Claims and Contract Disputes

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

If your company delivers technical data to the Department of Defense, you should take a close look at the Federal Circuit’s decision issued yesterday in The Boeing Co. v. Secretary of the Air Force.

The Court acknowledged that contractors may retain ownership and other interests in unlimited rights data, and it held that they may take steps to put third parties on notice of those rights.  In particular, the Court held that, in addition to the standard legends required by the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (“DFARS”), contractors may also include a legend notifying third parties of the contractor’s retained rights.


Continue Reading Technically Still Yours: Court Holds that Contractors May Mark Unlimited Rights Data with a Proprietary Legend

The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a decision on Friday finding that the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) followed the wrong order of succession after Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April 2019.  As a result, the Acting Secretaries who have served since then were invalidly selected.  In particular, GAO has questioned the appointments of Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, former Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, and Deputy Secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli.

GAO’s decision tees up a thorny question for DHS contractors:  If these officials were invalidly selected, what does it mean for the agency’s policies and procurement decisions made during their tenure?


Continue Reading [Updated] If the Acting DHS Secretary Was Unlawfully Selected, What Does that Mean for DHS Procurements?

Earlier this week, the Federal Circuit issued a decision in The Boeing Company v. United States that clears the way for resolution of Boeing’s substantive challenge to a controversial FAR provision that can give the government windfall recoveries in Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) matters.  The Federal Circuit decision is notable for three reasons.  First, in rejecting the government’s argument that Boeing had waived its right to attack the relevant FAR provision, the court clarified the circumstances in which a contractor will be found to have waived its rights to object to FAR provisions.  Second, in concluding that the Court of Federal Claims had jurisdiction to consider the dispute, the court provided a useful primer on the three different kinds of jurisdiction available under the Tucker Act.

Finally, the Federal Circuit’s remand means the Court of Federal Claims will now address Boeing’s substantive challenge to FAR 30.606, which directs contracting officers to ignore offsets that save the government money when calculating the impact of changes to a contractor’s cost accounting practices.  Boeing’s argument that this provision amounts to a breach of contract and an illegal exaction will now be resolved on the merits.


Continue Reading Federal Circuit Rejects Government’s Waiver and Jurisdiction Defenses, Paving the Way for a CAS Showdown at the Court of Federal Claims

A recent Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals decision serves as a timely reminder for contractors to carefully read and consider any release of claims before signing — especially when you may have otherwise-recoverable coronavirus-related cost increases.
Continue Reading Look Before You Release — ASBCA Enforces Release of Claims to Contractor’s Detriment

Late last year, a spokesman for the Department of Defense announced without fanfare that the agency would increase audits of certified cost or pricing data under the Truth in Negotiations Act (“TINA”).  While the full effect of that enhanced focus on TINA compliance remains to be seen, a recent decision by the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“ASBCA”) provides helpful guidance for navigating upcoming TINA audits and defending against defective pricing claims, particularly in situations involving an on-going program where documents contain both facts and judgmental estimates.

Continue Reading With Potential New TINA Audits on the Horizon, the ASBCA Provides a Helpful Primer on Defending Against Defective Pricing Claims

Last week, DoD released a draft of its much-anticipated guidance implementing Section 3610 of the CARES Act, which authorizes the government to reimburse qualifying contractors for the costs of providing certain paid leave to employees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  DoD previously published a collection of memoranda, Q&A documents, and a class deviation addressing Section 3610 reimbursement, but the new draft guidance (“Guidance”), which includes a “reimbursement checklist” and accompanying instructions, provides significantly more detail regarding the process for requesting and substantiating claims for reimbursement under the statute.

A number of open questions remain pending the issuance of final guidance, as discussed below, but the contours of DoD’s Section 3610 process are becoming increasingly clear.  Contractors interested in pursuing recovery under the statute should start preparing now to satisfy these emerging rules and requirements.


Continue Reading DoD Releases Draft Section 3610 Reimbursement Guidance

As the fallout from COVID-19 continues, federal contractors in every industry are seeing significant impacts on their ability to perform, ranging from scheduling delays to supply chain interruptions and increased costs of performance.  We previously addressed the rules and regulations governing excusable delays, which permit a contractor to avoid default if a failure to perform arises from causes beyond its control.  This next post addresses key FAR provisions that may entitle a contractor to a price adjustment or other recovery due to changes in contract requirements as a result of the pandemic.

Continue Reading Can I Recover the Added Costs of Work Caused by COVID-19?

As the COVID-19 virus extends its global reach, defense contractors may be called upon to begin implementing their contracts’ mission-essential services plans. These plans, required by DFARS 252.237-7023, facilitate mission-essential functions in extended crisis situations, including pandemics, which are explicitly noted in the DFARS. As the coronavirus outbreak continues, defense contractors should check whether their contracts include this clause and assess their readiness to implement the requirement if DoD requests activation of the company’s plan.
Continue Reading The Show Must Go On: Mission-Essential Services During the Coronavirus Outbreak

The global spread of the COVID-19 virus may put many federal contractors at risk of missing contractual deadlines. In a growing number of cases, supply chains may become cut off, work spaces may be closed, or employees may need to stay home, all of which could impact a contractor’s ability to perform in a timely manner. This is the first in a series of blog posts aimed at helping contractors navigate performance delays, changes, and other complications caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

When confronting challenges caused by the coronavirus, contractors should know that their contracts may contain clauses that would excuse these delays such as FAR 52.249-14 (cost reimbursement and time and material contracts), FAR 52.249-8 (fixed price supply and service contracts), and FAR 52.212-4 (commercial contracts). All of these clauses share a common thread – a contractor should not be in default because of a failure to perform the contract if the failure arises from causes beyond the control and without the fault or negligence of the contractor.
Continue Reading “Excuse Me, My Performance Has been Interrupted”– How Excusable Delay Provisions in the FAR May Help Federal Contractors Affected by the Coronavirus