Articles Posted in Contracts

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Under 42 U.S.C. 1485, the USDA's Rural Housing Service (RHS) makes loans for construction of affordable rental housing. From 1972-1982, each of 10 limited partnerships (with a common general partner, Olsen) entered into a 50-year loan agreement that stated that each borrower could pay off the loan and convert its properties to conventional housing after 15 or 20 years. The 1987 Emergency Low Income Housing Preservation Act, 42 U.S.C. 1472(c)), provided that before accepting prepayment, the USDA must attempt to enter into an agreement with the borrower. In 2002, Olsen was negotiating to sell to a nonprofit organization. He notified the RHS of “intent . . . to convert [some] units into conventional housing” and sought approval to pay off the mortgages. RHS responded with a checklist. Olsen did not proceed; the potential acquirer decided against purchasing the properties. In 2011, Olsen submitted more definite prepayment requests. RHS responded with an incentive offer concerning four properties, which Olsen accepted, remaining in the program. For three other properties, RHS informed Olsen that prepayment was not an option. Olsen purportedly believed that pursuing prepayment on any properties was futile. He did not submit additional applications. In 2013, the partnerships sued, alleging that the government, through the 1987 enactment or the 2011 correspondence, violated their prepayment rights. The Federal Circuit reversed the Claims Court's dismissal. The 2002 correspondence did not trigger the RHS’s duty to accept prepayment; RHS did not take any steps inconsistent with prepayment. The government did not breach its contractual obligation in 2002. Because the alleged breaches occurred no earlier than 2011, the contract claims are not barred by the six-year limitations period. The Claims Court implicitly premised the dismissal of takings claims on the same erroneous rationale. View "Airport Road Associates, Ltd. v. United States" on Justia Law

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LFD operates a Lake Cumberland, Kentucky marina under a lease from the Army Corps of Engineers, covering approximately 130 acres of water and 36 acres of land. The Lease states: The right is reserved to the United States ... to enter upon the premises at any time and for any purpose necessary or convenient ... to flood the premises; to manipulate the level of the lake or pool in any manner whatsoever; and/or to make any other use of the lands as may be necessary in connection with project purposes, and the Lessee shall have no claim for damages. By 2007, Wolf Creek Dam, which created the lake, was at a high risk of failure; the Corps began lowering the lake's water level. The Corps returned the lake to its previous levels in 2014, when restoration was complete. LFD submitted a certified claim to the District Engineer, asserting $4,000,000 in damages. The Federal Circuit affirmed rejection of the claim. While the Lease is a contract for “the disposal of personal property” under 41 U.S.C. 7102(a)(4), giving the court jurisdiction, LFD did not properly present its reformation claim to the District Engineer. Rejecting a breach of contract claim, the court stated the Lease granted the Corps the right to manipulate the level of the lake in any manner whatsoever. View "Lee's Ford Dock, Inc. v. Secretary of the Army" on Justia Law

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In 2009, RNB and GAF entered into an agreement under which GAF would promote RNB’s “Roof N Box” product, a three-dimensional roofing model, to building construction contractors affiliated with GAF. The agreement required the parties to submit disputes “arising under” the agreement to arbitration. GAF terminated the agreement after about a year. In 2016, RNB, together with its founder and president, Evans, brought suit against GAF based on GAF’s activities in marketing its own product that competes with the Roof N Box. The complaint alleged design patent infringement, trade dress infringement, and unfair competition. GAF moved to dismiss or stay the action pending arbitration. The district court denied that motion. The Federal Circuit affirmed, stating that GAF’s assertion that the arbitration provision covers the claims stated in the complaint is “wholly groundless.” The complaint challenges actions whose wrongfulness is independent of the 2009 agreement’s existence. View "Evans v. Building Materials Corp." on Justia Law

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The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the United States in Northwest Title Agency’s (NWTA) suit based on contracts, under which NWTA provided closing services for homes owned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The courts concluded that the contracts unambiguously preclude NWTA from charging additional closing fees and declined to consider the affidavit of industry practice submitted by NWTA. The fee prohibition does not conflict with the buyers’ rights, as stated in the contracts, to retain a title company of their own choosing. View "Northwest Title Agency, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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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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In 1994, Rocky Mountain and the Bureau of Land Management entered into the Helium Contract, giving Rocky Mountain the right, for up to 25 years, to extract helium gas from roughly 21,000 acres of federal lands in Colorado and Utah. Rocky Mountain never extracted helium from the property and, after one year, stopped paying rent. In 2004, the Bureau informed Rocky Mountain that it had cancelled the contract due to nonpayment. The parties entered into a Settlement Agreement, under which the Bureau was required to provide Rocky Mountain with data about gas composition on the land covered by the Helium Contract and Rocky Mountain had to pay $116,579.90 (back rent) so that the Helium Contract would be reinstated. Rocky Mountain subsequently objected that the Bureau's information as incomplete, refused to pay the $116,579.90, and informed the Bureau that it wanted to pursue mediation under the Agreement. When the parties were unable to agree whether the information was complete, the Bureau sent a termination letter. The Claims Court rejected Rocky Mountain’s breach of contract suit for lack of jurisdiction and on the merits. The Federal Circuit agreed that the Helium Contract was terminated in 2004 and never reinstated, but found that the court had jurisdiction over the Settlement Agreement dispute. View "Rocky Mountain Helium, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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Nutt was hit and killed by a U.S. Army soldier driving an Army truck in 1983. His family filed a claim under 28 U.S.C. 2674, the Federal Tort Claims Act. A 1985 Agreement provided that the government “agrees to purchase annuities which will pay:” $60,000 per year to Cynthia; lump-sum payments on specified anniversaries to Cynthia; lump-sum payments on specified anniversaries to James; plus $240,000 to Cynthia and a payment to the Nutts’ attorneys. The Agreement provided that “[t]he payments by the United States set forth above shall operate as full and complete discharge of all payments to be made to and of all claims which might be asserted.” The government purchased a structured annuity ELNY. ELNY went into receivership in 1991. In 2011, the New York State Liquidation Bureau informed the Nutts that their benefit payments would be reduced. In 2013, they began receiving payments reduced to approximately 45% of their expected benefits. They were informed that, as of 2015, they would not be receiving the anniversary payments. The Nutts alleged breach of the agreement. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal, finding that the government “was not obligated to guarantee or insure that annuity; its obligation ended at the initial purchase of the ELNY annuity.” View "Nutt v. United States" on Justia Law

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Freddie Mac is a privately-owned, publicly-chartered financial services corporation, 12 U.S.C. 1452, created to provide stability in the secondary residential mortgage market. Piszel began working as the CFO of Freddie Mac in 2006. Piszel with a signing bonus of $5 million in Freddie Mac restricted stock units that would vest over four years, an annual salary of $650,000, and performance-based incentive compensation of $3 million a year in restricted stock. If terminated without cause, Piszel would receive a lump-sum cash payment of double his annual salary and certain restricted stock units would continue to vest. In 2008, facing Freddie Mac's potential collapse, Congress passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act,12 U.S.C. 4511, establishing the FHFA as Freddie Mac's new primary regulator, with authority to disaffirm any contract, after which damages for the breach would be limited to “actual direct compensatory damages.” The Act contained a limit on “golden parachutes.” Piszel alleges that he was terminated without cause and Freddie Mac “refused to provide him with any of the benefits to which he was contractually entitled.” The Claims Court dismissed his allegations of an unconstitutional taking. The Federal Circuit affirmed, noting that Piszel’s breach of contract claim remains intact despite the legislation, particularly in light of Piszel’s assertion that his contract called for “deferred compensation,” rather than a golden parachute. View "Piszel v. United States" on Justia Law

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Illumina’s 794 patent, covering DNA assay optimization techniques, issued in 2011. In 2010-2011, Ariosa provided Illumina, as a prospective investor, with information on its efforts to develop a noninvasive prenatal diagnostic test. Seven months after the 794 patent issued, Illumina agreed to supply consumables, hardware, and software to Ariosa for three years, providing Ariosa with a non-exclusive license to Illumina’s “Core IP Rights in Goods,” specifically excluding “Secondary IP Rights … that pertain to the Goods (and use thereof) only with regard to particular field(s) or application(s), and are not common to the Goods in all applications and fields.” The agreement’s arbitration clause excluded “disputes relating to issues of scope, infringement, validity and/or enforceability of any Intellectual Property Rights.” Illumina never indicated that Ariosa needed to license the 794 patent . Ariosa launched the Harmony Prenatal Test, using materials supplied by Illumina. Verinata and Stanford sued, alleging that the Test infringed other patents. Illumina later acquired Verinata and accused Ariosa of breaching the supply agreement by failing to license Secondary Rights. Ariosa filed counterclaims, asserting invalidity and non-infringement; breach of contract; and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The district court concluded that the counterclaims were not subject to compulsory arbitration. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The counterclaims depend on the scope determination of licensed intellectual property rights, which is expressly exempt from arbitration. View "Verinata Health, Inc. v. Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2003, the government awarded Laguna a contract for Worldwide Environmental Remediation and Construction (WERC). Under the contract, Laguna received 16 cost-reimbursable task orders to perform work in Iraq, and awarded subcontracts to several subcontractors. The physical work under the contract was completed by 2010. Laguna sought reimbursement of past costs, a portion of which the government refused to pay after an audit by the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, the government alleged that it was not liable because Laguna had committed a prior material breach by accepting subcontractor kickbacks (18 U.S.C. 371, 41 U.S.C. 53), excusing the government’s nonperformance. Three of Laguna’s officers were ultimately indicted for kickbacks. The Board granted the government summary judgment on that ground, The Federal Circuit affirmed. Laguna committed the first material breach by violating the contract’s Allowable Cost and Payment clause because its vouchers were improperly inflated to include the payment, Federal Acquisition Regulation 52.216-7. View "Laguna Constr. Co. v. Carter" on Justia Law