I recall sitting in a mediation one day when the mediator, a judge, told me and my client that we all have lightning in our fingers. He went on to explain that this means, once you sign a contract, it’s like magic in the sense that you can’t get out of the contract and are bound by it, absent certain exceptional circumstances.
I was reminded of this concept while reading a recent opinion from the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals that dealt with the effect of a contractor signing a release with the government and then trying to back out of that release by refusing payment from the government.
The government’s use of specifications within a contract carries an implied warranty that the specifications are free from errors. When a contractor is misled by the erroneous specifications, the contractor may seek recovery through an equitable adjustment to the contract. But what happens when the government seeks services through a requirements contract and is simply negligent in estimating its needs?
A recent Federal Circuit decision, Agility Defense & Government Services, Inc., v. United States, No. 16-1068 (Fed. Cir. 2017) finds that a contractor may be able to recover damages in such instances under a negligent estimate theory.
While an agency may require a unilateral reduction in a contractor’s price due to a reduced scope of work, the government carries the burden of proving the amount.
In a recent decision, the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals held that while an agency was entitled to unilaterally reduce the scope of work, the agency had not proven the amount of the unilateral deduction it demanded–and the government’s failure to meet its burden of proof entitled the contractor to the remaining contract price.
A request for equitable adjustment is not a “claim” under the FAR. Although a REA and a claim can look very similar, there are important legal distinctions.
And as one contractor recently learned, the distinction between a REA and a claim can make all the difference when it comes to a potential appeal.