Device Medium to encrypt and decrypt sensitive information on the battlefield, stating that in order to be eligible for the award Offerors must receive a minimum of acceptable rating in each Technical Subfactor. CACI's initial proposal received a Technical/Risk Rating of unacceptable because it failed to provide for two-factor authentication for all modes of operation as required by the solicitation. Nonetheless, CACI’s proposal was included in the competitive range. CACI was allowed to submit a final proposal. The Army assigned three deficiencies to CACI’s proposal related to its two-factor authentication proposal, making CACI ineligible for the award. The Army awarded the contract to others. CACI filed a bid protest challenging the technical deficiencies.The Claims Court dismissed CACI’s complaint for lack of standing under a new theory not raised before the contracting officer–that CACI had an organizational conflict of interest that could not be waived or mitigated, which made CACI ineligible for the award. Alternatively, the Claims Court found that, even if CACI had standing, the Army acted reasonably in its assessment of CACI’s proposal. The Federal Circuit held that the Claims Court erred in treating the statutory standing issue as jurisdictional but affirmed on the merits. View "CACI, Inc.-Federal v. United States" on Justia Law