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The Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”) is probably not the first law that comes to mind when a government contractor is named as a defendant in a personal injury or wrongful death suit. But a recent decision from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims illustrates why the CDA ─ and its six-year statute of limitations ─ should be top of mind for any contractor that is sued in tort and wants the government to take over its defense or to reimburse its uninsured legal fees or settlement/judgment costs. The Court’s decision, which is the latest opinion in a long-running dispute, is an important reminder for contractors that are indemnified by the government for liabilities to third persons, including under clauses such as FAR 52.228-7, Insurance ─ Liability to Third Persons (MAR. 1996) and FAR 52.250-1, Indemnification under Public Law 85-804 (APR. 1984).

Continue Reading Time Stops for No One: COFC Reminds Indemnified Contractors to Mind the CDA Statute of Limitations

The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“CBCA” or “Board”) recently published a decision on accrual of government claims for overpayment under the Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”). In the case, United Liquid Gas Co. d/b/a United Pacific Energy v. Gen. Servs. Admin., CBCA 5846, United Pacific Energy (“UPE”) appeals a General Services Administration (“GSA”) final decision seeking overpayments arising under four task orders that were issued under UPE’s GSA schedule contract to provide propane gas.

In its motion for partial summary relief, UPE argued that GSA’s claims for some of those overpayments were time-barred by the CDA’s six-year statute of limitations. The Board sided with UPE, finding that the discrete overpayment claims at issue in the motion accrued when the Government overpaid each corresponding invoice — each of which occurred more than six years before GSA issued its final decision. In doing so, the Board rejected GSA’s argument that the claims did not accrue until the Government issued an audit report discussing the overpayment issue, which occurred less than six years before GSA issued its final decision.

This decision is important because it adds to the limited number of opinions that the Board has published on claim accrual and reinforces established precedent. Our takeaways are below.


Continue Reading CBCA Issues Rare Decision Addressing Government Claim Accrual

On August 17, 2018, the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“Board” or “CBCA”) published in the Federal Register its amended Rules of Procedure governing appeals under the Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”).  These amended rules: simplify and modernize access to the Board, clarify obligations under certain prior rules, and increase conformity between its rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Federal Rules”).  Furthermore, as reflected in the proposed changes issued in the Federal Register in March 2018, the amended rules are intended to “allow the Board to adopt and apply case law applying the relevant Federal Rules, as well as any future amendments to those Federal Rules, without revising the Board’s rules again.”

Our key takeaways are provided below, and a comparison of the Board’s prior and current rules can be found here.


Continue Reading CBCA Rules Overhaul Finalized: Effective September 17, 2018

[Update: The CBCA’s amended rules will become effective on September 17, 2018.  Click here for additional information and our analysis.]  

On March 28, 2018, the Federal Register published proposed changes to the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals’ (“Board”) Rules of Procedure regarding appeals under the Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”).  These proposed rules indicate that the Board wishes to: simplify and modernize access to the Board, clarify certain rules, and increase conformity between its rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Federal Rules”).  Our key takeaways are below, and a side-by-side comparison between the Board’s current and proposed rules can be found here.  Interested parties may submit comments by May 29, 2018.
Continue Reading CBCA Proposes Changes to its Rules

Over the last year, we have reported extensively on various government contract decisions regarding contract releases. In Sylvan B. Orr v. Department of Agriculture, CBCA 5299 (Sep. 29, 2017), the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“CBCA” or “Board”) published yet another notable opinion on this topic. This decision demonstrates why it is critical to reserve your rights regarding potential claims sparked by conduct that occurs before a release of claims provision is signed—even when the additional costs at issue are not incurred until after the release is executed.

Continue Reading Left Holding the Bag: Release Provision Precludes Recovery for Costs Incurred Post-Release

By Alex L. Sarria and Marianne F. Kies

The recent settlement of a noteworthy “contractor-on-the-battlefield” case should serve as a cautionary tale to government contractors that perform high-risk work in support of military operations. In Suleiman Abdullah Salim v. James E. Mitchell and John Jessen, No. CV-15-0286, three foreign plaintiffs filed Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”) claims against American contractors who allegedly “designed, implemented, and personally administered” the CIA’s post-9/11 “enhanced interrogation” program.

The district court recently issued an opinion denying the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the basis of the Political Question Doctrine and Derivative Sovereign Immunity. Less than two weeks later, the contractors agreed to settle the case for an undisclosed amount. The Salim case illustrates why government contractors must proactively assess and mitigate potential tort liabilities before entering into high-risk federal contracts, such as contracts for military logistics support, private security, and intelligence-support services.


Continue Reading CIA Torture Case Is A Cautionary Tale for Contractors on The Battlefield

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”) released on August 15, 2017 its proposed update to Special Publication (“SP”) 800-53. NIST SP 800-53, which was last revised in 2014, provides information security standards and guidelines, including baseline control requirements, for implementation on federal information systems under the Federal Information Systems Management Act of 2002 (“FISMA”). The revised version will still apply only to federal systems when finalized, but one of the stated objectives of the revised version is to make the cybersecurity and privacy standards and guidelines accessible to non-federal and private sector organizations for voluntary use on their systems. 
Continue Reading NIST Releases Fifth Revision of Special Publication 800-53

On August 1, 2017, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation (fact sheet) that would establish minimum cybersecurity standards for Internet of Things (“IoT”) devices sold to the U.S. Government. As Internet-connected devices become increasingly ubiquitous and susceptible to evolving and complex cyber threats, the proposed bill attempts to safeguard the security of executive agencies’ IoT devices by directing executive agencies to include specified clauses in contracts for the acquisition of Internet-connected devices.

The bill’s provisions leverage federal purchasing power to improve the security of IoT devices by requiring, among other things, IoT device, software, and firmware providers to certify compliance with specified security controls and requirements relating to vulnerability patching and notification, unless such contractors otherwise satisfy one of three waiver requirements.

The bill also directs the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to issue vulnerability disclosure guidance for government contractors; to amend federal statutes, specifically the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) and Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), to exempt certain “good faith” activities by cybersecurity researchers; and require all executive branch agencies to maintain an inventory of IoT devices active on their networks.

In addition, the statute would require the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) to issue guidelines to federal agencies consistent with the bill within 180 days of enactment.

The bill is summarized below.
Continue Reading A Summary of the Recently Introduced “Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017”

In recognition of the decennial anniversary of the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“Civilian Board”), we set out to determine notable trends in Civilian Board practice. Among other things, we identified a recent marked increase in the number of published decisions containing substantial discussions of discovery issues – more than half of the 24 decisions we identified and reviewed were issued in or after 2014. Through the publication of these decisions, the Board has provided important guidance to practitioners who may face the same (or similar) discovery issues in the future. We believe that this trend toward publication should generally result in greater predictability of outcomes in discovery disputes, and therefore should facilitate the resolution of potential discovery disputes more efficiently.

Earlier this month we published an article about this very topic in the Board of Contract Appeals Bar Journal. In our article, we focused our analysis primarily on three interesting decisions that pit statutory requirements related to the disclosure/production of information – the Privacy Act, the Inspector General Act, and the Freedom of Information Act – against the bounds of permissible discovery at the Civilian Board. These three decisions should provide a relatively high degree of outcome predictability in similar cases because of the rigid statutory requirements at issue.

In addition to the link to a PDF of the article above, the full text of the article is available below.
Continue Reading Predictability of Outcomes in Discovery Disputes at CBCA Improves During its First Ten Years

Earlier this month, the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals held that the U.S. Army breached its contractual obligation to provide physical security to its principal logistical support contractor, KBR, during the height of the Iraq War.  As a consequence, the Board found that KBR was entitled to be reimbursed for $44 million, plus interest, in costs that the Government had withheld from KBR relating to KBR’s and its subcontractors’ use of private security.  A copy of the opinion is available here.

Continue Reading ASBCA Issues Important Ruling in “Contractor-on-the-Battlefield” Dispute