Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Aerospace/Defense
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The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), a sub-agency of the Defense Logistics Agency, issued a solicitation for an Indefinite-Delivery/Indefinite-Quantity commercial item contract to provide food and non-food products to customers, including the military, in three overseas zones. In May 2003, DSCP awarded a contract to Agility to supply “Full Line Food and Non-Food Distribution” to authorized personnel in Kuwait and Qatar. After many modifications, in December 2005, Agility submitted a Request for Equitable Adjustment for $13.1 million related to trucks being held in Iraq by the government for longer than 29 days. In April 2007, the government’s contracting officer denied Agility’s claim. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals denied Agility’s appeal in August 2015, finding that Agility had accepted all risks associated with delays beyond 29 days. The Board stated that it “need not decide whether the government constructively changed contract performance or whether it breached its implied duty of cooperation” because “whether the government breached the contract comes down to contract interpretation.” The Federal Circuit affirmed-in-part, agreeing that the government did not breach the express terms of the contract or a later agreement to consider exceptions, but finding that the Board erred when it concluded that it “need not decide” Agility’s implied duty and constructive change claims. View "Agility Public Warehousing Co. KSCP v. Mattis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, employed by defense contractor Qinetiq to work on a military base in Iraq, were enrolled in Qinetiq’s Basic Long Term Disability, Basic Life, and Accidental Death and Dismemberment insurance policies, governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001, under a single contract with Prudential. Qinetiq paid the premiums. Plaintiffs also purchased, with their own funds, supplemental coverage under the same terms as the basic policies; there was a single summary plan description. An employee would file a single claim for basic and supplemental coverage benefits. The plan booklets provided that loss is not covered if it results from war, or any act of war, declared or undeclared. These exclusions applied to both the basic and supplemental policies. The plaintiffs were not otherwise uninsured for excluded injuries. Qinetiq obtained insurance required by the Defense Base Act, 42 U.S.C. 1651. After Prudential denied claims, the plaintiffs sued, alleging violations of the state consumer fraud acts and the Truth in Consumer Contract, Warranty, and Notice Act; breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and intentional or negligent misrepresentation or omission. They contended that Prudential fraudulently induced them to buy supplemental coverage knowing that any claim they filed would likely be subject to the war exclusions, rendering supplemental coverage effectively worthless. The district court dismissed, treating the basic and supplemental policies as components of a single plan, and holding that all state law claims were preempted by ERISA. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that the supplemental coverage cannot be “unbundled” from ERISA coverage. View "Menkes v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am." on Justia Law

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Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, each of the Oil Companies entered into contracts with the government to provide high-octane aviation gas (avgas) to fuel military aircraft. The production of avgas resulted in waste products such as spent alkylation acid and “acid sludge.” The Oil Companies contracted to have McColl, a former Shell engineer, dump the waste at property in Fullerton, California. More than 50 years later, California and the federal government obtained compensation from the Oil Companies under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601, for the cost of cleaning up the McColl site. The Oil Companies sued, arguing the avgas contracts require the government to indemnify them for the CERCLA costs. The Court of Federal Claims granted summary judgment in favor of the government. The Federal Circuit reversed with respect to breach of contract liability and remanded. As a concession to the Oil Companies, the avgas contracts required the government to reimburse the Oil Companies for their “charges.” The court particularly noted the immense regulatory power the government had over natural resources during the war and the low profit margin on the avgas contracts. View "Shell Oil Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Appellant guaranteed CWA obligations under an Aircraft Management Agreement (AMA) between CWA and BP. BP sued CWA and appellant for breach of contract. The district court denied appellant's motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment to BP on its claims that appellant was liable under the guaranty for CWA's breach of the AMA. Appellant appealed. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding CWA waived any conceivable right to rescind it might have had; BP's consideration for the AMA was sufficient; CWA's performance was not excused; and the district court did not err in holding appellant liable for the paint and refurbishment costs. Because genuine disputes remained as to whether the AMA and Priester agreement were substantially similar and whether BP otherwise took reasonable steps to avoid unnecessary damages, the court reversed the district court's judgment. The court expressed no opinion as to whether appellant had waived his present-value argument.

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In a national emergency, the Department of Defense can augment its own capabilities with aircraft drawn from the "Civil Reserve Air Fleet," composed of aircraft owned by commercial carriers but committed voluntarily for use during emergencies. The Fleet is divided into teams of airlines. The Department awards mobilization value points; the more points a member has, the more non-emergency Department air transportation the member can bid on. Points are transferrable within teams. Members of defendant's team have a contract with a one-year term and a separate three-year agreement concerning distribution of business among members. Plaintiff's suit is based on a 2006 three-year agreement in the form of a letter. A change from what members of the team had been doing ultimately led to plaintiff's withdrawal from the team. Plaintiff subsequently went into bankruptcy. Plaintiff won a jury verdict of almost $66 million. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the "agreement" did not include crucial terms and was so indefinite as to be unenforceable. The court also criticized the regression analysis on which the award was calculated. A promissory estoppel claim, while not preempted, failed on the facts.

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After petitioners fell behind schedule in developing a stealth aircraft (A-12) for the Navy, the contracting officer terminated their $4.8 billion fixed-price contract for default and ordered petitioners to repay approximately $1.35 billion in progress payments for work the Government never accepted. Petitioners filed suit in the Court of Federal Claims ("CFC"), challenging the termination decision under the Contract Disputes Act of 1978, 41 U.S.C. 609(a)(1). The CFC held that, since invocation of the state-secrets privilege obscured too many of the facts relevant to the superior-knowledge defense, the issue of that defense was nonjusticiable, even though petitioners had brought forward enough unprivileged evidence for a prima facie showing. Accordingly, at issue was what remedy was proper when, to protect state secrets, a court dismissed a Government contractor's prima facie valid affirmative defense to the Government's allegations of contractual breach. The Court concluded that it must exercise its common-law authority in this situation to fashion contractual remedies in Government-contracting disputes and held that the proper remedy was to leave the parties where they were on the day they filed suit.