Photo of Raymond Biagini

A distinguished counselor and litigator, Raymond Biagini has risen to national prominence in a number of high-profile tort cases, defending commercial and government contractors.  In particular, Mr. Biagini’s cases have established key legal principles in high profile “contractor on the battlefield” tort suits.  In 2002, Mr. Biagini authored the core provisions of the U.S. SAFETY Act which protects homeland security companies from enterprise-threatening tort suits arising out of terror attacks.  Mr. Biagini also has an extensive product liability prevention practice, counseling companies on mechanisms for reducing their tort exposure for products and services sold to government and commercial entities.

Government contractors should take note of the Fifth Circuit’s June 30, 2021 decision in Taylor Energy Co. v. Luttrell, which reaffirmed that contractors can enjoy a broad immunity from third-party liabilities—known as “derivative sovereign immunity,” or “Yearsley immunity.” Yearsley immunity emanates from Yearsley v. W.A. Ross Const. Co., an 80-year-old Supreme Court decision, which established that a contractor is immune when (i) it performed acts pursuant to a valid authorization of Congress and (ii) the contractor did not exceed the scope of that authority.

In Taylor Energy, the court dismissed claims arising out of an oil spill containment project in the Gulf of Mexico. The basic claim in the suit was that the contractor failed to effectively remediate and contain the oil. The Fifth Circuit found that the government: (i) provided direction to the contractor through the statement of work, in the form of “goals” and specific contract deliverables and deadlines; and (ii) periodically met with the contractor and reviewed and approved the work during performance. Based on these core facts, the court held the contractor was immune. The court held that it was irrelevant that the statement of work was “barebones,” and that the contractor—rather than the government—designed certain elements of the remediation effort. Following the Fourth Circuit’s 2018 decision in Cunningham v. GDIT, the Taylor Energy decision is another appellate court victory for contractors in the wake of the Supreme Court reaffirming Yearsley’s core principles in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez.


Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Reaffirms Breadth of Yearsley Immunity For Government Contractors

It’s often said that hard cases make bad law. In the realm of contractor-on-the-battlefield lawsuits, hard cases seem to be making no law—at least at the appellate level.

As detailed in an amicus brief submitted by Covington on behalf of KBR last week in CACI Premier Technology Inc. v. Al Shimari, No. 19-1328 (4th Cir.), time and again in suits against battlefield contractors, appellate courts have refused to provide definitive rulings regarding threshold, immunity-based defenses. This chronic appellate-court indecision has caused unnecessarily-protracted litigation, which in turn has imposed enormous burdens on the U.S. military; permitted expansive discovery intruding upon sensitive military judgments; and rolled up litigation costs totaling tens of millions of dollars—costs that, in many instances, are reimbursed by the government and thus ultimately borne by taxpayers. In other words, lack of timely appellate review has resulted in the very harms that immunity and related defenses are designed to prevent. Ironically, a major reason why these suits have inflicted such harm on these important federal interests is the United States’ own equivocal and inconsistent litigation positions.
Continue Reading Will an Unappealing Trend in Battlefield Contractor Suits Continue? Following A Pattern of Appellate Indecision—Fueled by the Government’s Equivocal Litigation Stances—the Fourth Circuit Mulls En Banc Review

Earlier this week, the Federal Circuit unanimously affirmed a 2017 ruling by the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“ASBCA”) that held the United States Government breached its contractual obligation to provide physical security to KBR and its subcontractors during the height of the Iraq War.  The decision awards KBR $44 million, plus interest, in private security costs that the Government unilaterally recovered under the LOGCAP III contract.

The Court’s decision is significant in two respects.  First, it confirms that the affirmative defense of prior material breach is not a Contract Disputes Act (CDA) “claim” that must be presented to a contracting officer under M. Maropakis Carpentry, Inc. v. United States, 609 F.3d 1323, 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2010).  Second, the decision makes clear that a contractor is entitled to CDA interest on its claim to recover amounts taken or held by the Government to enforce a government claim.  We discuss each of these important rulings below.
Continue Reading Federal Circuit Further Clarifies Maropakis and CDA Interest Rule in Significant “Contractor-on-the-Battlefield” Decision

In Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure, Inc. v. Department of the Interior, CBCA 5168 et al. (Feb. 27, 2019), the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“CBCA” or “Board”) recently reiterated that a contractor need not assert every conceivable legal theory of relief as soon as it encounters an unforeseen condition on a construction project. Rather, a contractor may later be able timely to assert additional claims under distinct theories based on operative facts learned during discovery. Apropos of recently celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, this case indicates that discovery may be the rainbow that leads a contractor to a bigger pot of gold, i.e., operative facts that permit assertion of more valuable claims based on alternative legal theories.

Continue Reading CBCA Recognizes that Discovery May Uncover New Claims

Last week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision to dismiss a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) lawsuit against General Dynamics Information Technology, Inc. (“GDIT”), on the basis that GDIT was immune from suit as a government contractor under what is known as the “Yearsley doctrine.”  Craig Cunningham v. GDIT, No. 17-1592 (Apr. 24, 2018). The decision follows a long line of Fourth Circuit decisions in which contractors have been granted protection from liability when they perform work that supports important governmental functions. 
Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Embraces Expansive View of Derivative Sovereign Immunity for Government Contractors

Earlier this week, both chambers on Capitol Hill took steps that would increase the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) role in the area of cybersecurity.  On the Senate side, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a DHS reauthorization bill that included amendments to rename and reorganize the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), to increase protections for certain personally identifiable information (PII), and to emphasize the need for cybersecurity research.  On the House side, the House Homeland Security Committee approved the Cyber Incident Response Teams Act, which would establish teams within DHS devoted to cyber incident response.

Continue Reading DHS Cybersecurity Legislation Advances Through Capitol Hill

On January 9, 2018, Department of Defense (“DoD”) issued Class Deviation 2018-O0009, designed to reduce barriers to entry for innovative entities through streamlining the awards process for research and development contracts. This Class Deviation allows for the use of simplified acquisition procedures and excuses certain procurement obligations when DoD awards contracts and subcontracts valued

Construction contractors take note: the government contractor defense is alive and well in the Fifth Circuit. In Sewell v. Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, the Fifth Circuit recently confirmed that construction companies can successfully assert the government contractor defense in response to tort lawsuits that arise from their performance of federal public works and infrastructure projects. This is a welcomed decision in the Fifth Circuit, which had signaled in recent years that a higher level of proof may be required to establish the first element of the defense ─ i.e., that the government meaningfully reviewed and approved reasonably precise specifications for the allegedly defective construction feature.

The Sewell case illustrates that ─ with the right litigation strategy and a skillfully crafted evidentiary record ─ construction contractors may well prove the defense in cases involving even “rudimentary or general construction features.”
Continue Reading Construction Contractors: The Government Contractor Defense is Alive and Well in the Fifth Circuit

Last week, the United States Supreme Court heard argument in State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. United States ex rel. Rigsby over the False Claims Act’s (FCA) “seal requirement.”  The controversy highlights an important statutory tool for government contractors who face allegations of making false claims for payment.  It also provides important lessons for those seeking to bring such allegations.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Hears Argument Over False Claims Act’s Seal Requirement

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry is wasting no time in his efforts to build on last year’s reforms to the defense acquisition system.  Less than a year after he launched his opening salvo in a new round of changes, Chairman Thornberry previewed the year ahead with a recent hearing and a presentation at the National Press Club.

Chairman Thornberry plans to circulate draft reform legislation and incorporate the finished product into the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Emphasizing (once again) the themes of agility and innovation, the hearing featured the senior acquisition executives from each of the military departments.  Chairman Thornberry expressed particular interest in finding ways to support their drive for greater flexibility in experimentation and prototyping.
Continue Reading Acquisition Reform Ramps Up Early in 2016