Ninth Circuit Finds Arbitration Award Is ‘Irrational’ Because It Disregards the Contract’s Plain Text Simply to Reach a Just Result

Aspic Eng’g & Constr. Co. v. ECC Centcom Constructors LLC, No. 17-16510, 2019 BL 26363 (9th Cir. Jan. 28, 2019)

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Ryan R. Deroo

Aspic Engineering and Construction Company (“Aspic”), a local Afghan subcontractor, entered into multiple subcontracts with ECC Centcom Constructors and ECC International (“ECC”), the prime contractor, to construct buildings and facilities in Afghanistan.  The subcontracts contained terms and conditions “applicable to all U.S. Government subcontracts,” and mandated that Aspic owed ECC the same obligations that ECC owed to the federal government.  The subcontracts also incorporated multiple Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) clauses, including FAR 49.2 through 49.6, which govern the recovery of expenses in the event a contractor is terminated for convenience, i.e. required documentation and procedures.

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Owners Beware: Washington Appellate Court Holds Playing ‘Gotcha’ With Project Submittal Review Could Breach the Duty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

Nova Contr., Inc. v. City of Olympia, No. 48644-0-II, 2017 Wash. App. LEXIS 913 (Ct. App. Apr. 18, 2017)

This case arose out of a public project in which the City of Olympia (“City”) hired Nova Contracting, Inc. (“Nova”) to replace a culvert. A prior City project on which Nova completed work ended with Nova receiving extra compensation due to the City’s design errors and, as a result, a grudge held by some City staff against Nova.  The present contract required Nova to send submittals describing its plans for bypass pumping and excavation to the City’s engineer for approval before it could begin work.  The City’s decision regarding submittals was final and Nova bore the risk and cost of delay due to any non-approval.

The City issued its Notice to Proceed on August 11, 2014, but Nova could not begin construction due to the City’s rejection of its submittals. Nearly one month later, the City declared Nova to be in default because it failed to provide satisfactory submittals and failed to mobilize to the site.  Coincidentally, that same day, Nova had mobilized to the site; the City, however, later ordered Nova to cease work because it had commenced operations before obtaining the requisite approval.  Nova protested the City’s declaration of default, but the City terminated the contract on September 24.

Nova filed suit against the City for breach of contract, claiming that its handling of the submittals imposed requirements that were not part of the project’s specifications, thereby delaying Nova’s performance to a point where the project could not be timely completed. In support thereof, Nova’s witnesses declared that the City had appeared to be reviewing the submittals with the goal of rejecting them as a sort of “gotcha” review employed to prevent Nova’s performance.  The City moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted its motion.  Nova appealed, arguing that there existed genuine issues of fact as to why the project was not completed and that the City had breached its duty of good faith by preventing Nova from attaining its justified contractual expectations.  The City argued that the duty of good faith did not apply because it had unconditional authority to accept or reject Nova’s submittals. Continue reading “Owners Beware: Washington Appellate Court Holds Playing ‘Gotcha’ With Project Submittal Review Could Breach the Duty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing”

Court of Federal Claims Holds Government Abused Discretion in Terminating Contract for Convenience; Also Finds Contractor Liable for Violations of the False Claims Act

Gulf Group Gen. Enters. Co. W.L.L. v. United States
2013 U.S. Claims LEXIS 899 (Fed. Cl. July 2, 2013)

This action arose from a contractor’s claim that the U.S. Army (the “Army” or the “Government”) abused its discretion in terminating contracts for its convenience. In September 2004, Gulf Group General Enterprises Co. W.L.L. (“Gulf Group”) entered into four contracts worth approximately $15.8 million with the Army to provide cleanup and sanitation services in Kuwait. Three of the contracts—the camp package master blanket purchase agreement for provisions (the “BPA contract”), the latrine contract, and the dumpster contract—were terminated by the Army for its convenience within a month after they were awarded. The fourth contract, for bottled water distribution (the “bottled water contract”), was not terminated and instead extended into 2005.

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