Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

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In 2007, the VA sought to lease space for a Parma, Ohio VA clinic. A pre-solicitation memorandum stated that the building must comply with the Interagency Security Committee (ISC) Security Design Criteria. The subsequent Solicitation discussed the physical security requirements. Premier submitted a proposed design narrative that did not address those requirements. In 2008, Premier and the VA entered into a Lease. Premier was to provide a built-out space as described in the Solicitation. About 18 months later, the VA inquired about Premier’s first design submittal, advising Premier to obtain access to the ISC standards, because “the project needs to be designed according to the ISC.” The ISC denied Premier’s request, stating that the documents had to be requested by a federal contracting officer who has a “need to know.” The VA forwarded copies of three ISC documents. Some confusion ensued as to which standard applied. The VA then instructed Premier to disregard the ISC requirements and to incorporate the requirements from the latest VA Physical Security Guide. Months later, the VA changed position, stating that “[t]he ISC is the design standard.” Premier’s understanding was that only individual spaces listed in a Physical Security Table needed to comply with the ISC. The VA responded that the entire building must conform to the ISC at no additional cost. Premier constructed the building in accordance with the ISC standards then unsuccessfully requested $964,356.40 for additional costs. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The contract unambiguously requires a facility conforming to ISC security requirements. View "Premier Office Complex of Parma, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers the project-based Section 8 housing program using Housing Assistance Payments renewal contracts. The landlords own publicly-assisted housing in Yonkers and allege that the government breached the renewal contracts, resulting in money damages. The trial court determined that it had jurisdiction, found the government liable for breach of contract, and awarded $7.9 million in total damages. The Federal Circuit vacated, finding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because the parties were not in privity of contract. The contracts at issue were executed in a two-tiered system. First, HUD contracted with a public housing agency (New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation), which contracted with the Landlords. Neither contract explicitly named both the government and the Landlords as directly contracting parties. View "Park Properties Associates v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) entered into a “Cooperative Agreement” with St. Bernard Parish under the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act, 31 U.S.C. 6301–08. Under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, NRCS was “authorized to assist [St. Bernard] in relieving hazards created by natural disasters that cause a sudden impairment of a watershed.” NRCS agreed to “provide 100 percent ($4,318,509.05) of the actual costs of the emergency watershed protection measures,” and to reimburse the Parish. St. Bernard contracted with Omni for removing sediment in Bayou Terre Aux Boeufs for $4,290,300.00, predicated on the removal of an estimated 119,580 cubic yards of sediment. Omni completed the project. Despite having removed only 49,888.69 cubic yards of sediment, Omni billed $4,642,580.58. NRCS determined that it would reimburse St. Bernard only $2,849,305.60. Omni and St. Bernard executed a change order that adjusted the contract price to $3,243,996.37. St. Bernard paid Omni then sought reimbursement from NRCS. NRCS reimbursed $355,866.21 less than St. Bernard claims it is due. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Parish’s lawsuit, filed under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1), for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994, 7 U.S.C. 6991–99, Congress created a detailed, comprehensive scheme providing private parties with the right of administrative review of adverse decisions by particular agencies within the Department of Agriculture, including NRCS. View "St. Bernard Parish Government v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Dobyns, then an ATF agent engaged in undercover work, infiltrated the Hells Angels and assisted in the indictment of 36 people for racketeering and murder. The disclosure of his identity during the prosecutions led to threats against Dobyns and his family. ATF’s alleged failure to appropriately respond to the threats and to adequately conceal Dobyns’ identity during an emergency relocation, led Dobyns to seek compensation. In 2007, ATF agreed to pay Dobyns a lump-sum. ATF withdrew Dobyns’ and his family’s fictitious identities in 2008 despite a 2007 threat assessment. A 2008, arson attack substantially damaged Dobyns’ home, but his family escaped without injury. ATF pursued Dobyns as a suspect. In 2013, ATF’s Internal Affairs Division concluded that there was no valid reason for the withdrawal of the fictitious identifies; that risks to the family had been ignored; and that the response to the arson had been mismanaged. Dobyns sued in 2008, alleging breach of the agreement. While the suit was pending, Dobyns’ book was released; Dobyns made frequent media appearances. In 2013, the Claims Court held that there was no breach of any express provision of the agreement but that there was a breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing and that Dobyns was entitled to emotional distress damages of $173,000. Dobyns alleged misconduct by the Justice Department during the litigation; the court determined that none of the alleged misconduct warranted Rule 60 relief because, even if they occurred, there was no showing that these acts could have affected Dobyns’ case. The Federal Circuit reversed the judgment as to the breach of the implied duties and affirmed the Rule 60 decision. View "Dobyns v. United States" on Justia Law

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PDIC’s patent allegedly covers encoding digital images in the JPEG format. PDIC licensed the patent to Adobe, promising not to sue Adobe or Adobe’s customers for claims arising “in whole or part owing to an Adobe Licensed Product.” PDIC sued Adobe customers, alleging that encoding JPEG images on the customers’ websites infringed its patent. Adobe was allowed to intervene to defend nine customers, asserting that PDIC breached its license agreement. PDIC dismissed the actions in which Adobe had intervened. Adobe unsuccessfully sought "exceptional case" attorneys’ fees, 35 U.S.C. 285, and FRCP 11 sanctions. The court concluded that it could not determine the prevailing party nor "say that PDIC’s pre-suit investigation was inadequate or that any filing was made for any improper purpose.” The court denied in part PDIC’s motion for summary judgment, finding that a reasonable juror could find "that PDIC’s infringement allegations . . . cover the use of Adobe products,” and violated the agreement; it held that Adobe could only collect fees incurred in defending its customers in suits that violated the agreement but could not recover fees incurred in the affirmative breach-of-contract suit. After failed attempts to identify "purely defense fees,” Adobe requested judgment in favor of PDIC. The court reiterated “that there are purely defensive damages that can be proven,” but entered the judgment. The Federal Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. There was no final ruling barring recovery on Adobe’s breach claim. Under New Jersey law, actual damages are not a required element of a breach of contract claim. View "Princeton Digital Image Corp. v. Office Depot Inc." on Justia Law

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During World War II, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was established by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After the war, Hanford continued in use, operated by contractors. Each time the work was transferred to another contractor, the employees that performed the work would stay the same, typically with the same pay and benefits. The Hanford Multi-Employer Pension Plan (MEPP) was established in 1987 as a contract between “Employers,” defined as named contractors, and “Employees.” The government is not a party to the MEPP but may not be amended without government approval. In 1996, some employees accepted employment with a Hanford subcontractor, Lockheed, and were informed that, upon their retirement, they would not receive retirement benefits that were previously afforded under the MEPP. They were subsequently told that they would remain in the MEPP but that, instead of calculating their pension benefits based on their total years in service, their benefits would be calculated using the highest five-year salary, and that they could not challenge the change until they retired. This became a MEPP amendment. In 2016, former Lockheed employees sued the government, alleging that an implied contract was breached when they did not receive benefits based on their total years in service. The Federal Circuit held that the former employees did not prove that an implied-in-fact contract existed. The government funds Lockheed and others to manage Hanford, but there is no evidence that the government intended to be contractually obligated to their employees; there was no mutuality of intent. View "Turping v. United States" on Justia Law

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K-Con and the Army entered into two contracts for pre-engineered metal buildings. K-Con claims that the Army subsequently delayed issuance of a notice to proceed for two years, resulting in $116,336.56 in increases in costs and labor. According to K-Con, this delay was due solely to the government’s decision to add to each contract the performance and payment bonds set forth in Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 52.228-15. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals held that bonding requirements were included in the contracts by operation of law when they were awarded, pursuant to the Christian doctrine. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The two contracts are construction contracts and, under the Christian doctrine, the standard bond requirements in construction contracts were incorporated into K-Con’s contracts by operation of law. If the contracts had been issued using the standard construction contract form, there would have been no issue, but these contracts issued using the standard commercial items contract form. There were, however, many indications that the contracts were for construction, not commercial items. The statement of work included many construction-related tasks, including developing and submitting construction plans, obtaining construction permits, and cleaning up construction areas. The statement of work also required compliance with FAR regulations relevant only to construction contracts. View "K-Con, Inc. v. Secretary of the Army" on Justia Law

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The VA and Department of Defense (DoD) committed to developing an integrated electronic health records (EHR) system to replace their separate systems but abandoned that plan. DoD replaced its system with a commercially-available system, consisting primarily of software developed by Cerner. The VA issued a request for information and engaged a consultant, Thornton, to assess four options—three involving an off-the-shelf EHR system, and the fourth involving modernizing its existing system. Thornton concluded that the market could support all four options and that the VA’s best option for improving interoperability with the DoD would depend on the VA’s own evaluation. The VA chose to acquire a new system and invoked the public-interest exception to the Competition in Contracting Act’s open competition requirement, 41 U.S.C. 3301, 3304(a)(7), to negotiate a sole-source contract with Cerner “for the acquisition of the [EHR] system being deployed by the [DoD] and related services.” CliniComp, an incumbent provider of EHR systems to the VA, filed a bid protest, asserting that the sole-source decision lacked a rational basis and violated the Act. The Claims Court dismissed. The Federal Circuit affirmed. CliniComp lacked standing to protest the decision. To establish standing, CliniComp had to show that it was “an actual or prospective bidder” and had a “direct economic interest in the procurement or proposed procurement.” CliniComp did not establish that it had the kind of experience that would enable it to compete for the work contemplated by the VA’s planned contract. View "CliniComp International, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Scotty, born in 1979 at Madigan Army Medical Center, suffered injuries during childbirth, resulting in brain damage, cerebral palsy, seizures, and blindness, necessitating ongoing, around-the-clock care. The Shaws sued and agreed to a settlement, which stated that payments described in paragraph 5 and the purchase of annuities described in paragraph 6 “shall constitute a complete release.” Paragraph 5 provided that the government would pay: $500,000 to the Shaws; $500,000 to Scotty's medical trust; $850,000 to the Shaws’ attorneys; and, for the purchase of annuities to provide payments set forth in paragraph 6, $2,950,000.00. Paragraph 6 set forth the terms for the annuities. Four annuities are at issue: one each for Mr. and Ms. Shaw, one for the guardianship for the benefit of Scotty, and one for the medical trust. The government made each of the specified payments, including $2,846,095 to purchase the annuities. The agreement stated that payments from the annuities for Mr. and Ms. Shaw “are guaranteed for a period of twenty (20) years.” Paragraph 7 noted that the “settlement is contingent on a total, final cost of $4,800,000.00.” The annuities were purchased from ELNY, which later encountered financial difficulties and entered into court-ordered liquidation in 2012. The Shaws's annuity payments were reduced by 20%; payments to the guardianship and the medical trust were reduced by 62.4%. The Shaws sued. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government, which was obligated to guarantee the annuity payments only for the first 20 years. The reduction in payments began after that period. The Shaws lacked standing to sue on behalf of the medical trust. View "Shaw v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs each entered into agreements to provide services to Voice of America (VOA), a U.S. government-funded broadcast service. The agreements were a series of individual purchase order vendor (POV) contracts that each plaintiff entered into over several years with the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees VOA. In 2014, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of State issued a report that was critical of the BBG’s use of POV contracts, concluding that the BBG was using such contracts in some cases to obtain personal services. Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint alleging that, along with other individuals who have served as independent contractors for VOA, they should have been retained through personal services contracts or appointed to positions in the civil service. If their contracts had been classified as personal services contracts or they had been appointed to civil service positions, they alleged, they would have enjoyed enhanced compensation and benefits. The Claims Court dismissed and denied their request for leave to file a proposed second amended complaint. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting several contract-based claims, seeking damages for the loss of the additional compensation and benefits to which Plaintiffs contend they were entitled. Plaintiffs have set forth no viable theory of recovery. View "Lee v. United States" on Justia Law