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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

While you might not be able to fight City Hall, you can fight your CPARS rating. In a short opinion published last week, the ASBCA confirmed it has jurisdiction to annul an inaccurate and unfair government evaluation of a contractor’s performance. Cameron Bell Corporation d/b/a Government Solutions Group, ASBCA No. 61856 (May 1, 2019).  Though the ASBCA cannot require the government to issue a specific rating, it can remand the matter to the contracting officer with instructions to redo the evaluation ─ a perhaps imperfect, yet still potent form of relief available to contractors who believe the government has improperly rated their contract performance.
Continue Reading ASBCA Confirms Contractors May Challenge Unfavorable CPARS Ratings

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

On February 22, 2018, the General Services Administration (GSA) issued a Final Rule to address common commercial supplier agreement terms that it contends are inconsistent with federal law. The purpose of this rule is to streamline negotiations over commercial supplier agreements (“CSAs”), end-user license agreements (“EULAs”), Terms of Sale (“TOSs”) or similar sets of standard terms and conditions. Significantly, the rule reverses several controversial provisions from the Proposed Rule and an earlier class deviation by reverting the order of precedence and eliminating the burdensome requirement of providing the full text of all provisions. Less controversially, but nonetheless important, the Final Rule also formalizes GSA’s longstanding position that certain terms and conditions are unenforceable under federal law.

Continue Reading GSA Issues Final Rule Governing Negotiations of Common Commercial Terms

Earlier this Fall, the Armed Service Board of Contract Appeals dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction because the certified claim lacked a proper signature. Appeal of NileCo General Contracting LLC, ASBCA No. 60912 (Sept. 22, 2017). This simple oversight proved decisive. Although this case does not chart a new course in Contract Disputes Act (CDA) jurisprudence, it serves as a helpful reminder that the Board’s jurisdiction hinges on compliance with basic requirements. Failing to meet any of those requirements could have significant consequences.
Continue Reading Government Contracts 101 Reminder: Certified Claims Must Include a “Signature”

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